Last December, as the temperature outside plummeted, the heat in Ms. Payan’s apartment stopped working. In addition to the lack of heat, Ms. Payan also experienced flooding in her apartment. Multiple conversations with the landlord yielded no improvements. In fact, the landlord threatened Ms. Payan that she would have to pay for the repairs. Ms. Payan contacted MTO’s Healthy Homes Organizer, Angelica Ugarte, for help.
Angelica helped Ms. Payan to use Chicago’s tenants’ ordinance to terminate the lease and avoid paying rent for the last month so that Ms. Payan could have the money to relocate. The results of this story are rare. Far too many tenants experience retaliation from their landlord and face eviction when they request repairs or take the necessary steps to assert their rights under the law. Tenants are educated and empowered by MTO to understand the process and challenge abusive practices in their building. There is little accountability for slum landlords to follow building codes or ensure that apartments are in habitable condition throughout the tenancy.
The only way to hold slum landlords accountable is through regular inspections. Inspections should not wait until a crisis occurs such as the one faced by Ms. Payan. Chicago needs an inspection program that promotes regular maintenance. We encourage you to support the proactive inspection program, CHIPP (Chicago Proactive Inspection Program) which is calling for legislation to mandate routine inspection of all Chicago’s rental apartments. If you or someone you know would like to join our efforts to promote CHIPP, please call (773) 292-4980.