Tenant Wins Settlement Over Illegal Lockout

Last updated: March 1, 2016 – 11:43 AM
The south side block Donna Johnson called home.
The south side block Donna Johnson called home.

Donna Johnson always paid the rent on time in the south side apartment where she lived with her daughter. She enjoyed living in the modest three-unit building near Marquette Park. By any definition, Donna was a model tenant and a loving mother. But when her apartment became infested with bed bugs, her landlord treated her like anything but. Initially, her requests for repairs were ignored. Donna made phone calls and even sent letters to her landlord. Eventually, a representative of the landlord would respond, but the response would be anything but professional.

On more than one occasion after Donna requested repairs, the property manager showed up unannounced, letting himself into the apartment with no warning. Donna’s daughter awoke one day to find the property manager looming over her as she slept. One day soon after, Ms. Johnson was taking a shower when she heard a noise outside the bathroom. She listened and soon realized the property manager was in her apartment again! He had illegally entered her home, and now he was face to face with Donna, making sexual advances towards her. Feeling shocked, angry and violated, Donna kicked him out of the apartment and called the police. In retaliation, the landlord cut off her gas. Donna was being illegally evicted – because she wouldn’t put up with her landlord’s criminal behavior.

That is when Donna called MTO’s Tenants Rights Hotline for help. She spoke with a counselor who explained her rights and how she can document the situation. They spoke about Donna’s desire to terminate her lease and find a new apartment where she and her daughter felt safe. To aid her in this effort, MTO connected Donna with a trusted community partner, the Law Offices of Brian J. Gilbert. Donna brought suit against her bully landlord for illegal lockout, illegal landlord entry, and other violations of the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance. Rather than fight a battle he was certain to lose in court, the landlord agreed to settle.

And while Donna has a settlement check in her hand today, she did anything but settle. Donna has a new home, a fresh start, and is free from the fear of illegal lockouts or harassment. Her daughter is happy and safe today because Donna followed through and did what is right. Donna fought for her rights. And she couldn’t have done it with out the assistance of strong community partners like the Law Offices of Brian J. Gilbert.

MTO believes safe housing is a human right. We have a number of ways you can lend your skills to make that a reality.


All 8 Comments

    1. I am sorry to hear this. I am not familiar with Arizona laws and commercial laws are different than residential. The employee should be able to get their property back. Do they have receipts?

  1. Hello I was illegally lockout my apartment unit over 1yr 7 months. He had his family enrter my unit as I came to move my things out the home upon entering the home I notice things were moved and someone was tampering with my items

    1. I am not clear what happened. Are you in your apartment? Were you moving out and they took things? Was it an illegal entry or have you been kicked out.

  2. I rented a unit from someone who claimed to have ownership of property..Her mom was deceased so she had siblings that was to have ownership as well..She was undecisive on if she wanted to keep the building..The problems I had while living there was infestation of bed bugs..millipedes and other bugs that comes from water around the toilets..bad plumbing..untreated windows so it stayed cold in the apartment during the winter..was never told or never stipulated in the lease no a/c compressor and we had central heat and vents for that purpose..when brought to her attention she just stated that she forgot that the compressor was stolen so my light bill was extremely high due to me having to try to keep a 3 bedroom apartment cool with a baby present..no refrigerator no stove not even an offer to help supply one in the unit..constant lockout from entering he building due to never receiving a top lock key and she would have guests and her son would keep locking the door so me and my family would have to keep calling to get her to let us in and sometimes that would take over 45 mins to an hour..Asked for keys several times to just keep being told I will give it to u later..never did no work in the unit..never exterminated..I had to have that done out of pocket..only been up in the unit twice in one year..just kept collecting rent but never satisfied well being of me and my family needs and did a non renewal of lease stating because of business decisions..Can I sue this individual?

    1. You could potentially sue the individual for the lack of repairs, though some of that may depend on how well you have documented the issues and how well you have documented communication with the landlord about problems.

      The owner is under no obligation to renew the lease. Incidentally we are working to pass a law that would require the landlord to state a reason for eviction and business decisions is not a reason. If landlords decide to empty a building, in most cases it would require some relocation assistance.

      before suing the landlord you might want to ask for a month or two free.

  3. I have been renting a room since September 1, 2016 from individuals that have purchased a single family home in the Roseland area. I was initially in the room alone and within the last week the owners informed me that I had to share the room with another female occupant which they put another bed in my room. We are both being charged $125 per week for a bed not a room. Prior to that the lights and gas were turned off with no hot water. The common kitchen areas are so dirty I dare not use them. I was placed here by someone in connection with Pacific Garden Mission Shelter with no other place to go because while in the shelter my identity was stolen. When I attempted to open an account with Chase for direct deposit of my SSI funds I was told that I had several unmet financial obligations in my name including the purchase of a house, a car and several pay day loans and credit cards. I am fighting back now by filing papers with the Credit bureaus and the Attorney General’s Office Lisa Madigan. Just because I was homeless, I am once more a victim of fraud by individuals that lay claim to be ministers.

    1. This does not sound right. First did you sign any type of agreement with the owners? What is the living situation like in the building? Are there a bunch of rooms rented? You might want to start with putting a complaint in writing to Pacific Garden Mission.


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