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.
Luckily, Susan had diligently noted the name of each operator she spoke to along with the date and time of each of her calls to the hotline. The eviction hotline’s introductory automated message disclosed that each conversation was recorded, meaning there was a chance Susan could prove the terms of her payment plan. In court, the LCBH legal team used this information to get the case dismissed, arguing that the real estate company failed to honor the terms of Susan’s payment plan and were thereby prohibited from terminating her tenancy for non-payment of rent. The case ended well for Susan. The real estate company recognized that Susan had followed their procedures and made a diligent effort to save her tenancy, and they agreed to relocate Susan to an upgraded apartment and dismiss her past due rent.
Susan’s story illustrates the importance of documenting any conversations you may have with your landlord, or their representative, especially when those discussions have the potential to result in new agreements, however informal, with legal consequences.