Blog: Eviction

Welcome to LCBH’s Blog. Our blog delivers original articles written by our staff, interns and volunteers. We strive to provide informative stories about the work we do on behalf of Chicago renters and the issues renters face.

An Unusual Lease

Signature

Rental leases can take many forms, from a contract spanning hundreds of pages to a simple text message conversation. LCBH has encountered any number of ways a landlord and a tenant have chosen to do business. One recent example involved Charles, who resided in a single-unit home that was owned by his uncle James. In 2012, James invited his nephew Charles to live with him and assist with renovating the home. Concerned by his own ill health and mindful that his nephew was also facing major spinal surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation, James drafted a handwritten document purporting to be a codicil (amendment) to his will. The document provided for Charles to reside in the home for a five-year period commencing after James’ death, so long as he maintained the property.

Charles performed various renovations until his uncle passed away in 2013. After his uncle’s death, a development company acquired the property and sought to evict Charles. The new owners were unwilling to honor James’ promise to let Charles stay and instead served him with an immediate demand for possession. They were also unwilling to consider letting Charles remain as a tenant, calling him a trespasser and threatening to oust him by changing the locks and shutting off the utilities. On multiple occasions they sent Charles harsh notices advising him to leave because of the imminent demolition of the home.

Document, Document, Document

Susan

Susan is a disabled woman who, like many of our neighbors during this slow economic recovery, fell behind on her rent after losing her job. In September 2013, a Chicago-based real estate company acquired her building and instructed all tenants who were behind on their rent to contact the main office and arrange a payment plan. Susan dutifully called the main office and was transferred to an eviction hotline. Susan spoke with an operator and agreed to a payment plan that would allow her to catch up on her past due rent while continuing to make her current monthly rent payments.

However, before the first payment under her new payment plan came due, the real estate company served Susan with a 5-day notice to vacate for non-payment of rent. Attached to the notice was a document instructing her to call the eviction hotline to arrange a payment plan to avoid eviction. Susan called the number and confirmed the terms of her payment plan. The operator assured her that they would accept her payment when it came due per their agreement. On the due date, Susan traveled to the main office with payment in hand, only to have it refused. The real estate company filed for eviction soon thereafter. Susan, dumbfounded and concerned about losing her home, contacted LCBH for assistance.

Bey Family

Veronica Bey came to LCBH in May 2013 looking for help. Veronica, her father, and her four (soon to be five) children participated in the Housing Choice Voucher program. The apartment they were living in was no longer eligible for the program because of failed apartment inspections by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and, as a result, the landlord evicted the Bey family from their home. With the help of the LCBH legal team, Veronica and her family were able to reach a settlement that provided the family with additional time to move out. Housing Choice Voucher holders often encounter difficulty in finding places to rent, and since the Beys were unable to find new housing by the agreed deadline an “Order of Possession” (eviction order) was entered against them.

At this point, the LCBH Supportive Services team stepped in to help. In July, the Beys located a suitable unit with a landlord who was willing to rent to them. The CHA was not able to issue the required moving papers until August and sadly, the landlord decided to rent to another family.

In that same month, Veronica gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby. With the help of their friends, family and church, the Beys were able to temporarily move into an apartment above their church.

JaQuan (left) with LCBH paralegal, Eileen Mulrenin

LCBH recently had a huge multi-layered victory in the Attorney of the Day Eviction Defense program. A family in need was allowed to remain in their home thanks to LCBH attorneys and a third year senior law student’s strident advocacy at trial and an emergency grant from a great new LCBH partner to help the family recover from a financial set-back.

JaQuan is a single mother caring for her two children (ages 16 and 9) and her 63-year-old disabled mother. The family has lived in a property owned by the Chicago Housing Authority since 2001. In June of 2012, JaQuan’s social security income was reduced and she no longer had the means to pay her rent by the first of the month. She had a supplemental source of income, but she did not receive this money until around the middle of the month. After the change in income, she began paying her rent immediately after receiving her supplemental money, usually around the 20th of each month. The management company accepted her late rent for seven months until January of this year when they served a notice demanding that JaQuan pay her rent within five days, or her tenancy would terminate. JaQuan attempted to pay her rent, plus the late fee, but the management company refused her payment and filed for eviction.

JaQuan (left) with LCBH paralegal, Eileen Mulrenin

LCBH recently had a huge multi-layered victory in the Attorney of the Day Eviction Defense program. A family in need was allowed to remain in their home thanks to LCBH attorneys and a third year senior law student’s strident advocacy at trial and an emergency grant from a great new LCBH partner to help the family recover from a financial set-back.

JaQuan is a single mother caring for her two children (ages 16 and 9) and her 63-year-old disabled mother. The family has lived in a property owned by the Chicago Housing Authority since 2001. In June of 2012, JaQuan’s social security income was reduced and she no longer had the means to pay her rent by the first of the month. She had a supplemental source of income, but she did not receive this money until around the middle of the month. After the change in income, she began paying her rent immediately after receiving her supplemental money, usually around the 20th of each month. The management company accepted her late rent for seven months until January of this year when they served a notice demanding that JaQuan pay her rent within five days, or her tenancy would terminate. JaQuan attempted to pay her rent, plus the late fee, but the management company refused her payment and filed for eviction.

Keep Chicago Renting

The Keep Chicago Renting Coalition, comprised of community-based organizations, unions, and policy groups, with a policy committee spearheaded by LCBH, crafted a new ordinance designed to increase local renter protections and to hold successors-in-interest (primarily banks) accountable to tenants in buildings acquired at foreclosure sale. Since early 2012, the group has actively promoted the adoption of this ordinance, the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO) through meetings with aldermen and other city officials, press conferences, policy reports, and other action intended to draw attention to the problems caused by vacant buildings and displaced tenants.

Pro Bono Keeps Talented Lawyers on TAP

What’s better than winning a case in eviction court? Not having to go to eviction court in the first place! That’s the philosophy behind the Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP) at LCBH. TAP relies exclusively on volunteers to resolve landlord-tenant disputes before they escalate, with the goal of keeping tenants in their homes and out of court.

For many months, LCBH was forced to reject many TAP cases that came in because there weren’t enough resources to handle them internally. Last fall, we began a partnership with the West Cook Pro Bono Network (WCPBN), an Oak Park-based group of attorney moms and solo practitioners looking to balance their passion for pro bono with the demanding requirements of family life. Every week, one or two WCPBN members sign up to be “on call” for LCBH and handle any TAP cases that come in that week. WCPBN volunteers are able to work from home on their own schedule and our clients are able to get great pro bono representation from a team of experienced and talented volunteer attorneys.

Since October, WCPBN volunteers have handled almost 20 TAP cases for LCBH! Here are a few highlights of their work:

Couple struggle with housing issues

Do you remember how long your last lease was? A page or two? It probably wasn’t 20+ pages, the typical length of a lease for a resident of subsidized housing in Chicago.

What’s in those lengthy leases? Rules. To qualify for subsidized housing, residents must go through a rigorous background check and application process.

Once approved, residents are asked to sign paperwork agreeing to abide by a comprehensive set of rules. Any violation is grounds for eviction.

Many of the rules that these residents must abide by seem quite reasonable. There are the standard prohibitions on noise and damage. There are bans on criminal conduct, drug use, and gang activity. But other rules seem unnecessarily restrictive, especially to anyone used to the freedom of the private housing market. The following are actual rules enforced in some Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) properties:

LCBH in the Community

LCBH & the Anti Eviction Campaign
Anti Eviction Campaign

The Anti-Eviction Campaign, a grass roots organization working towards ending economically-motivated evictions in Chicago, hosts bi-weekly informational meetings.

LCBH participates in these meetings and provides legal information and brief services to renters facing no-fault evictions and lack of repairs due to foreclosure.

For more information about the Anti-Eviction Campaign please visit their website at http://chicagoantieviction.org/

Family survives housing crisis

In October of 2011, a dozen Albany Park families were on the verge of losing their homes and only had two weeks to move out. The building they lived in was going through foreclosure and to complicate matters, the owners had abandoned the property, leaving it replete with problems including a dangerous heating system, mold, faulty electrical wiring, and sewer backups. The pressing safety issues caused the city to place an order to swiftly vacate the property.

The families in this building included couples with small children, extended families and elderly couples enjoying their retirement years. They were very worried about moving and leaving the neighborhood they had come to love. They wondered whether they could find new affordable homes that were generally accessible, including accommodations for those with limited mobility. They worried about whether they would have to uproot their children from their schools and whether they would make new friends.