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.
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.
Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing thanks the seven judges who attended the Eviction Diversion Program open house Friday, November 2.
Judges and clerks involved in eviction court are able play an important role in creating alternatives to eviction, and we at LCBH appreciate the time and expertise of all who were able to attend.
The Eviction Diversion Program (EDP) is a pilot to help low- to moderate-income Chicagoans avoid potential eviction judgments by facilitating mutually beneficial agreements between tenants and landlords.
First, the pilot program will connect qualified clients to homelessness prevention funds. These funds can be used for rent arrearages to prevent eviction, for security deposits, and to cover first month’s rent for new apartments.
Case management is also part of the pilot program. Tenants will receive short-term, intensive case management services aimed at stabilizing the renters’ housing situation, addressing the underlying issues that led to the eviction, and educating the client on resources to utilize in the future prior to a housing crisis.
A third component of the program is resolution services. Case managers will work with tenants to advocate with their landlords for a mutually beneficial alternative to an eviction order.
Students in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute civic engagement program of Northwestern University received a "guided tour" and briefing session on eviction court October 18.
After observing part of the eviction court call at the Daley Center Thursday morning, the group of 16 adult learners debriefed the experience with Executive Director Mark Swartz and Supportive Services Director Jude Gonzales. The students remarked on the obvious disparity in legal representation. Their experience was in line with the recent Prejudged report finding that while 81% of landlords had attorneys, only 12% of tenants did. Students commented that they could see how this put tenants at a disadvantage in the court cases they observed.
A new report by Housing Action Illinois and the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) explores how an eviction filing on the public record is a serious obstacle to finding housing for people whose cases did not result in them actually getting evicted. This is true even in cases where the tenant didn’t violate their lease in any way. Prejudged: The Stigma of Eviction Records shows that 39% of eviction cases filed in Cook County during the past four years did not result in an eviction order and/or other judgment against the tenant. The report recommends enacting state legislation that would hold eviction case records from public view until cases are completed to protect these individuals from unfair barriers to renting a home in the future.
"This is an issue that affects about 15,000 people in Cook County each year," estimates Mark Swartz, Executive Director of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. "There is no judgment against them, but there is a filing on their record. When they go to rent, prospective landlords too often reject them based on screening reports that don’t reflect the outcome of a case."
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.
On Monday, February 6th, State Representative Will Guzzardi introduced H.B. 2430, which seeks to repeal S.B. 531, known as the Rent Control Preemption Act. Real estate lobbyists drove the passage of S.B. 531 in 1997 with the intent of preventing any thought of rent control in the state, despite the fact that no city had any form of rent control or rent stabilization in place.
The basis of the bill to repeal S.B. 531 is that the Illinois Constitution allows for "municipal home rule," where cities can make decisions for themselves unless a state law explicitly prohibits them from doing so. Thus, repealing S.B. 531 is foremost about honoring local decision-making.
It is important to note that repealing S.B. 531 would not institute any form of rent control or stabilization in any region of Illinois on any level. Repealing S.B. 531 would simply eliminate the preemption of rent control in order to prioritize local decision-making. This is a critical distinction.
Imagine you’re sprawled out on your couch after getting home from work, taking a moment to unwind from the day, thinking about what you might make for dinner. In the midst of your thoughts, you hear a knock at the front door, so you roll off the couch and answer it. The next thing you know, you’re standing on the street as you watch the sheriff lock you out of your house, with no warning, no explanation.
For thousands of families across Chicago, what happened to Ms. Thomas—unjust eviction from her home—is more than a simple hypothetical; it’s a frightening reality. Standing on the street with her son and two grandchildren, Ms. Thomas watched as she was suddenly barred access from the house she’d rented for years. And then she heard the word that she should’ve heard months ago: foreclosure. Knowing that she needed legal assistance, Ms. Thomas called Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH).
For many of us, the holiday season means spending more time with family, sharing good food and conversation, and cozying up in our warm homes. But for Michelle King, a single mother of three children, much of the excitement for the upcoming season had to be put on hold. You see, Michelle received an eviction notice from her landlord, giving her only five days to move out and throwing her family into crisis.
Michelle was not only worried about where she and her kids would go, but she was also confused. She had always paid her rent on time, even though the apartment had many problems, including broken heat. After unsuccessfully trying to get her landlord to fix the issues, Michelle called the city to complain. She certainly didn’t think she could get evicted because of it.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a new federal rule that will ban smoking – cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and water pipes (hookah) – in all public housing units nationwide. HUD’s rationale for the rule is to “improve indoor air quality in public housing; benefit the health of public housing residents, visitors, and PHA staff, reduce the risk of catastrophic fires; and lower overall maintenance costs.” The rule, which will take effect in the fall of 2018, was first proposed last November and has been met with praise and criticism since its formal announcement was issued last week.
Currently, around 200,000 public housing units are smoke-free under voluntary smoking bans enacted by public housing agencies (PHAs) across the country. The nationwide ban would expand this to impact upwards of 1.2 million households. Here’s a basic summary of this rule: residents or visitors may not smoke in public housing units or within 25 feet of housing and office buildings. Individual PHAs may designate additional restrictions or ban smoking from the grounds altogether.
Change is afoot at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH). We are excited to announce that we have launched a blog!
We have been envisioning this redesign for some time here at LCBH. By replacing our monthly newsletter with a blog, our hope is to improve the experience of our readers with easier and timelier access to LCBH news and stories. The blog will feature customized tags so you can read more on topics that you’re interested in. In addition to better design and access, we hope to use the blog as a platform to highlight important housing issues, discuss alternative perspectives through guest writers, and increase awareness about housing instability.
We hope that you’re just as excited about this change as we are!! Thank you all for your continued support and readership!