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.
On Saturday March 14, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing attended Second District Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s Second Annual Housing Expo. During the event, LCBH provided extended foreclosure counseling to renters living in foreclosed properties and renters visited our table with questions that we were able to address.
In Illinois, if a renter is taken to eviction court after the property is in foreclosure, the law requires that the court file be sealed. In fact though, as LCBH noted in its 2013 Annual Tenants in Foreclosure Report, Chicago’s Foreclosure Crisis: Community Solutions to the Loss of Affordable Rental Housing (http://lcbh.org/reports/foreclosure/2013), only 46% of foreclosure-related eviction cases were sealed from the public record in 2013. LCBH clients who were entitled to have their records sealed were reporting problems finding new housing due to having an eviction case on their record. Credit reporting agencies and landlord-tenant “blacklists” were not necessarily interested in the outcome of a case, but focused only on the fact that an eviction case had been filed.
After the 2013 foreclosure report was published, LCBH met with Judge E. Kenneth Wright, the Presiding Judge of the First Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and shared with Judge Wright the experiences of LCBH clients.
Leo Jones heard about LCBH’s Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline and called looking for help. Mr. Jones believed he was within his rights to live out the term of his lease and that he was being misled by the new property manager at his building. Mr. Jones’ landlord had recently lost the apartment building due to foreclosure.
Mr. Jones called LCBH’s foreclosure helpline about his situation and LCBH helped him understand applicable laws. Mr. Jones then filed complaints with both the Illinois Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Complaints and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation alleging that his current lease should be honored, and that the new property owner and property management company were not complying with the law. The Attorney General’s office investigated the property management company and continued to watch the company’s conduct. After several months of Mr. Jones’ efforts to have the new property owner acknowledge his tenancy, and follow the terms of his existing lease, the new owner filed an eviction case against Mr. Jones.
LCBH represented Mr. Jones in the eviction court case. The court analyzed the federal Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act (PTFA) and Illinois law, and ruled that Mr. Jones had a valid lease. Mr. Jones would be able to remain in his home!
Going to court can be a very intimidating experience. Imagine finding yourself as a renter, paying your rent on time each month, and then being brought into eviction court because your building went into foreclosure! Do you have to move? When? What about your security deposit?
Many people believe that a person’s right to live in a rental property is contingent on the landlord continuing to own the property, or that when the landlord loses ownership of the building that the renters also lose their leases. In fact, this is not always the case. For renters, foreclosure does not mean “Get Out Now”!
Timely and accurate legal information can be crucial for renters. LCBH’s Tenants in Foreclosure team works to make people aware that renters may be able to stay, even if their landlord loses the property. LCBH shares this information with stakeholders throughout Illinois, hosting free renters’ rights workshops, distributing brochures, and referring renters to our helpline.
LCBH staff have been on the road throughout Illinois, providing brochures to Illinois Township Supervisors, meeting librarians and sharing resources at the Illinois Library Association annual conference, forging new partnerships, and strengthening current collaborations. Thanks to these visits, our Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline will now be included in the Peoria Landlord Tenant Handbook published by Housing Action Illinois.
Following is a recent letter to LCBH from a client expressing her gratitude for the support she and her family received from LCBH. We want to share this heartwarming story with you, as your support is what makes these stories possible. Thank you!
My name is Charlotte. I came to the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing in February, very distressed and afraid of being put out on the streets of Chicago. My landlord, I had been renting with for 8 years, went into foreclosure. I found out when the bank came and put a sign on the front door while I was shoveling snow. They told me I could call the bank and they would tell me what to do. I did not know anything about foreclosure, 90 day notices or being served a forceful eviction notice. I called the bank and they told me I would probably have to move.
Your gift to Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing is a meaningful investment in our very own Chicago community to ensure everyone has a safe, decent and affordable place to call home. You can take a stand to show support for families who are living in terrible conditions, or facing homelessness, with little or no access to the courts that are supposed to protect them.
I would like to share with you the story of Daniela, a strong, funny, and determined single mother of three sons, Alex, Gabe, and Tom. Daniela works over 45 hours a week at two part-time minimum wage jobs, making less than $18,000/year, trying to provide a good home for her family.
Daniela’s family had previously been living in a building that went into foreclosure. Even though she had been paying rent and had a lease, the family was evicted when the lender took over the building. Daniela was able find a two bedroom apartment in a modest neighborhood for $950/month, more than 60% of her gross income. It was not in her previous neighborhood where all of her family, friends, and children’s schools were located, and the apartment had problems that needed to be fixed, but it was the best she could find. Prior to signing the lease the landlord assured Daniela that all of the problems would be fixed, but when the fall’s cold snap arrived Daniela and her boys had no heat. After Daniela made numerous requests for heat, she received an eviction notice.
LCBH works to provide early warning foreclosure data to our community partners on newly filed foreclosure cases in order to help assist in keeping renters in their home and keeping buildings operational as affordable housing. As the landscape of foreclosure has changed and new laws have been enacted that provide stronger renter protections, the data most needed now by community organizers is foreclosure sales data.
Foreclosure sales data will enable organizers and tenant advocates to conduct targeted door-knocking and other outreach plans throughout Chicago, particularly related to the enforcement of the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO). The protections under the KCRO begin at the point of the confirmation of sale in the foreclosure court case; therefore, the new data will only show properties where there has been a foreclosure sale that has also been confirmed by the court.
LCBH hosted two trainings last month, at which organizers and tenant advocates gained access to the new foreclosure sales data, learned how it works, and had a dataset created and customized to their specific geographic needs. In addition to learning how to access the data, LCBH staff gave a presentation on the laws that affect tenants in foreclosure in the City of Chicago, so that organizers will be best equipped to leverage the new information as effectively as possible in their work.
This summer, Agnes Starling began receiving confusing notices relating to a foreclosure from someone she had never heard of before. Not knowing what to do Ms. Starling called the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing’s (LCBH) Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline for assistance. The helpline was established to provide renters and attorneys with legal information regarding renters’ rights during foreclosure, with the goal of preserving tenancies and avoiding unwarranted evictions. During the counseling, an LCBH staff attorney, looked up the foreclosure case, and provided Ms. Starling with information about her rights as a tenant in a building that had been lost to foreclosure. After a foreclosure, most Chicago tenants are entitled to continue renting at no more than 102% of what they had been paying or be asked to leave with a $10,600 relocation payment. Even if a tenant is asked to leave, the tenant can generally stay until the end of their lease or 90 days after receiving a written notice demand for possession, whichever is longer.
The landlord didn’t inform the tenants that the building was in foreclosure, or that a new owner was taking over the property. Ms. Starling learned about the foreclosure process, that the landlord had lost possession of the property, and that the landlord was no longer entitled to receive her rent.
LCBH’s Tenants in Foreclosure Intervention Project (TFIP) team has been working tirelessly to inform renters throughout Illinois about their rights and responsibilities when they find themselves living a foreclosed building. Renters who live in rural areas of Illinois are often unfamiliar with the court system and the foreclosure process and LCBH’s Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline may be the only legal resource available to them. LCBH is committed is to providing resources to those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis throughout the state.
This summer LCBH expanded its travels to new areas in Will County and Western Cook County Suburbs. In June, LCBH staff attorney Aileen Flanagan met with Judges O’Leary, Thanos and Barrett of the 12th Judicial Circuit in Will County, who all agreed that LCBH’s foreclosure helpline and brochures will provide a welcomed resource for tenants in Will County who are in danger of losing their housing. Since meeting with the judges and other stakeholders in Willl County, the LCBH helpline has received an increase in calls from these communities. The resources are proving to be helpful to the residents of Will County.
The mission of the LCBH is to promote the rights of tenant access to safe, decent and affordable housing on a non-discriminatory basis through legal representation, advocacy, education, outreach and supportive services. The Supportive Service Department allows LCBH to provide holistic services to vulnerable tenants to prevent a cycle of eviction, job instability, and homelessness. Approximately 20% of clients accepted for legal representation by LCBH’s eviction defense program are internally referred to receive supportive services. The Supportive Services team considers the individual and family needs to develop a comprehensive plan that will address barriers to maintaining permanent housing and work to achieve greater housing stability.
LCBH assesses renters’ needs, and provides assistance in locating alternative affordable housing, applying for emergency funding, screening for public benefits, and providing referrals to other essential services. As LCBH works primarily with low-income renters, affordability is the most common barrier to housing we see, but many clients face other serious obstacles that threaten their housing stability.