Bed Bug Seminar & Cosi Sandwiches: Thursday, Jan 20th at 6pm

MTO will be hosting a Bed Bug Workshop at the Chicago Urban League (4510 S. Michigan) on Thursday, Jan 20th from 6 to 8pm. Free parking is available. Sandwiches and refreshments will be served, courtesy of COSI.

MTO’s resident bed bug expert will tell you what bed bugs are, describe early signs of an infestation, and outline what to do and what not to do.

No need to RSVP – this workshop is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Farid at 773.292.4980 x 236 or Robert at 773.292.4980 x 242.

Is Housing a Human Right?

I recently attended a symposium “Bring Human Rights to Legal Services.”  The bulk of the discussions between Legal Aid attorneys and housing advocates were around how to bring a human rights framework to our work of supporting people living in poverty.  The symposium ended up raising more questions than answers.  To begin with, is housing a human right?  And if so, what does that mean?   MTO’s Hotline hears from hundreds of tenants every year who are getting evicted because they cannot afford to pay the rent.  They may have lost their job, had unforeseen medical expenses or because of the severe shortage of affordable housing, they end up taking a place they cannot afford and eventually are unable to pay the rent.  If housing is a human right, then what should happen to people who are denied that right?  The question can get more complex; what about the renter who tries to scam the system and live rent free for months, or the drug dealer who brings violence into our neighborhoods?  How would a right to housing affect them?  Are there responsibilities that come with rights and what are those responsibilities?

The right to housing also raises a more central question: just what is housing?  For example due to the earthquake in Haiti, many people are living in tents.  Would a tent be considered housing?  What about having heat in the winter?  Should there be some sort of guarantee that housing is heated in the winter? What about air conditioning in the summer if you are a senior citizen with a heart condition?  Is a homeless shelter considered housing?

What about the rights of landlords?  Should they have to absorb the cost if their tenant cannot afford the rent?  Let’s look at the bed bug crisis.  It can cost thousands of dollars to safely exterminate the pests.  Who should bear the cost?  These are just of few of the questions that come to mind.  MTO would like to hear from you.  Is housing a human right and what does that mean?

– John Bartlett

Radon – FAQ

What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, dense, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally in soil.

How does radon get into homes?
Radon gas forms naturally in the soil in the Midwest. When the gas is produced, it simply rises up through the ground and is released into the natural environment.
However, when homes are built in or on soil emitting radon, instead of the gas rising up through dense soil, radon gas chooses the path of least resistance – normally through the floors or wall of the first level of the home – the basement. Depending on how the home was built and how ventilated the basement is, levels of radon can fluctuate.

Why is radon dangerous to human beings?
Radon has been classified as carcinogenic by the US EPA. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer – first being smoking. People who are exposed to both radon gas and smoke (first or second-hand) have a multipled risk of developing lung cancer.
Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people’s homes.

Why are basements the most likely place to find radon gas? Why not in my second floor apartment?
Radon gas comes from decay of radioactive substances that are ubiquitous in the Midwestern soil. Because basements and first floor units are most often the first point of contact between soil (the source of radon gas) and the building, this is where radon normally enters the building.
Radon gas is also far more dense than “air.” Helium is lighter and less dense than air and therefore balloons filled with it fly away and up into the sky if not held down. Radon is heavier than air. For that reason, it sinks below lighter “air” to remain in our basements and lower level units. The more time someone spends in a unit/basement that has radon gas, the more exposure that person receives.

How do I know if my family and I are being exposed to radon gas?
If you live in the basement or first floor of a building, it is likely that you are being exposed to radon gas. The risk goes up if the building was poorly built, is poorly maintained and/or is poorly ventilated. There is no safe level of radon but minimizing exposure can reduce you and your family’s risk of lung cancer.
If you live in a second floor unit or higher, it is unlikely that you and your family are being exposed to significant levels of radon in your home.
The only way to know for sure is to test your living space(s).

Is there a test for radon?
Yes. Tenants, landlords, and homeowners have an easy and affordable option to test the level of radon in their home. Air Chek Inc. has sold over 4,000,000 radon tests worldwide. The Illinois Department of Public Health referrals for the test kit get the customer a major discount, which normally costs $14.95.
Those interested in purchasing the radon test can access the discount by phone, online, or through the mail. With the discount, each kit is $6.95. Call 800.247.2435 and ask for the Illinois discount or go online to il.radon.com for online or mailing instructions. Each test kit ordered includes the testing kit itself, testing instructions, shipping to and back, cost of lab work and reporting of results to you.

Those pesky bedbugs won’t rest: Chicago Tribune

Bedbugs have made the leap from apartments and homes to some of Chicago’s downtown office buildings and government headquarters.

And late last month, a “government office in the Loop” brought in Meron Kahssai, resident bedbug expert with the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, to educate employees about dealing with bedbugs after the office had an infestation.

It doesn’t matter that offices don’t have beds.

The blood-sucking pests, which are making a comeback nationally, can easily hitch a ride on purses and coats from infested homes or hotels and burrow into furniture and files at work.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune

Bed Bug Workshop – Dec 2nd, 2010 – No RSVP needed

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
6:00pm to 7:30pm
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park, Chicago

A bed bug expert from the Metropolitan Tenants Organization will tell you what bed bugs look like, describe signs of an infestation, and outline what to do and what not to do if you have bed bugs.

No need to RSVP and the workshop is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Kristian at 773.826.8430 x 229 or kmoore@bethelnewlife.org.

Thank you to MTO’s partners, Bethel New Life and Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance.

Saturday, September 25th: the Rents Rights Expo

Learn about bed bugs, credit repair, foreclosure, repair issues, housing subsidies and more.

Come join us Saturday September 25th from 9am- 2pm at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave., for the cities largest rental housing expo, hosted by “Chicago Rents Right”. The highlight of the expo will be the workshops that will be put on by various organizations including workshops on bed bugs, building code violations, reasonable accommodations for the disabled, subsidized housing, foreclosures, credit repair, updates on the amended Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance, and even workshops for condo board associations.  There will be translators available for Spanish speaking tenants.  There will be counselors who specialize in foreclosure prevention and general landlord/tenant questions.

One of the most essential workshops this year will be on the subject of bed bugs. Nationwide, Chicago is one of the top 5 cities being hit by the bed bug epidemic.  The workshop on bedbugs will be useful for those who are trying to get rid of bed bugs and useful for those trying to avoid getting bed bugs.  If Chicago is going to be successful in doing away with this epidemic it will have to be done by those educated on how to effectively exterminate bed bugs AND citizens educated on how to stop the further spread of bed bugs.

“Chicago Rents Right” is a program of the Chicago Department of Community Development, and has a committee comprised of local community organizations, including Metropolitan Tenants Organization, with a common goal of helping tenants and/or landlords.  Admission to the event and workshops is free.

State of the Renter in the City of Chicago

The Hotline has served as MTO’s eyes and ears into the lives of renters. Since its inception in 1994, the MTO Hotline has fielded more than 150,000 calls, carefully collecting information and tracking data on housing issues. In collecting this data, Hotline counselors have spent thousands of hours listening to the stories told by Chicago’s renters. The story of renters in Chicago is that they are increasingly facing unpredictability in the rental housing market, financial stress, and deteriorated living conditions. Their lives are and have been in tumult for years.
– John Bartlett, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization

Above is an except from the State of the Renter report issued by MTO in 2009. For too long, the needs of renters – invaluable investors in our communities – have been marginalized in favor of a policy that focuses only on homeownership. Renters have been regarded as transient occupants rather than stakeholders. MTO recommends a national housing policy that balances homeownership and rental housing. Policy makers have failed to recognize the importance of a stable rental housing market and certainly have an insufficient understanding of the issues facing renters.

An executive summary of the State of the Renter report can be found here. For the full report, click here. We always welcome feedback. Please feel free to leave comments or questions in the space provided at the bottom of this page.

Bed Bug Complaints Surge

Bed bug complaints on the Metropolitan Tenants Organization Hotline have gone from none to at least 200 calls a year. WBBM’s John Cody reports.

If you have bed bugs in the Chicagoland area, call the Chicago tenants rights hotline at 773.292.4988. Open M-F from 1-5pm.
Stay tuned for an updated online FAQ on Bed Bugs and what do about them.

Chicago Tenants and Chase Bank

Her building, 7263 S. Coles, is quite literally falling apart. Bricks are falling off the front of the South Shore apartment building, not to mention the ceilings are falling in and the electricity is about to cause on fire any minute, she says. The bathtubs won’t drain, so they sit, daily, full of grey water, while families try to wash themselves in the kitchen sink. Mold, insects, pests – you name a problem, they got it.

It’s so bad that the city has deemed it uninhabitable, and Saturday, they will come out to vacate 10 families from the premises. Richards and her neighbors gathered downtown yesterday afternoon, asking for relocation assistance from the party they say is responsible for the building’s profound neglect – Chase Bank.

Read the entire story here at One Story Up

Watch the report from We The People Media here