Blog: Rentervention

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.

LCBH Executive Director Mark Swartz

I hope you, your family, and your colleagues are safe and healthy. As we stand in support of the Black Lives Matters movement, we do so in recognition that the majority of LCBH’s clients are Black and that the structural racism and racial disparities in our health, criminal law, and other systems are equally evident in our eviction system. As such we will continue to prioritize LCBH’s advocacy in Chicago’s hardest-hit Black communities.

As we have for 40 years, LCBH pledges to partner with you to reform eviction court and leverage technology to better serve renters facing serious housing issues. In this newsletter, I invite you to learn more about Renny and how you can help prevent COVID-19 related evictions.

Renny is Here to Help

Rentervention - Housing Problems Solved

In 2019, LCBH, with support from the Lawyers Trust Fund, launched Rentervention.com, a free tool for Chicago renters who have questions about their rights when it comes to eviction, security deposits, and repairs needed in their homes.

Tenants who use Rentervention.com can now find answers to questions about their housing amid the current health crisis. This expansion is already proving to be a valuable resource. In March, there were 804 visitors to Rentervention.com, followed by 2,898 in April and nearly 3,750 in May.

Renny is programmed to address users' concerns and provide them with the appropriate resources. For example, Renny provides sample letters for tenants to edit and send to their landlords about issues such as difficulty paying rent or needing repairs done.

Moreover, Renny informs renters what their landlords can and cannot do and connects them to free lawyers who can review the user’s conversation with Renny to provide legal help.

During this crisis, the common types of questions that Renny receives are about not being able to pay rent and COVID-19 specific issues. As the laws and guidelines change, Renny is provided with the most current legislation to inform tenants about their rights during this unprecedented time.

Q & A with Renny the Robot

In 2019, LCBH, with support from the Lawyers Trust Fund, launched Rentervention.com, a free tool for Chicago renters who have questions about their rights when it comes to eviction, security deposits, and repairs needed in their homes.

We sat down with Renny for a Q & A to learn more about him.

Q: How many renters have contacted you since the start of the pandemic?
A: Since about mid-March through Memorial Day about 6,800 renters have contacted me. It feels so good to help so many! Rentervention has really grown.

Q: What is the most common question you receive?
A: The most common type of questions I get are about not being able to pay rent and Coronavirus-specific issues. Renters want to know what rights they have since the law and guidelines can change from day-to-day. About 2 of every 3 questions I get are on this topic. I’m taught new information all the time so I provide the best possible service.

Conor Malloy, Rentervention Project Director

LCBH is proud to announce our new upcoming project, Rentervention, in partnership with Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) and Lawyers Trust Fund (LTF)!

Rentervention is a chatbot service that will offer support to low-income tenants in unsubsidized Chicago housing dealing with conditions issues, eviction, and security deposit disputes. Tenants will be able to access help 24/7 though either a website or by texting. When appropriate, the chatbot will refer tenants to a free lawyer providing limited scope support through Rentervention’s Virtual Clinic.

Conor Malloy joined our team in December last year as the project director of Rentervention. In this role, he develops content for pro bono attorneys, creates scripts for the chat interface, and trains pro bono attorneys. Conor is excited to lead this pilot project in utilizing technology to easily provide legal guidance to those most in need.

Rentervention will go live on May 1, and a public awareness campaign will help promote the project to renters throughout Chicago over the summer.