Welcome to LCBH’s Blog. Our blog delivers original articles written by our staff, interns and volunteers. We strive to provide informative stories about the work we do on behalf of Chicago renters and the issues renters face.
The Keep Chicago Renting Coalition, comprised of community-based organizations, unions, and policy groups, with a policy committee spearheaded by LCBH, crafted a new ordinance designed to increase local renter protections and to hold successors-in-interest (primarily banks) accountable to tenants in buildings acquired at foreclosure sale. Since early 2012, the group has actively promoted the adoption of this ordinance, the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO) through meetings with aldermen and other city officials, press conferences, policy reports, and other action intended to draw attention to the problems caused by vacant buildings and displaced tenants.
Tamara Foster and her children moved into a modest house in the Galewood neighborhood of Chicago in early December 2008. The Foster’s lived happily in the property for several years under a series of one year written leases, the most recent one expiring on December 31, 2011.
Unbeknownst to Ms. Foster, a mortgage foreclosure case was filed against her landlord in September 2010. After the judgment of foreclosure against the landlord in April 2011, the lender, Fifth Third Mortgage Company, sent a property manager to Ms. Foster’s home to inspect the property. As instructed, Ms. Foster faxed the property manager a copy of her lease. Then in early August 2011, Fifth Third, being the only bidder at the sheriff’s auction, re-acquired the property and sent Ms. Foster a notice (required by law) informing her that it owned the property and providing her with a contact in Cincinnati, Ohio who she could call if she had questions or needed repairs.
A short time later, Ms. Foster received a notice from Fifth Third’s attorneys asking Ms. Foster to move within 90 days and advising her of Fifth Third’s intent to file an eviction case in court if she did not. In October 2011, Ms. Foster contacted Fifth Third’s attorneys and informed them that she had a lease through December 31, 2011, which she had given to the property manager back in July. The law firm asked her to fax them a copy of the lease, which she did.
This month, we decided to sit down with staff attorney Lacy Burpee, an Equal Justice Works Foreclosure Fellow to find out a little more about the work she does at the Tenants in Foreclosure Help Desk at the Daley Center.
Lacy, you are an attorney as well as an Equal Justice Works Foreclosure Fellow, can you tell us where you went to law school and more about that program?
I attended DePaul University College of Law. After graduating, I was selected as one of four Equal Justice Works (EJW) Foreclosure Fellows. This fellowship is a three year position, which is funded by the Attorney General through the mortgage foreclosure settlement. The purpose of these fellowships is to provide services to people impacted by the foreclosure crisis. In my work, I primarily assist tenants who are living in apartment buildings that are going through foreclosure. I spend most of my time at the Tenants in Foreclosure Help Desk, which is located on the 14th floor of the Daley Center, where many eviction courtrooms are located.
In January, Susan, a renter in Palatine, called the LCBH Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline to seek help after hearing about the project through the Cook County Clerk’s office. The building that Susan lived went into foreclosure but her 2-year lease with the former owner of the property doesn’t terminate until August of this year.
Susan’s problems began in September of 2012, when she came home to a notice on her door demanding that she move out within the next 30 days. Susan immediately called the number on the posting to find out more information but her calls went to voicemail and her messages were never returned.
Susan didn’t know what to do without more information and she did not hear anything further until December 12, 2012 when a court summons addressed to “unknown occupant” was posted on her door. Believing she had to follow the summons even though it did not include her name, Susan appeared in court on the assigned date.
Recently, two LCBH clients, living in separate buildings in the Albany Park neighborhood, received this notice from the property management company, Chi Properties. LCBH has annotated the document to highlight the sorts of highly aggressive and illegal tactics that bank agents often employ against renters. Click here for the pdf version.
There is now additional relief for renters in Chicago and throughout other areas of Illinois troubled by the devastating effects of the foreclosure crisis. Thanks to a generous grant by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, resulting from the unprecedented settlement for egregious actions by five of the largest banks in the US, LCBH has expanded the Tenants in Foreclosure Intervention Program (TFIP). Since 2008, the demand for renter assistance due to foreclosure related issues has not been met with nearly enough services but as attention grew to the enormity of this problem, one by one, various stakeholders starting with Polk Bros. and The Chicago Community Trust and others began to provide support.
This year, the additional support of IHDA and the incredible endorsement from the Illinois Attorney General has significantly increased legal representation in Chicago, and brief services, counseling, outreach and education is now available in other areas of Illinois hard-hit by foreclosure.
LCBH attorneys Samira Nazem and Aileen Flanagan (pictured), recently spoke with an ESL class at the Howard Area Community Center (HACC) in Rogers Park about housing issues including landlord and tenant responsibilities, maintenance problems, evictions and lockouts, and foreclosure.
The class is made up of recent immigrant adults to the United States who are trying to improve their literacy and comprehension skills.
Referral information and fact sheets were also shared with the group. Megan Thompson, an AmeriCorps VISTA with LCBH, is a volunteer tutor for the community center and helped organize the event.
Tenants living in an Uptown three- flat renewed and/or entered into year-long leases, unaware that their landlord’s building went into foreclosure back in 2010. This constituted a violation of the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance requiring landlords to notify tenants or potential renters after they have been served with a foreclosure complaint.
Although the landlord lost the property due to an Order of Possession and Confirmation of Sale back in March of 2012, he has continued to demand and accept rent from tenants which is illegal since he no longer owns the building. Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing attorneys provided tenants with foreclosure counseling services and shared public record information with them at a building meeting indicating that the landlord was no longer on the title.
Despite being confronted with this information, the landlord cited irregularities with the bank’s paperwork and claimed that he was still officially the landlord. Furthermore, the landlord threatened the tenants with imminent loss of building services and utilities if they failed to pay rent because he was continuing to pay for utilities and a maintenance man. He argued that the tenants could not expect to live anywhere for free and should pay him to manage the building.
Cassandra is a single mom with an ailing mother living with her. She found herself living in a deteriorating apartment building in foreclosure and suffering from several legal issues due to these circumstances. Thanks to her patience and perseverance and the incredible work of LCBH’s legal and supportive services team, Cassandra was able to move out of the foreclosed building, resolve her legal issues, receive damages and move into a substantially better apartment. Her “foreclosure eviction” filings were sealed and she is now able to move on with her life.