Edna is a funny, vibrant single mother of three small children. For five years she provided a wonderful home for her family in a building where she a great relationship with her landlord and property manager. Having a stable, decent and affordable place to call home gave her a lot of comfort and gave her the ability to focus on her job and her kids. She was looking forward to many more years in a neighborhood she loved and in a school that was great for her kids. That is until one day, it all changed – her landlord lost the building, including her home, to foreclosure.
Thanks to the hard work of many Chicago advocates, including LCBH, Chicago now has an ordinance that helps to protect renters who are scooped up in the foreclosure process through no fault of their own. When a landlord loses an apartment building to foreclosure, the new owner must either offer to renew (or extend) the existing tenants’ lease or offer to give them relocation assistance. Edna was relieved that the new owner of her building was going to work with her to keep her in her home rather than evict her.
Edna was a Housing Choice Voucher holder and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) rules require new owners to complete some paperwork to keep those units in their system and to get payments sent to the correct owners. Unfortunately, the new owners stalled on submitting the paperwork to the CHA. After repeated attempts on Edna’s part to work with the new property manager to get this paper work completed, Edna got scared that she would lose her home and her voucher. She finally gave up and requested moving papers from the CHA.
Soon afterwards, Edna received a 90-days’ notice to vacate.
Despite diligently looking for a new home for her family, Edna was rejected from numerous housing options because landlords would not accept her housing voucher. Although it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants due to their source of income, discrimination against voucher holders is still a common problem affecting the mobility of many Housing Choice Voucher participants. Any action that can be taken against the landlord regarding the discrimination is not going to happen quickly enough to correct an immediate need for new housing. Confused and afraid she would be forced onto the street, she reached out to the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH)’s Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline. The helpline staff provided Edna with information about her rights under the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO). This information eased her mind as she hunted for a new apartment.
Edna was unable to move within the 90 days and the new owner filed an eviction against her. If an Order for Possession (an eviction order) was entered against Edna, it would put her voucher in serious jeopardy which is the most important piece of property she owns and is lost after an eviction.
She returned to LCBH for representation. As leverage, the LCBH attorney used the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance to reach a settlement in the eviction case. The new owner argued that Edna’s request for moving papers was the same as rejecting their offer to renew her lease and Edna was therefore not entitled to any relocation assistance. LCBH’s attorney argued that failing to submit the paperwork to the CHA and then filing the subsequent notice to vacate showed bad faith on the part of the landlord and wasn’t a proper renewal of her lease, making Edna entitled to the $10,600 relocation payment. Ultimately, the LCBH attorney was able to negotiate for additional time to allow Edna to find a new home along with a relocation payment to assist her with moving costs. LCBH was also able to have Edna’s case dismissed thus preserving her Housing Choice Voucher and allowing her to settle into a new, safe home with her family.