Blog: Utilities

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.

John Sees His Doctor

John is a young disabled man who has had asthma all of his life. John is unable to work and he lives on very limited resources and income from Social Security. John recently moved into a new apartment and every time there was a heavy rain, his apartment would flood. As a result, mold was visible on his living room walls and kitchen cabinets, which he would scrub with soap to remove the mold. John documented the damage and contacted his property manager every time it happened. The property manager tried to address the flooding issues with various repairs, but the mold continued to come back.

While seeing his doctor for something unrelated, John mentioned he had some difficulty breathing in his home sometimes. During his examination, the issue of the re-occurring mold came up. Because mold spores can trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals, the doctor was concerned that John’s housing situation may be the cause.

Luckily for John, his doctor works for PCC Community Wellness Center – a medical partner of Healthy Housing Chicago – a medical-legal partnership between LCBH, Loretto Hospital and PCC. The program is a bridge for patients to connect them to legal services, because health issues can be caused or exacerbated by unsafe housing conditions.

Daniela with her sons

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.

Cold Chicago Winter

Chicago just had one of its coldest winters in history – with the coldest four month period from December 2013 and March 2014 since record keeping began in 1872. With such harsh weather conditions, proper building and utility maintenance is even more important to protect the health and well-being of residents. To that end, this winter LCBH’s Affordable Housing Preservation Program (AHPP) focused on cases where utilities, such as heat (or lack thereof), were in question. In one such case, LCBH worked with renters in a large apartment building in the South Shore neighborhood where all of the units were without heat for the later part of January.

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.

LCBH in the Community

LCBH at Howard Area Community Center (HACC)
Samira & Aileen present at HACC

LCBH attorneys Samira Nazem and Aileen Flanagan (pictured), recently spoke with an ESL class at the Howard Area Community Center (HACC) in Rogers Park about housing issues including landlord and tenant responsibilities, maintenance problems, evictions and lockouts, and foreclosure.

The class is made up of recent immigrant adults to the United States who are trying to improve their literacy and comprehension skills.

Referral information and fact sheets were also shared with the group. Megan Thompson, an AmeriCorps VISTA with LCBH, is a volunteer tutor for the community center and helped organize the event.

Thank You

In September, Eunice (see volunteer spotlight this issue) won a great victory for one of her clients’ and for LCBH. The clients were a couple whose landlord had filed an eviction against them for nonpayment of rent. They explained that they only started withholding rent payments when the landlord ceased to maintain their building

The landlord’s neglect rendered the building uninhabitable. It was infested with mice and bedbugs, the electricity was unreliable, and the hot water worked only late at night. There was mold throughout their unit; some of the windows were broken and were never repaired. The landlord refused to fix any of the conditions despite repeated requests both by the couple and the City. Upon review of the case, Eunice also discovered there were security deposit violations.

In response to the eviction, LCBH filed defenses and counterclaims against the landlord based on his mismanagement of both the building and the clients’ security deposit. Initially, the landlord wanted to go to trial but soon discovered it would not be successful. Eunice negotiated a very nice settlement for her clients and was also able to get the eviction case sealed to protect her client’s credit rating. Thanks to Eunice’s hard work and sharp negotiation skills, her client was able to use that money to move into a new apartment and have a fresh start!