In 30-plus years in the Logan Square area, Margie had only lived in four different apartments. When a new owner bought her building, she was going on her seventh year in the apartment she shared with her son. It was cramped to share a one-bedroom with him, and she wished they had a shower instead of a bathtub, but it was affordable. They both work hourly wage jobs—he’s been Employee of the Month time and again at a large retailer, and she loves the job at a restaurant where she has worked for more than a decade.
The property management company that took over Margie’s building informed her that their rent would spike from $700 to $1000 in just three months. When Margie told them there was no way she could afford the increase, they agreed that she could pay $800 per month for the next year. In return, they would leave her apartment "as-is" and not include it in the renovations they were undertaking in the rest of the building—which is located in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
But when her upstairs neighbor was evicted and the company started to remodel the unit above her, "Everything came down in on me," Margie recalls, shaking her head. "There were bed bugs, there were roaches…it was just horrible." Her landlord took steps to deal with the bed bugs, but not the roaches. When Margie took pictures of the infestation and shared them, the landlord said, "Well, you’re living in it as-is." Then her landlord sent her a 30 Day Notice saying she would have to be out at the end of the month. "They texted me that they would help me find a place," Margie says. "I could leave all my furniture and stuff behind and they were going to do everything for me…that’s how bad they really wanted me out. But every area they wanted me to move to was a very bad area."
The pressure for Margie and her son peaked when they were served a summons to appear in eviction court. Fortunately, a neighborhood group helped connect her with LCBH. "I was so stressed. It was just like the walls were closing in on me. Once I got to know everyone at LCBH, it was like everything started to open up. I was so fortunate that I had someone in my corner, because it was hell."
LCBH helped her look for a new apartment and submit applications while her case was working its way through the court. Jude Gonzales, LCBH’s Supportive Services director says, "It’s always difficult finding housing for our clients that are being evicted. When advocating for our clients, we help prospective landlords see an unjust eviction as an unfortunate circumstance and not a condemnation of character." Margie and her son were eventually able to find a new home, and the day after her birthday, Margie’s family came with a truck and cleared out the old place. The new apartment has two bedrooms and is right near a park that her grandchildren can play in when they visit.
When her lawyer let her know the case was settled and the eviction filing would be sealed, Margie was overwhelmingly relieved. Without legal assistance, Margie believes she would be homeless and living doubled-up with her family right now because she probably would not find an apartment with an eviction filing on her record. "Eviction looks really bad. When [landlords] look you up, they say, 'Well you’ve been evicted, we can’t have you here.' If you want a nicer apartment, you won’t be able to get it."
She wants to share her story to help others who are facing unfair eviction filings. "You can’t be weak and be in this situation. If you’re weak, you’re not going to survive… Because eviction? It’s nothing nice. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemies."