Chicago just had one of its coldest winters in history – with the coldest four month period from December 2013 and March 2014 since record keeping began in 1872. With such harsh weather conditions, proper building and utility maintenance is even more important to protect the health and well-being of residents. To that end, this winter LCBH’s Affordable Housing Preservation Program (AHPP) focused on cases where utilities, such as heat (or lack thereof), were in question. In one such case, LCBH worked with renters in a large apartment building in the South Shore neighborhood where all of the units were without heat for the later part of January.
The building was going through the foreclosure process and the court had appointed a receiver (temporary manager) for the property. As is typical in foreclosure court, the primary concern of the receiver is to maintain the building, not address the needs of the residents (even though these are often one and the same). In this case, renters were not properly notified of the change in management and did not know to contact the new receiver for maintenance requests. The receiver also erroneously believed that it was restrained by the courts from making repairs. Meanwhile, the former owner and management company, who were no longer responsible for the building’s maintenance, added to the confusion by checking in on the property occasionally. The renters were basically left to fend for themselves. They had taken to maintaining common areas themselves and were living without essential services, like heat, during this extremely cold winter, to the detriment of both the building and its occupants.
LCBH was first alerted to this extreme habitability issue when a renter contacted LCBH about her unresponsive building manager. The situation was complicated, but the LCBH legal team acted quickly and was able to unravel enough of the mess to get the heat restored to the building in a day. The LCBH team continued working with the residents, the receiver and the attorneys for the foreclosing bank to ensure that going forward, the needs of the tenants and the building will be addressed in a more responsive fashion.