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.
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.
Join LCBH on October 28, 2014 as we welcome keynote speaker Illinois Congresswoman Robin Kelly, as well as celebrate and honor those who have made exceptional contributions to help preserve the vitality, diversity and affordability of Chicago's neighborhoods!
Ms. Wiles lived peacefully above her landlord in an owner-occupied building for over a year. During this time, she underwent training to become a foster parent, with the hope of adopting a child one day. To her surprise, she had the opportunity to adopt three siblings and keep a family together.
Unfortunately, Ms. Wiles’ landlord did not share her enthusiasm about the situation or like the idea of three children joining her in the upstairs apartment. The following month, the owner demanded an immediate rent increase of 47% and refused to accept the previously agreed upon rent listed in the lease. When Ms. Wiles was unable to pay the higher rent, the owner served her with a five-day notice to terminate the tenancy and then filed an eviction lawsuit.
Ms. Wiles came to LCBH seeking legal representation in eviction court where she was referred to the LCBH’s Attorney of the Day (AOD) eviction defense program. Ms. Wiles had a compelling defense based on discrimination against her due to her parental status, which is protected both in Chicago and Cook County. She also had a strong technical defense based on her landlord’s failure to provide her with proper notice.
Ruby is a disabled, single mother and struggling to get by month to month. Financially, it helps that Ruby’s family lives in a subsidized building. Ruby recently fell behind on her rent payments because her building’s management company refused to accurately record the changes in her income and adjust her rent as required by the Chicago Housing Authority. This kept a balance on her rent account and the management company consistently refused to make the necessary adjustments and through these disputes Ruby fell further behind on her rent. Ruby received a series of termination notices that did not accurately state her rental rate, rent payments, or her outstanding balance. Upon receiving each termination notice, Ruby approached management in an attempt to clear up any inconsistencies but to no avail. Her plan was to repay any deficiency in the rent she might owe but management refused to accept any payments or to meet with Ruby to resolve the matter. After months of run around, the management company filed an eviction case against Ruby. Fearful of losing her home, Ruby came to LCBH seeking legal assistance.
This past summer LCBH joined the Chicago For All Coalition, which was formed by ONE Northside, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, to address the loss of Single Room Occupancy (SROs) hotels in Chicago. The coalition has been working with the City of Chicago to create a long-term solution that would help stabilize tenancies and preserve this affordable housing resource.
This summer LCBH has seven legal interns and volunteers working with us. Without these students and recent graduates who come to spend their summer with us, LCBH would have a tough time offering the legal services our clients need. Here are a few highlights from each of them:
Sarah Barnes is a rising third year law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law. At LCBH, Sarah works with the Tenants in Foreclosure Intervention Project (TFIP), assisting renters who are facing eviction due to a landlord’s mortgage foreclosure. Prior to law school, Sarah volunteered with the AmeriCorps program where she helped Michigan homeowners avoid foreclosure through counseling and home retention services. “When individuals and families do not have stable housing it affects every other aspect of their life.” Sarah enjoys working with tenants, especially at LCBH’s help desk. “There are many laws protecting tenants in this position, but most tenants do not know their rights and do not know where to turn for help.” Sarah has enjoyed working with the TFIP program and hopes to continue volunteering at the help desk in the fall.
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The Chicago For All Coalition was convened by ONE Northside, and includes LCBH and many other tenant advocate and social service organizations. The purpose of the coalition is to address the rapid depletion of Single Room Occupancy (SROs) hotels in Chicago. SROs provide short and long-term affordable housing options for some of the city’s most vulnerable, very low-income residents, like the recently homeless, veterans, and persons with disabilities. SROs are often located in desirable areas of the city—walkable neighborhoods, close to public transportation and with abundant social service agencies. In the past several years, many SROs have been sold to investors who rehab the buildings and raise rents far beyond what former residents could afford. Chicago stands to lose this crucial affordable housing resource.
As LCBH notes in its 2013 Foreclosure Report, “One scenario that has played out frequently over the past few years is the purchase of low-income buildings and single room occupancy buildings or hotels (SROs) by investors hoping to cash in on the growth in the rental market. Investors buy buildings, rehab units, and increase rent, virtually ensuring that former residents cannot return. Recent examples of this phenomenon include the purchase of the Lawrence House, Astor House, Abbott Hotel, and Chateau Hotel, all high-rise buildings in Rogers Park, Lakeview, and Uptown.”