What does the reliance on eviction say about our society? Every day we hear stories from the tenant’s perspective of a housing market gone horribly wrong. The result is trauma and harm to thousands of Chicago’s working families. The stories are not black and white. They are about life, good and bad habits, eccentricities, prejudice, and privilege. The following articles are the real life stories of Chicago tenants. We invite you to read, think about and debate why there are some 25,000 evictions are filed annually in Chicago. Is there another way?
Chapter 1 – “Ms. Cat”
MTO first heard from the senior who hotline staff affectionately refer to as “Ms. Cat” in 2018. Ms. Cat had just received a 10-day notice for violating the lease provisions around pets. She had two cats of her own, and often fed the numerous alley cats outside her apartment. Ms. Cat can be a bit cantankerous at times. She loves her cats, they’re her family. She was so concerned about the alley cats well-being that one day she left a trail of cat food from the alley to her apartment.
However, others in the apartment considered the cats – and her actions – a nuisance. The cat food was attracting rats. Yet, Ms. Cat either would not or could not (as she put it) abandon her cats. They were her life. Unfortunately, her landlord didn’t attempt to talk to her about a solution, and instead moved to evict her. With her home and housing subsidy in jeopardy, Ms. Cat was able to secure an attorney. For several months the landlord, Ms. Cat and her attorney negotiated. In the end, our senior who is living on SSI had to leave her subsidized unit as a part of deal to avoid eviction.
Ms. Cat’s story does not end here. Ms. Cat’s next destination was a homeless shelter that did not allow pets. Every night Ms. Cat would try to sneak the cats into the shelter. Management found out and then the notices came. Management served her with an eviction notice. In one conversation with Ms. Cat, she said, “I would rather be homeless than to give up my cats.” With that in mind, Ms. Cat decided to leave the shelter and move to an SRO (Single Room Occupancy Hotel).
She then moved into an SRO, which is often a last resort for many of Chicago’s most vulnerable residents. Within a couple of months of moving, Ms. Cat was again running into problems with the owner and her neighbors. Her lease allowed two cats, but she was still trying to sneak more into her unit. Neighbors complained of an odor. Ms. Cat said, “it’s not the cats, it’s me. I can not help that I am incontinent. It’s a condition I can’t control. It’s like cancer. You wouldn’t evict someone for having cancer.” The owner served Ms. Cat with a 30-day notice to vacate. Rather than fight the eviction notice , Ms. Cat decided to move in with friend. The expectation was that this would be for a short time. She was desperately looking for housing she could afford.
With an eviction filing on her record and limited income, her housing choices were extremely restricted. Several months have passed since Ms. Cat last called. We reached out to her, but her cell phone has been cutoff. We also await her next call. We hope that Ms. Cat has found stable housing and is getting the help that she needs.
But her situation begs an important question: why is eviction always the first resort?
Ms. Daniels had lived in a modest Auburn Gresham apartment building for over two years. And things had been going relatively smoothly for the retired senior. That all changed one day when Ms. Daniels came home from the Doctor’s office to find frost on the inside of her windows. Her heat was not working. She talked to her neighbors, who reported they too had no heat. She called her landlord, who never even showed up. Ms. Daniels didn’t want to cause problems, but she really needed her heat turned on. She is diabetic and was undergoing cancer treatment at the time, so the lack of heat was complicating her health.
Ms. Daniels called 311 to report her lack of heat, among other problems, like a leaking roof and holes in the exterior walls. Instead of sending someone to fix the problems, her landlord showed up and told her and her neighbors that they had to pay more rent or leave. They asked why, and the landlord told them if they want repairs they would have to pay up. This type of retaliation is harmful and immoral, but all too common for tenants who call MTO’s Tenants Rights Hotline. And that’s just what Ms. Daniels did when her landlord started refusing to accept her rent checks.
After calling and speaking with a Hotline Counselor, Ms. Daniels was connected with MTO’s Eviction Prevention Specialist (EPS). Because Ms. Daniels’ landlord had already filed an eviction against her, the EPS knew time was of the essence, and knew that while Ms. Davis had a “good case”, it could be very difficult for her to win it on her own. She would need an attorney. With this in mind, the EPS fast-tracked Ms. Daniels case to the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (LCBH). MTO and LCBH have formed a partnership to combat the eviction crisis, deploying a new joint intake form and streamlining the referral process. LCBH swiftly accepted Ms. Daniels case, and represented Ms. Davis in court, not only winning the case, but also sealing the public record.
Today, Ms. Daniels is safe and recovering in a warm apartment – without the stain of eviction on her record – thanks to fast action and an Eviction Prevention partnership that works to address evictions proactively at their earliest point. Evictions are a scourge to our communities, deepening poverty and segregation, and must be addressed head on if we want to bring justice to Chicago’s working class communities and begin to solve the housing crisis that affects so many of Chicago’s families.
If you or anyone you know is facing the threat of eviction, please call MTO at 773-292-4988.
After 15 years of living in what could legally be considered a storage unit, Mr. Piper was served a 30-day notice telling him to get out his unit or go to court and face eviction. While most of us would not consider living in a storage unit, Mr. Piper, a Vietnam Veteran and victim of Agent Orange, did so happily for the last 15 years. He did this not only because he lives with a disability and it was the only thing he could afford on his monthly fixed income, but also because it allowed him to live in the neighborhood he wanted to live in, Hyde Park, Chicago.
Mr. Piper reported that his management company has changed hands five to six times over the last 15 years, and while conditions never improved, none of the other companies tried to put him on the streets. When he reported a bed bug problem to the latest landlord, two weeks later he received a letter terminating his tenancy. The letter stated that it was unsafe for him to continue living there, as it was not a legal unit.
Is this what the housing crisis in Chicago has come to? Where low-income tenants live in substandard housing, with an insect infestation, and without proper plumbing just to have a roof over their heads? Most of the renters calling MTO’s tenants’ rights hotline are fighting to keep their homes in neighborhoods where the rent is too high and/or repairs are going undone. Therefore, tenants make do with what they can afford, in a neighborhood they consider home.
While the management company did offer Mr. Piper a $1000 to be out in two weeks, he felt that it was not an honest or realistic offer, since they knew he had been there 15 years and that he lives with a disability. We also feel like the owners could have done more. Why not offer Mr. Piper another unit in the building, or more time to be out and relocation assistance? While we cannot fault them for closing what may be an illegal unit, we can fault them for retaliating by serving the notice only after Mr. Piper complained about bed bugs or for not looking for other ways to resolve the problem, not the least of which is creating affordable housing for all.
Caroline, a 73-year old retiree living on the western edge of Humboldt Park, is so grateful for MTO’s new Eviction Prevention Collaboration. Caroline lives on Social Security. On the third Wednesday of each month, she receives her SSI check and pays her rent. Unfortunately, Caroline ended up in the hospital recently and suddenly couldn’t pay the rent. Caroline informed her landlord that the rent was going to be late. The landlord agreed and told Caroline could pay the late rent in installments.
When Caroline went to make her next payment, the landlord suddenly refused the rent and gave her a 30-day notice to vacate her home of the past 5 years by the end of December. The landlord further threatened her by telling her she was going to start showing the unit the very next day. Frantic and not knowing what to do, Caroline called MTO’s Eviction Prevention Collaboration. MTO’s case manager suggested that she talk with the landlord before writing a letter. The landlord said no, and told her to just “get out.” With help from MTO’s case manager, Caroline wrote a letter which reiterated the verbal agreement between they had made. The landlord did not respond to the letter. The case manager suggested she write one more letter and try paying rent when her next check arrives.
This time the landlord accepted the rent. Caroline was ecstatic. There would be no court case. The sheriff would not be coming to her home. She would still have a home after the holidays. You can make sure that Caroline and others like her continue to have a home by donating to MTO.
Every year there are more than 25,000 evictions filed in Cook County. Many more are evicted outside of the court system. Thousands of tenants are displaced. Their lives disrupted. Their communities destabilized. With your financial help, MTO can help stop evictions. Donate now.
What is the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance?
The City of Chicago enacted the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Rental Property Ordinance, commonly known as the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO), in response to the harmful effect of the mortgage foreclosure crisis on renters in Chicago. The ordinance aims to keep renters in their homes by requiring new building owners to offer bonafide tenants a lease renewal or $10,600 in relocation assistance. You can view the full text of the ordinance by scrolling down or clicking here.
The KCRO Requires New Owners to Serve Tenants with Written Notice of Change in Ownership Notice of change in ownership must be provided within 21 days after a person becomes an owner or within 7 days of determining the tenant’s identity. Notice must be delivered to known tenant or household member 13 years or older or mailed. In addition, notice must be posted on the primary entrance of each foreclosed property . Chicago Municipal Code, § 5-14-040(a),(b)
The Ordinance requires that the notice be given in English, Spanish, Polish and Chinese. The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) has translated the notice and those translations may be used by owners to inform their tenants in accordance with the law. The notices can be downloaded by clicking here.
The KCRO Requires Notice Before the Owner Can Collect Rent
Until the owner serves notice under § 5-14-040, the owner cannot collect rent or terminate a tenant’s lease for failure to pay rent. Chicago Municipal Code, § 5-14-040(c).
The KCRO Requires Owners to Renew or Extend Leases or Pay Substantial Relocation Assistance
The Ordinance requires the owner of a foreclosed rental property to either:
- offer the Qualified Tenant a renewal or extension of their lease with a rent increase of no more than 2%; or
- pay the tenants a relocation fee of $10,600 within seven days of the Qualified Tenant vacating the unit. Chicago Municipal Code, § 5-14-050(a).
If the owner elects to offer a lease, the owner must continue to offer renewals or extensions (with rent increases of no more than 2% per year) until the owner sells the property to a “bona fide third-party purchaser.” Chicago Municipal Code, § 5-14-050(g).
What Tenants Are Entitled to Protections Under the Ordinance?
The Ordinance protects “Qualified” tenants who have a bona fide (valid) lease or rental agreement. The definition of a bona fide lease or rental agreement includes all agreements, whether written or oral, as long as:
- The tenant is not the mortgagor, or the child, spouse, or parent of the mortgagor;
- The lease or tenancy was the product of an arm’s-length transaction; and
- The rent required under the lease or tenancy is not substantially less than fair market or is subsidized by the government. Chicago Municipal Code, § 5-14-020.
In other words, leases entered into with children, parents, or the spouse of the former owner; leases where both parties did not negotiate in their own best interest; and leases with substantially less than fair market rent are not considered bona fide, and tenants without bona fide leases are not qualified tenants under the Ordinance.
Which Property Owners Are Subject to the Ordinance?
- any person who acquires ownership of a property pursuant to a judicial sale of a foreclosed rental property, after the sale has been confirmed by the court and any special right of redemption has expired; or
- mortgagees that acquire ownership of a property through foreclosure or a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Chicago Municipal Code, § 5-14-020.
Which Property Owners Are Not Subject to the Ordinance?
- an owner of a foreclosed rental property who was the owner prior to the effective date of the Ordinance;
- a person appointed as a receiver and issued or assigned, a Receiver’s Certificate; or
- a bona fide not-for-profit in existence continuously for a period of five years immediately prior to becoming the owner of the rental unit and whose purpose is to provide financing for the purchase or rehabilitation of affordable housing. Chicago Municipal Code, § 5-14-030.
If an owner fails to comply with § 5-14-050 (Tenant relocation assistance), the qualified tenant shall be awarded damages in an amount equal to two times the relocation assistance fee. Chicago Municipal Code, § 5-14-050(f). Penalties for violation of the KCRO are significant enough that LCBH expects substantial compliance.
NEED ASSISTANCE? Call the LCBH’s free Tenants in Foreclosure Help Line: 312-784-3507 or call our free Tenants Rights Hotline, Monday-Friday between 1:00pm – 5:00pm: 773-292-4988.
To find out if your building is in foreclosure, click here and follow the step-by-step instructions.
The “Keep Chicago Renting” Ordinance
Section 1. Title, Purpose and Scope.
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the “Keep Chicago Renting” ordinance and shall be liberally construed and applied to promote its purposes and policies. It is the purpose of this ordinance, in order to protect, maintain, and improve foreclosed rental property, preserve rental housing stock, mitigate losses to area property values, and avoid neighborhood destabilization due to foreclosure, to prevent vacant foreclosed residential buildings and preserve tenancies in these properties. Except when this ordinance conflicts with the statutory or regulatory provisions governing federal housing subsidy programs, including, but not limited to, public housing and project-based Section 8 housing operating pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1437 et seq., the provisions of this ordinance shall apply to and regulate ei;er3′ foreclosed property in which occupants hold possession of dwelling units. The rights, obligations and remedies established by this ordinance shall be cumulative and in addition to any others available at law or in equity. Nothing in this ordinance shall affect a landlord’s obligation to provide notice of termination of tenancy as required under applicable laws governing actions for possession.
Section 2. Definitions.
Whenever used in this ordinance, the following words and phrases shall have the following meaning:
(a) “Dwelling unit” means a structure or the part of a structure used as a home, residence or sleeping place by one or more persons who maintain a household, together with the common areas, land and appurtenant buildings thereto, and all housing services, privileges, furnishings and facilities supplied in connection with the use or occupancy thereof, including garage and parking facilities; except that this ordinance shall not govern dwelling units described in Subsections 5-12-020 (b) and, (c) of this Code.
(b) “Foreclosed property” means any property for which legal and equitable interests in real estate were terminated by a foreclosure action brought under the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law (“IMFL”), 735 ILCS 5/15-1101 et seq.
(c) “Foreclosing owner” means a person or entity, or an agent acting on behalf of a person or entity that holds title in any capacity, directly or indirectly, to a foreclosed property and either (1) was a mortgagee who was a party to the foreclosure or is the subsidiary, parent, trustee, nominee or agent; or (2) is the Federal National Mortgage Association or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.
(d) “Occupant” means any person in lawful physical possession of a dwelling unit in all or part of a foreclosed property and as described under Sections 1223 and 1508.5 ofthe IMFL.
(e) “Tenant” means a person entitled by written or oral agreement, subtenancy approved by the landlord or by sufferance to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others, as defined by the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”) in Section 5-12-030 of this Code.
(f) “Bona fide third party purchaser” means a person or entity that is not a foreclosing owner and purchases the foreclosed property from the
Section 3. Eviction of Occupants Prevented; Exceptions.
A foreclosing owner may not maintain an action for possession, except in accordance with this ordinance or unless a binding purchase and sale agreement has been executed and is in effect for the purchase of the dwelling unit by a bona fide third party purchaser.
Section 4. Notice Requirements.
Within 21 days of taking title to foreclosed property, a foreclosing owner must notify in writing all occupants of dwelling units of the real estate using the text provided in subsection (d) of this section. This notice must be printed in English and Spanish in no less than 14 point type, on paper at least eight and one-half inches by 11 inches in size.
(a) Service requirements shall be satisfied i f the foreclosing owner has (i) posted this notice in a prominent location in the building; (ii) mailed this notice by first class mail to each unit; and (iii) has made an attempt to personally serve an occupant of each unit in the building.
(b) The Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Economic Development (DHED) shall make available for distribution, both in print and in an easily printable format on the department’s Internet website, the following notice in English with a Spanish translation that may be used to satisfy the notice requirements of this section.
(c) Compliance and Curing Noncompliance. For purposes of collecting rent or maintaining an action for possession as described in Section 5, a foreclosing owner may cure a failure to timely provide notice by providing the notice more than 21 days after the transfer of title. Curing the notice deficiency, however, shall not waive any occupant’s right to remedies as described in Section 8 of this ordinance. Additionally, a foreclosing owner shall have no right to collect back rent that accrued during the period of time that the foreclosing owner was not in compliance with the notice requirements of this section.
(d) Text of Notice Provision:
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO OCCUPANTS
City of Chicago law requires that we provide you this notice informing you of your rights as occupants of [INSERT PROPERTY ADDRESS]. This property is now owned by [INSERT NAME OF FORECLOSING OWNER]. The former owner of this property no longer owns the property because the property was foreclosed. Chicago law protects your right to remain in your home after a foreclosure. [NAME OF ORDINANCE AND CITATION]. This law protects all occupants, even if you do not have a written lease. The law states that you cannot be evicted just because your building was foreclosed. You do not have to pay the new owner any rent owed before the due date provided in this notice. You can only be evicted if you do not pay rent starting on the due date provided in this notice, if you commit a crime or allow someone you know commit a crime in your home, if you damage your home, or if you refuse to let the new owner inspect your home and make necessary repairs. You can only be evicted after the new owner of this building files an eviction claim in court and you are given a chance to defend yourself in front of a judge. You can only be removed from your home by personnel of the Cook County Sheriffs office with an order from the court. Your rent cannot be raised unless the new owner of this building files in court and you have had a chance to defend your current rent in front of a judge. The former owner of this building has no right to collect rent since the former owner does not own the building anymore. You should now pay your rent to the new owner of this building: [INSERT NAME, ADDRESS, AND TELEPHONE CONTACT INFORMATION OF THE FORECLOSING OWNER, THE BUILDING MANAGER, OR OTHER REPRESENTATIVE OF THE FORECLOSURE OWNER RESPONSIBLE FOR COLLECTING RENT]. Please pay your rent on the [INSERT DAY] of each month by [INSERT METHOD OF TRANSMISSION]. You are not responsible for paying any back rent owed prior to the due date provided in this notice. The new owner of this building must maintain the property including making sure the building and your unit are safe and secure, removing trash and debris, and exterminating any vermin. The owner must also make sure that heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas and plumbing services are all available. For maintenance issues and emergencies, please contact [INSERT NAME, ADDRESS, AND TELEPHONE CONTACT INFORMATION OF THE FORECLOSING OWNER, THE BUILDING MANAGER, OR OTHER REPRESENTATIVE OF THE FORECLOSURE OWNER RESPONSIBLE FOR COLLECTING RENT]. If you do choose to move, you are entitled to collect your security deposit from the new owner of this building. If the new owner of this building tries to evict you, raise your rent, refuses to return your security deposit, or fails to maintain your building, you may be eligible to collect damages. Please contact a lawyer, a legal aid or housing counseling agency, or the Coordinated Advice & Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS) legal aid hotline at (312) 738-9200 to discuss your rights.
Section 5. Right to Possession.
Except as described in Section 3, and except when state or federal law provides an occupant with additional or superior rights, a foreclosing owner shall have the right to maintain an action for possession of a dwelling unit against an occupant only after complying with the notice requirements of Section 4 and:
(a) thirty days have passed, an occupant has failed to pay rent, and the landlord has complied with all the applicable notice and cure periods governing eviction for nonpayment of rent, including, but not limited to, those provided by the RLTO and the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/9-101 et seq. (“Forcible Entry and Detainer Act”) (hereinafter “FEDA”); or
(b) an occupant has failed to cure a breach of the lease agreement or other tenant responsibility as described in Section 5-12-040 of this Code and the landlord has complied with the applicable notice and cure periods governing eviction for breach of lease or tenant responsibilities, including, but not limited to, those provided by the RLTO and the FEDA; or
(c) an occupant violates Section 9-118, 9-119 or 9- 120 of the FEDA, and the landlord has complied with all other applicable notice and cure periods
required under these statutes; or
(d) thirty days have passed, an occupant’s bona fide lease or other rental agreement has terminated, and the foreclosing owner, by written request, has offered a lease under the same terms that were in effect at the time that the foreclosing owner took title, and the occupant has rejected that offer.
Section 6. Increase of Rent.
After complying with the notice requirements of Section 4, a foreclosing owner shall be entitled to recover rent. A foreclosing owner shall not charge an occupant of a dwelling unit a rental amount above that which the occupant had been paying for use and occupancy of the dwelling unit prior to foreclosure
without leave of court. The court may allow an increase of rent if, in an action brought by a foreclosing owner, the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the current rent is below market rate and an increase of rent is necessary to operate, manage, and conserve the dwelling unit. In the event that the foreclosing owner and an occupant of a dwelling unit agree to a rent increase for that dwelling unit, the foreclosing owner is excused from the requirements of this section as to that dwelling unit. Nothing in this section shall alter the terms of any lease agreement.
Section 7. Misrepresentation of Right to Possession.
It shall be unlawful for a foreclosing owner:
(a) to willfully or negligently misrepresent, by written or oral statement, the rights of the occupant or foreclosing owner regarding rightful possession of the dwelling unit;
(b) to withhold essential services, as defined under Subsection 5-12-110(f) of this Code, except that this ordinance shall also prohibit actions taken against occupants; or
(c) to interrupt occupancy as defined under Section 5-12-160 of this Code, except that this ordinance shall also prohibit actions taken against occupants.
Section 8. Defenses and Remedies.
If a foreclosing owner acts in violation of this ordinance, the occupant shall have a complete defense against the foreclosing owner in any action for possession. If an occupant in a civil legal proceeding establishes that a violation of this ordinance has occurred, the occupant shall be entitled to recover
$5,000.00 in damages or actual damages, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Each violation of this ordinance shall constitute a
For more information or assistance, contact our Foreclosure Organizer, Saul Garcia at 773-292-4988 ext 247 or at email@example.com
This is an informational resource list. None of the following organizations have affiliation with the Metropolitan Tenants Organization.
Legal Organization Referrals
Evictions (tenant must be low-income)
Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing …………..312-784-3527
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (serves Spanish speakers)………………..…312-332-1624
Chicago Legal Clinic (retaliatory eviction only) (serves Spanish speakers)………773-731-1762
Advice before court or to get an extension to stay:
CARPLS Advice Desk Room 602, Daley Center located at Station 7 – Pro se defendants only
Kent Law School Advice Desk Room 602, Daley Center – Pro se defendants only
Tenants in CHA or HUD housing or on a Section 8 program
LAC (must fit under income guidelines)…312-341-1070
(unit conditions ONLY)……………….312-229-6093
Cabrini Green Legal Aid……..312-738-2452
Security Deposit Defense
Chicago Legal Clinic (deposit must be $2500 & over) ($30 1st visit & court)….773-731-1762
Cabrini Green Legal Clinic (income guideline & $20.00 fee)……….312 738 2452
Lawyers Committee for Better Housing……(312) 784-3527
Tenants over 60 years of age
Chicago Department on Aging………312-744-4016
Tenants with Disabilities And Seniors
Mayor’s Office for People with disability up to age 59 ……….312-744-6673
Legal Clinic for the Disabled and seniors (must receive referral from Chgo. Dept. Of Aging)……. 312-908-4463
Center for Disability and Elder Law (they also cover legal issues beyond Tenant/Landlord)………312 376 1880
Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4)…………………………………………………………………..773-769-0205
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Chicago HELPLINE………………………………………………….312-563-0445
Tenants living in Logan Square or surrounding neighborhoods:
Micah Legal Aid……… …….773 463-6768
Tenants living in or around Uptown area 60640
Uptown People’s Law Office (Eviction Defense Only) ………… ………773-769-1411
Suburbanites with questions
CARPLS (Cook County, serves Spanish speaking tenants too)…… …..312-738-9200
Open Communities (North & Northwest Cook County Suburbs)…847-501-5760
Prairie State Legal Services DeKalb & Kane………..630-232-9415
Du Page……… ..630-690-2130
Lake & McHenry………847-662-6925
MTO Lawyer Referral List
Aldon Patt (security deposit) ……….312-641-0885
Brian Gilbert (eviction, security deposit, and consumer defense)….872-216-4615
David Morris (security deposit, affirmative RLTO, class actions, retaliation, lockouts, illegal entry, trespass, and utility theft if $3000 or more is owed to tenant) Chicago, Mt. Prospect, Oak Park and Evanston………………312-986-3200
Hall Adams (bed bugs, must demonstrate via paper trail that the bed bug issue has occurred)……………….. 312-445-4900
Joan Fenstermaker (security deposit, retaliation, foreclosure, illegal lockouts and illegal late fees)…….312-371-6473 or http://givemebackmydeposit.
John Norkus (security deposit, unit conditions, evictions, consumer)…312-600-7457
Joseph F. Vitu ……….312-726-2323 (building conditions, personal injury)
Susan Ritacca …………… 872-222-6960
Philip J. DeVon…………… 773-217-8481 (security deposit, illegal lockouts, conditions)
Michael A. Childers (security deposit, other legal advice)………..312- 641-1900 (speak or leave message with Beverly Hadley)
Mike Radzilowsky (primarily evictions) …………312-986-0600
Morgan Cook (tenant-landlord law, debt collection defense)…………………….312-880-7215 or www.legalmcfirm.com
Paul Bernstein (security deposit).…1-866-769-2892
William Moore (security deposits, affirmative RLTO) ……………….. 708-268-3495
Chicago Bar Association (for other Attorney referrals)…………….312-554-2001
(Free Legal Advice every 3rd Saturday of the month & no income guidelines.)
Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission………….…. (312) 565-2600
Government & Other Resources
Ameritech Reverse Directory (to find landlord address)…………411
CEDA (weatherization program for low income)……………800-571-2332
Center for Conflict Resolution (Mediation)……………312-922-6464
CHAC Fraud Hotline…………………………..800-533-0441
Chicago Dept. on Aging + (disabled & tenants over 60)…………312-744-4016
Chicago Department of Childhood Lead Poisoning….(312) 747-5323
Chicago Dept. of Community Development……………………………311 or 312.744.5000
Chicago Housing Authority (CHA Housing and Sec. 8)…………312-742-8500
CHA Hotline (for complaints about CHA management)……………………1-800-544-7139
Circuit Court Clerk’s Office (to find out if you’re being sued)…………312-603-5030
Citizen’s Utility Board (complaints about utility bill)…………..…800-669-5556
Condo Owners………. 312-987-1906
Cook County Recorder of Deeds (Sale of Property Info)………312-603-5050
Cook County Sheriff’s Eviction Unit…………….312-603-3365
Cook County States Attorney Consumer Fraud………..312-814-3000
Department of Consumer Services (sec. deposit & utility theft complaints) …312-744-4090
Department of Human Services (emergency shelter)………312-746-5400
Or cookcountyclerkofcourt.org (full docket search)
For Building Inspections & Emergency Rental Assistance…………..311 or 312-744-5000
HOME (Seniors needing help moving) …………..(773) 921-1332
MTO Hotline* – Tenants Rights …. 773-292-4988 (M-F, 1-5pm)
HUD Complaints about Section 8 Counselor……………….312-353-6236
IL Commerce Commission (regulates utility providers)…………800-524-0795
Independent Police Review Authority (to file complaint against police) ……………… 312-745-3609
Lakeside CDC (condo owners)……………………..773 381 5253
LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)………..312-795-8800
Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (social support for the elderly)…………312-455-1000
Pro Se Court, Rm 602, Daley Center (for claims up to $1500)……….312-603-5626
Rental Assistance & Utility Assistance………311 or 312.744.5000, ask for short term help
Shriver Center (victims of sexual & domestic assault)………….……..….312-263-3830
Small Claims Court (for claims between $1500 to $5000) .Civil Division…..312-603-5145
United States Postal Service……………………………….800-275-8777
Access Living (disability 226-1687TDD-hearing impaired)………312-640-2100
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law………312-630-9744
Commission on Human Relations (all discrimination complaints)…312-744-4111
Illinois Department of Human Rights (Fair Housing Division)………………..312-814-6227
John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal clinic…………312-786-2267
Latinos United (referrals and trainings)………….312-226-0151
newschicago.org or cookcountyassessor.com (to get PIN # of the property, then call recorder of deeds)
Recorder of Deeds……………………………………312-603-5050
(Give them PIN# to see if apt. has a case #, if it has a case number call Chancery Court 312-603-5133)
Neighborhood Housing Services (landlords facing foreclosure)…………….773-329-4010
Tenants in foreclosure (income guideline & costs)
Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (referral must be faxed).……312- 784-3507
Low-Income Housing Resources:
Bickerdike Apartments (low-income housing)…………………………………………773-227-6332
– Provides housing for low-income tenants.
Chicago Housing Authority…………………………………………………….. …….. (312) 742-8500
– The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal housing rental assistance program. It allows low-
income families to rent good housing in the private market. The voucher program pays a portion of their rent each month directly to the property owner or manager.
Cook County Housing Authority…………………………………………………………(312)542-4728
– Provides access to decent, safe, and affordable housing to low and moderate income individuals, families,
elderly and/or disabled within suburban Cook County.
Earthly Women Corp. ……………………………………………………………………..708 822 3786
– Serves women and single parents.
East Lake Management & Development Corp…………………………………..……..312.842.5500
– Offers affordable housing to tenants throughout the chicagoland area.
– Provides housing for low-income tenants.
Heartland Alliance……………………………………………………………………..….312- 660-1300
– They build and advocate for safe, high-quality housing and supportive services for people experiencing
homelessness, poverty, or chronic illness.
Hispanic Housing Development Corporation………………………………………… (312) 602-6500
– Provides housing for low-income families and the elderly.
Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.)………….……. 773-921-3200
– Committed to improving the quality of life for Chicago’s low-income elderly, Housing Opportunities and
Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.) helps seniors remain independent and part of their community by
offering opportunities for intergenerational living and by providing a variety of citywide support services.
Housing Opportunities for Women…………………………………………….………(773) 465-5770
– Their goal is to help homeless women and children exit the homeless shelter system as quickly as possible
by providing rental subsidies to secure permanent housing. They also offer employment services.
IL Housing Development Authority……………………………………………….…… (312)836-5200
– Help create and fund affordable housing programs across the state.
Mercy Housing Lakefront Office………………………………………………………….312.447.4500
– To create stable, vibrant and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable,
program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic
resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.
Landlords seeking assistance
Chicago Rents Right…….………………312-742-7369
Spanish Coalition for Housing…………773-276-7633
Community Investment Corporation……………312 258 0070
or via email (preferred): firstname.lastname@example.org
Neighborhood Housing Services (landlords facing foreclosure)…………….773-329-4010
Resources for Homeowners:
Partners In Community Building, Inc…………….312.328.0873
– Financial Literacy, Credit Repair, Other services
Chinese American Service League (Translation, Southside)…………………312-791-0418
Chinese Mutual Aid (Translation, North side)……………………………………773-784-2900
Polish American Association……………………………………………..773-282-8206
Resources for writing letters or other areas of support (citywide)
LIFT- Chicago Uptown Office…………………………773-303-0700
LIFT- Chicago Pilsen Office……………………………312-994-8387
Tenants impacted by foreclosure: Frequently Asked Questions
What is a foreclosure?
When an owner falls behind in mortgage payments, foreclosure is the court process by which a bank forces the sale of a building used as security in order to pay off the owner’s debt. In an effort to protect tenants who live in a building that is in foreclosure, the city passed the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO). Under the KCRO, you may be eligible for a lease renewal or $10,600 in relocation assistance. To learn more click HERE.
Who owns the building while it is in court?
Just because a building is in foreclosure does NOT mean that the building has been foreclosed on or will be foreclosed on. Until the court approves a sale and there is a confirmation of sale, your landlord still owns the building. In most cases, the bank acquires the property and becomes the owner.
What are some common signs that my building might be in foreclosure?
– Maintenance suddenly stops
– Utility shutoff notices
– Banks sending notices to the landlord
– Realtors hanging around the building, or taking pictures of the building
– The landlord disappears and/or stops collecting rent.
How long does the foreclosure process take?
The court process takes an average of nine months. If the owner is not able to satisfy the bank’s requirements, the court puts the property up for sale where it is usually bought by the bank.
Where can I find out if my building is in foreclosure?
1. Get the PIN # of the property by going to www.cookcountyassessor.com and entering the building address.
2. Enter the PIN # at www.cookrecorder.com or call the Recorder of Deeds at 312-603-5050 and give them your PIN #. If the building is in foreclosure, they can provide you with the foreclosure notice (the “lis pendens”) and the associated foreclosure court case number.
3. For more information about the case go to www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org or call the Chancery Court, at 312-603-5133. You can also go to http://www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org – go to online case info – full docket search – and search the chancery division for the landlord’s name under defendant or using the case #.
Under the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO), if your building is in foreclosure, you may be eligible for a lease renewal or $10,600 in relocation assistance. To learn more about the KCRO, click HERE.
Do I still have to pay rent?
Yes. As long as you are living in the unit you must pay rent. Checks or money orders are best so that you have proof of payment. You can still be evicted for nonpayment of rent even though your landlord is in foreclosure.
What if I don’t know to whom to pay rent or the landlord stops collecting it?
Click here to find our who the owner is or contact a lawyer to assist you in determining the new owner of the property. Be sure to ask any new people claiming to be the owner for proof before giving them rent money. The law only requires that tenants make a good faith effort to pay the rent if the landlord disappears. Some examples of good faith efforts to pay rent may include:
– Holding the rent in a money order
– Using the rent on utilities your landlord was paying
– Using the rent to make repairs to the property
– Sending a letter via certified mail, requesting information from the new owner on where to send the rent. (Keep a copy of the letter for yourself)
Do I have the right to break my lease because my landlord is in foreclosure?
No…however, if you are covered under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance and did not receive proper notice, please see below under Are landlords required to tell their tenants that their building is in foreclosure?
The bank has taken over the building. What do I do?
The bank is your new landlord. You must pay them rent once they have notified you as to whom and where to pay, and they are responsible for repairs, any utilities paid by the old landlord, etc. If you are uncertain of who to pay, hold your rent in escrow. Also, check to see if you’re covered by the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance. You may be eligible for relocation assistance if the bank chooses not to renew your lease.
The sheriff posted a notice saying that my landlord or unknown occupants must vacate the building. Does this apply to me?
No. If your name is not on the notice, you do not have to move. Immediately contact the sheriff’s office at (312) 603-3365 to inform them that there are tenants in the building and contact an attorney to get legal help. If the sheriff shows up, you will need to show them identification, as well as your lease, a piece of mail, or other evidence proving that you are a tenant in the building and not the landlord.
Will I have to move? How much time will I have once a new owner takes over?
If the building is foreclosed upon and sold, the new owner must give you 90 days or until the end of your lease, whichever longer. However, if the new owner would like to use the unit as a personal residence, they do not have to honor the lease, but they must give you at lest 90 days notice prior to eviction proceedings. Once the lease expires, the owner must give you a 30 day notice in writing before proceeding in eviction court. (This is assuming that you are lease complaint and up to date on rent.)
NOTE: The sheriff’s office can and will evict tenants during the winter, with the exception if it is 15 degrees or snowing.
Can the bank or new owner put me out without a court date?
No. If anyone tries to evict you before taking you to court, then it is an illegal eviction, also known as a lockout. Call the police, file a police report (get officers name and badge #) and contact the Tenants Rights Hotline at 773-292-4988. If you receive a summons to court make sure to contact an attorney.
Will this eviction show on my record?
If you were evicted solely because of the foreclosure your attorney can petition the judge to seal the record. If you are evicted for nonpayment of rent, it will be on your record.
The bank offered me a “Cash for Keys” deal. What should I do?
Sometimes banks offer tenants a cash for keys deal in order to vacate the building more quickly. Evaluate the entire situation first and make sure you have enough time to find a safe and decent apartment. Make sure you get any deal in writing and talk to a lawyer before you sign. If the bank does not offer a settlement feel free to ask for one. However, be aware that many tenants are eligible for $10,600 under the KCRO, which is more than most banks will initially offer. Call us or contact an attorney before agreeing to any “Cash for Keys” deal.
How do I get my security deposit back?
If your tenancy is NOT governed by the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO): The bank is not responsible for your deposit. If you do not receive your security deposit back within 45 days of moving you can take your landlord to court. If you know your landlord is in foreclosure court or is about to lose the building ask for written permission to live out your security deposit. If you live out your deposit without permission you can be evicted for non-payment of rent. If your tenancy is CRLTO please see below.
Additional Information for tenants who are covered under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO): If you live in Chicago, the Ordinance governs your tenancy unless you reside in:
- An owner occupied building containing less than seven apartments;
- A hotel, motel, inn, rooming house, or boarding house (unless you have resided there for more than 31 days and pay rent on a monthly basis); or
- A hospital, convent, monastery, school dormitory, temporary overnight or transitional shelter, cooperative, or
- A building owned by your employer (assuming your right to live there is conditioned upon you being employed in or around the building).
What happens to my security deposit?
In the event that the building is lost to foreclosure, the lender is responsible if the landlord fails to return the security deposit.
Are landlords required to tell their tenants that their building is in foreclosure?
If your tenancy is governed by the CRLTO: The landlord is required to tell current tenants about foreclosure filings within seven days of being served with a foreclosure complaint. The landlord must also inform any potential tenants before they move in. Tenants who were not properly informed about the foreclosure can sue for $200 in damages and/or terminate their leases.
Building Inspectors: Call 311 for an inspection if you have repairs that need to be made or are lacking utilities.
If you need assistance moving or with a security deposit call 311 and inform them that your landlord is in foreclosure.
Lawyers Committee for Better Housing: (312)-347-7600
Legal Assistance Foundation (Subsidized Tenants): (312)-341-1070
Sheriffs Eviction Unit: (312)-603-3365
Chancery Court: (312)-603-5133
Metropolitan Tenants Organization Tenants’ Rights Hotline: (773)-292-4988 Open: Mon-Fri, 1-5pm
Chicago Legal Clinic: (773)-731-1762
Citizens Utility Board: 1-800-669-5556
First, you must find out the Property Identification Number (PIN) of your building. Online, you can try www.newschicago.org. If the website is down or it is not finding your building, you can call the Cook County Assessor’s office at 312-443-7550.
Once you have the PIN number, you can go to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds’ website and click the link to do a “Property Identification Number (PIN) Search.” This page can get a bit confusing, so a phone call to their office is a good alternative at 312-603-5050.
You can also find out the landlord’s name by going downtown. Begin your search in County Building (118 N. Clark Street). First go to the Revenue Dept., Room 112, and ask someone at the counter for the Permanent Index Number (PIN number) for the address of the building. You may also get the PIN number yourself by looking at the green books on the counter. Go to the tract dept. of the Recorder of Deeds which is located in Room 120. Give the person at the counter the PIN number and tell them that you want to know the name of the owner of that building. The grantee of the most recent deed recorded is the owner of the property. If the property is in a land trust you can send letter to the bank trustee. They should forward the letter to the beneficiary of the trust your landlord. The bank will not disclose the name of the beneficiary of the trust to you. Get the document number of the deed (see below).
- Take the document number of the deed to the microfiche department in the Recorders Office, down the hall from the Tract Dept. Tell the person behind the counter you want to look at the deed to determine the grantee’s address. Give him the document number. Look at the deed for the grantee’s address, usually near the beginning. This is the landlord’s address at the time he/she purchased the building. The address could be near the bottom under “send subsequent tax bills to”. If it is a corporation, call the Secretary of State at 312-793-3380 to get the name of the registered agent and corporation’s address.
- Call the Revenue Dept. 312-443-5100 or 443-6253 to find out the property taxpayer’s name. Caution – the taxpayer is not necessarily the owner, it could be the previous one. You can also get this info in Room 112.
- If you have the landlord’s phone number, call Ameritech’s Reverse Directory at 312-796-9600. They will give you the address if the number is listed.
- Call the City’s Dept. of Buildings Multiple Dwelling Registration number 312-744-3452. All apartment buildings should be registered. They can give you the name and address of the landlord or landlord’s agent. However, few buildings are registered even though failure to register is a building code violation.
- You can check to see if your landlord is being sued (defendant) by calling the three numbers listed below. (Or use the computers in room 602 of the Daley Center 50 W. Washington Street. Type “users” to get to the main menu.) If he/she is, get the case number. Then go to the appropriate floor at the Daley Center and look at the file (see below for the location of the different departments). The address where the landlord was served should be on the summons.
Chancery (foreclosure) 312-443-5133 files on 8th floor
Law 312-443-5426 files on 8th floor
Municipal 312-443-5145 files on 6th floor
Divorce Files on 8th floor