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.
John uses a Housing Choice Voucher to help pay his rent. The voucher program is administered by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). Understandably, the program has strict rules when it comes to breaking leases and moving into a different apartment and John didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize his voucher.
Within days of John being referred by his doctor, the LCBH attorney sent a letter to the landlord and to CHA asking for a reasonable accommodation. The letter requested that the lease be terminated and a move allowed because the mold prevented John from fully living in and enjoying his home. A day after submitting the letter, the reasonable accommodation request was approved and John was given his moving papers. One reason for the quick turn-around time on the approval was that John had documented the problems so nicely.
Within a few weeks, John moved into a new mold-free unit. Through the assistance of the Healthy Housing Chicago partnership, John was able to leave housing that was making him sick and move into a new apartment, all without fear of losing his Housing Choice Voucher.