Blog

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.

Family survives housing crisis

In October of 2011, a dozen Albany Park families were on the verge of losing their homes and only had two weeks to move out. The building they lived in was going through foreclosure and to complicate matters, the owners had abandoned the property, leaving it replete with problems including a dangerous heating system, mold, faulty electrical wiring, and sewer backups. The pressing safety issues caused the city to place an order to swiftly vacate the property.

The families in this building included couples with small children, extended families and elderly couples enjoying their retirement years. They were very worried about moving and leaving the neighborhood they had come to love. They wondered whether they could find new affordable homes that were generally accessible, including accommodations for those with limited mobility. They worried about whether they would have to uproot their children from their schools and whether they would make new friends.

Savvy Renter

(1) Know Your Neighbors

  • Speak in the hallways, elevators, or laundry room. This will help you to stay on top of any new developments in the building, i.e. foreclosure, renovations, rent increases, etc.
  • For elderly renters, knowing your neighbors can be very beneficial in the case of an emergency or if you need someone close by to check on you occasionally.
  • Learn if your building already hosts regular meetings or has some has some sort of tenant’s union. If so, join this group. If not, start one.

(2) Know Your Landlord (or Building Manager)

  • It will be easier to ask for help or be up front with your landlord if you have any trouble with the building or your unit.
  • If you understand your landlord’s demeanor you will be more able to avoid conflict.
  • Even if your relationship with your landlord is not great, difficult landlords are often more willing to work with people that they know.

(3) Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Susan

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.

Anatomy of an Improper Notice

Annotated Notice

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.

Young Professionals Board at Hearts for Housing

On March 8th the Young Professional Board presented the 8th annual Hearts for Housing fundraiser. This event is a Hearts card tournament with a very large and diverse raffle that keeps growing every year, making Hearts the most popular event in LCBH history!

Kirkland & Ellis has generously hosted this event for the last four years and they really outdo themselves in support of safe and decent housing in Chicago. Their beautiful conference space was bursting with a sold- out crowd! Todd Maynes, LCBH Board Vice-President and Kirkland & Ellis partner personally sold $14,000 in raffle tickets! It was a charmed and electric evening, guests caught up with old friends, made new ones, and played cards for a great cause!

Thanks to the hard work and contributions of the Young Professionals Board, LCBH Board of Directors, sponsors, raffle donors, staff and you LCBH was able to raise over $43,000 to support program services that assist those most vulnerable in our Chicago community who are facing debilitating housing issues. It is truly amazing what can be accomplished when people come together to improve our community! Thank you!

Hearts for Housing Co-Chairs

  • Jessica Panza
  • Vito Giovingo
  • Jeremy Snodgrass

and the rest of our Young Professionals Board

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.

Sharing information

LCBH’s Attorney of the Day (AOD) program represents more than 300 families in eviction court each year. LCBH has found that by providing education about the eviction process to our client, having a frank discussion of the merits of his or her case, and identifying a common goal to work toward, it can work cases more effectively and thus take on more of them.

Most of our clients come to us having little or no idea how eviction court works and many have never before been represented by a lawyer. People with little to no experience with the judicial system can often have misconceptions and unrealistic expectations about their legal remedy.

Imagine how startled you would be if you went back and forth to court, thinking you have a good case or maybe a chance at winning, and then suddenly your lawyer tells you that you’ve lost – or have to move out quickly or else!

In addition to helping tenants understand their rights and responsibilities, we also spend time explaining the rules and procedures of eviction court. It is important to us that our clients understand the expected timeline of their case and that they have an idea of how cases similar to theirs often resolve.

Juan and Maria

The Attorney of the Day (AOD) eviction defense team at LCBH recently represented Juan and Maria Salazar (not their real names) and their three small children. The family was being evicted from their apartment in South Chicago for alleged non-payment of rent. Maria is a woman from Mexico whose status in the U.S. is undocumented. Juan is a U.S. citizen, Maria is from Mexico and their three children are U.S.-born. The Salazars discovered that the utility meters in their two-unit building were arranged such that they were paying the electricity bill for the common areas of the building and garage, which is a violation of the Illinois Rental Property Utility Service Act.

LCBH in the Community

LCBH at Howard Area Community Center (HACC)
Samira & Aileen present at HACC

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.

Track Civil Process Service Online!

The Cook County Sheriff’s Department has introduced a new tool for tracking service of process.

Users who have issued summons, subpoenas, and other documents to be served by the Cook County Sheriff can use the “Civil Process Service Lookup” feature on www.cookcountysheriff.org to check the status of service.

The user simply enters the case number or Sheriff’s number associated with their documents and they can find out whether or not service was had, or is still pending.

The search results may also show details about who was served, or why the Sheriff could not complete service.

This tool allows litigants to get information about service long before the court docket is updated and without having to go to the courthouse in order to track down the Sheriff’s affidavit of service.