Tenant Fights Retaliation and Wins

Natasha’s neighborhood in Gresham.

When Natasha Johnson moved into her new apartment in May 2017, she was excited to finally have a place that was in her budget and close to her job. However, within a couple of months of moving in, Natasha noticed mice in her dream apartment. “The manager said they would bring out an exterminator,” Natasha explained. After months of no action, Natasha took matters into her own hands and purchased some poison and traps.

The traps and poison did their job, but the safety concerns started to worry Natasha, “When I bring my grandson over, I have to put the poison in a place where he can’t get to it.” Furthermore, bed bugs and a cold draft from a gap in the door became problems as summer turned to fall. That’s when, Natasha decided to call MTO’s Tenants Rights Hotline. Hotline staff provided her with assistance and sample letters for Bed Bugs and repair requests.

Natasha asked her building manager to hire an exterminator and fix the gap in the door.  Months went by. “I didn’t sign up for this,” Natasha expressed. Still paying her full rent and fed up with the service, Natasha called the City of Chicago’s 311 assistance line to request the City inspect her unit. The apartment was not up to code.  The City fined Natasha’s landlord.

When they got fined, that’s when they got really mad,” said Natasha. In December 2017, building management claimed they had not received Natasha’s rent, though she had the money order receipt to prove it, plus had been recorded on video dropping the payment at the collection box. They served Natasha a Five-Day Eviction Notice, which Natasha then paid by the deadline. Management again claimed they had not received payment, and filed an eviction. 

Luckily, Natasha stayed in touch with MTO throughout the process, and they had advised her to document her conversations with building management and keep all her payment receipts. Then MTO connected Natasha with Attorney Joan Fenstermaker who represented Natasha in eviction court. Ms. Fenstermaker proved the management’s actions were retaliation, and Natasha was able to stay in her apartment.

Recently, Natasha’s landlord fired the responsible employees responsible. And, Natasha has been spreading the word about her success with the Tenants Rights Hotline. Her advice to others in a similar situation is, “Don’t leave, fight for it. If you pay your rent and don’t do anything wrong, there shouldn’t be a problem. I did every step they [Hotline staff] told me, and it worked out in my favor. You got to fight for your rights. I did and ended up winning.

“How-To” Guide – Dealing with Extreme Cold

Landlords in Chicago must heat residential buildings to at least 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees overnight (from September 15 to June 1). 

If you are unable to resolve a heating problem with your landlord, call our Hotline between 1-5PM, M-F at 773-292-4988. You can also send your landlord a 24-hour notice using Squared Away Chicago.

It is vital to know your rights and to look out for the homeless, elderly, and your most vulnerable neighbors during extremely cold weather.

  • If you are worried that your pipes might freeze, leave the tap dripping overnight to ensure they do not freeze. Also, put a towel under your door to help keep the heat inside.
  • When it snows, make sure to clear off sidewalks for the elderly, disabled and young children in strollers. For snow removal assistance, call 311 or click HERE
  • Keep extra hats, gloves and scarves with you when you’re on the move. Your extra gloves might save someone’s fingers from frostbite.

Call 3-1-1 to:

  • Request a well-being check for someone suffering due to extreme weather
  • Report inadequate heat in a residential building (inspections can take up to 3 days!)
  • Learn about programs that assist with home heating costs
  • Connect to shelter and supportive services

IMPORTANT NOTE: Anytime you call 311, get a reference # so you have a record of your call!

The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) operates six Warming Centers during work weekdays when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. DFSS Warming Centers are not open on weekday holidays unless specifically indicated. Additional facilities are opened as needed including Senior Centers, libraries, and Park District buildings, so it is important to call 3-1-1 for info concerning Warming Center locations during off hours and on weekday holidays. The centers below are open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday (but hours may be extended during extreme cold.)

DFSS WARMING CENTERS 

 Garfield Center (Open 24/7)
10 S. Kedzie Ave.

Chicago, IL 60612

Englewood Center
1140 W. 79th Street

Chicago, IL 60620

King Center
4314 S. Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL 60653

  North Area 
845 W. Wilson Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

South Chicago
8650 S. Commercial Ave.
Chicago, IL 60617

Trina Davila
4357 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60639

Make a Difference this Giving Tuesday!

This Giving Tuesday, Give to the expecting mother, and her 3 young children, whose only wish is to secure decent housing. No child should have to live with a falling ceiling that impacts their safety and their quality of air. This family has lived in their Englewood apartment for 5 years with little to no repairs by the owner. MTO is supporting the resilient mom who is learning and advocating her rights to safe and decent housing.  Your donation to MTO helps keep this family and others from being homeless this holiday season. Stable housing is the gift that keeps giving. Help make a difference by donating HERE today. 

  

HELP Educate. HELP Organize. HELP Empower.                                      

The mission of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization is to educate, organize and empower tenants to have a voice in the decisions that affect the affordability and availability of safe, decent and accessible housing.