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.
This summer, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) teamed up with the John Marshall Law School’s Pro Bono Program and Heartland Alliance to help a family in crisis get a fresh start. The Ali family had recently fled Syria during the civil war and escaped to the US where they hoped to establish a new life. They moved into an apartment building that had a bedbug infestation, and soon their small children suffered from bed bug bites that required ongoing medical attention. To make matters worse, the landlord refused to treat the infestation and had threatened the family suggesting he could interfere with their application for asylum.
The family did not speak much English and they were at a loss about how to best to protect themselves. Without steady income and paying for mounting extermination and medical cost, soon the Ali family found themselves in eviction court. For any family, facing a legal system can be very intimidating and foreign, even to those who have lived their entire lives here in America.
This summer, five legal interns spent their summer working with Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH), advocating for the rights of renters. Without these students, and recent graduates, who come to spend their summer with us, LCBH would have a tough time offering the legal services our clients need to resolve their housing issues. We asked each intern to share highlights from their LCBH experiences this summer:
Chloe Noonan came from Boston University School of Law to work with LCBH’s affordable housing preservation efforts. As part of her internship, Chloe regularly travels to buildings throughout Chicago to work with tenant unions. One of her favorite collaborations has been with a group of tenants on the south side living in a building that had fallen into disrepair. Chloe worked with the group to help them identify their common goals and used her knowledge of housing law to empower them to push for better management in the building.
This summer, staff took time to enjoy an afternoon of bowling at Timber Lanes bowling alley. With the number of tenants in need of LCBH services increasing each year, the event was a nice break from staff members’ normally hectic schedules. Congratulations to staff attorney Frank Avellone for bowling 3 strikes in a row!!!
Two years ago the Chicago City Council passed the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance, commonly known as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO). The KCRO applies to Chicago renters from the time of a completed foreclosure sale until the building is sold to a third-party purchaser. The ordinance provides that successors-in-interest (usually banks) to foreclosed properties must do one of two things: either offer to renew or extend leases to qualified tenants in foreclosed properties or, if the owner should choose to vacate the property, provide $10,600 in relocation assistance per household. The strong policy behind the KCRO is to allow renters, even those without a written lease, to remain in their home as long as they comply with their rental agreements. It also provides a financial incentive for banks to collect rent, or sell occupied Real Estate Owned properties (REOs), keeping them in productive use.
LCBH is hosting an Eviction Defense Training for interested volunteers on Wednesday,July 22 at 12:00 PM. The training will be held at the LCBH office located at 33 N LaSalle Street, Suite 900. Attendees will also receive 1.0 MCLE credit hour. Please feel free to bring your lunch.
This hour-long training will cover the basics of landlord-tenant law and eviction practice in Illinois. Attendees will learn about the various state and local laws governing landlord-tenant relationships and the ins and outs of the eviction courtroom. We will also discuss different ways to get involved and support LCBH’s mission through pro bono work.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) believes that every individual and family is entitled to decent housing as a basic need and human right. For over thirty years, LCBH has defended the rights of tenants to have safe, accessible, and affordable housing on a non-discriminatory basis through education, outreach, supportive services, advocacy, and legal representation impacting over 7000 Chicago area renters each year. LCBH provides free legal assistance to low and moderate-income renters facing eviction and other serious housing issues. With the help of our volunteers, LCBH represents over 400 individuals and families in court each year, many times providing the last defense against homelessness.
The Chicago Bar Foundation presented LCBH board member, Claire Battle, with the Exelon Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award at their 17th Annual Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon July 14, 2015.
While a busy and successful in-house attorney at ArcelorMittal USA, spouse and parent, Claire Battle continues to make pro bono a priority in her career. Her commitment to Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) dates back to her undergraduate years at Northwestern University volunteering as an intern in the late 1990s. After law school, Claire was a volunteer attorney and has been an LCBH board member for 14 years. Lending a variety of talents, Claire has been involved with various LCBH committees and made contributions in whatever capacity she is needed. Her lasting contributions include co-founding and LCBH’s Hearts for Housing fundraiser, which has grown from an informal gathering to a flagship event attended by hundreds of attorneys and sponsored by the city’s biggest firms as well as co-founding LCBH’s Young Professionals Board. In addition to all of her contributions to LCBH her work proliferates as she encourages and helps her fellow in-house counsel find meaningful pro bono work in her position as Co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.
Bianca Brown recently contacted the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline. An LCBH attorney counseled Ms. Brown about her apartment building, which was in foreclosure and now owned by the bank. The attorney explained that under Illinois law there are rights protecting renters in foreclosed buildings, as well as a Chicago ordinance which provides additional protections to renters, the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance, commonly known as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO).
LCBH recently closed its help desk and opened a new resource table.
The new resource table is located on the 14th floor of the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St., which is right outside of the eviction courtrooms. The resource table is stocked with copies of our informational Tenants in Foreclosure Brochures (both the Chicago & statewide versions) in English and Spanish.
Renters can still get one-on-one counseling via our free Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline: in Chicago (312) 784-3507, Cook County (855) 207-8347.
The former Tenants in Foreclosure Help Desk was initially launched in 2011 to provide renters and attorneys in eviction court with legal information regarding renters’ rights during foreclosure. Help desk staff spotted a lot of illegal notices and other common violations, but more importantly, they helped keep a lot of renters from being unfairly evicted from their homes.
Since then, a number of new renter protections have come to pass and a lot of people have been educated on the laws. We found that we were helping more people with basic court information rather than foreclosure related issues, and at the same time, the demand for assistance through our help lines was steadily increasing.
So to better assist renters, we felt the time had come to close the help desk and focus those resources on our help lines and helping more renters, more quickly.