Ms. Jones told her landlord right away when her daughters’ bedroom ceiling was leaking. She told him that he needed to come look at it as soon as possible. But the landlord never showed up.
In mid-June, when a heavy storm hit the Roseland community, her daughters were sleeping in their beds when suddenly the roof and ceiling came crashing in. Fortunately, the girls were not physically injured, but they remain traumatized by the incident. Two weeks passed before the landlord came. Ms. Jones had to put up plastic over the gaping hole in the ceiling. Finally, the landlord came over to fix the roof – but he still hasn’t fixed the interior damage. Mold continues to thrive. Her daughters both have asthma and can’t sleep in their room anymore because it causes their asthma to flare up. Mold is a major asthma trigger. Currently, they have to sleep in the same bed with their mother down the hall.
But the repair problems don’t end there. All but one of the windows in this single-family home are missing screens. According to the Chicago Building Code Chapter 13-196-560, window screens are required from April 15 to November 15. Again and again Ms. Jones has told the landlord about the screens. He says he will get around to it but never does. Her family says they feel unsafe and can’t open their windows without dust and insects coming inside.
To make matters worse, there is a rodent infestation due to holes throughout the structure of the home. Mice are also a major asthma trigger. Ms. Jones has tried everything from traps to glue boards but until the holes are fixed, mice will keep coming in. And her daughters will keep having asthma attacks at home, which means they spend additional money they don’t have on expensive medication and trips to the Emergency Department.
For renters across Chicago, this story is all too familiar. Ms. Jones has no mailing address for her landlord to send a certified 14 day letter so she has always sent him texts when issues come up. Tenants are responsible for notifying owners of issues immediately when they occur, but what can be done when landlords fail to respond? Small issues turn into larger ones, like a roof and ceiling crashing down in the middle of the night. The Chicago Building Code needs to be enforced. Landlords should register their properties with the City so tenants have a resource for contact information for owners and the City has an inventory of properties.
Major cities across the country are adopting proactive rental inspection programs to address issues such as absent, negligent owners. Programs require owners to register properties and cyclical inspections occur to ensure compliance with existing building codes. We believe all renters deserve to live in safe and healthy homes so we are working on bringing a proactive inspection program to Chicago.
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If you are having Healthy Homes issues in your apartment, contact MTO’s Hotline for assistance at 773-292-4988, or notify your landlord directly online at Squared Away Chicago.
If you would like to join the CHHIP campaign, contact Sheila at 773-292-4980 ext 231, or via email at email@example.com.