Monday, May 23, 2005

Stay of Eviction

Friday night, I went to a play by Redmoon Theater's Dramagirls :

In one scene, a preteen girl thows suitcases off a portable set of wooden steps while describing her family's instant eviction. "He wanted to rent to somebody else. We had to go." Her family of four or five dogs and as many brothers and sisters spent 105 days in Grandma's basement before finding a new home of their own. "I slept with the dogs. It was tremendous."

I arrived home around midnight, after post-show dinner and libations at The Handlebar,, to find two messages from my neighbors down the block. "We really need to talk to you. It's OK to call back anytime," said the second one. I walked down and looked at their windows to see if any lights were still on. They were, so I knocked. The mom answered the door, told me her oldest son would be coming to translate, and started talking anyway. I gathered the new landlord was planning to throw them out the next day.

Like everywhere else in Chicago, houses are turning over and landlords are jacking up the rent. This family had been paying $500/month for over a year, month-to-month, no lease, for a two bedroom apartment holding a family of five. The new landlord wants to charge $700 for the same place. No written notice, no 30 days, just you have to go.

"Who in our neighborhood is going to pay $700 a month rent?" asked my pastor, when we were talking about this Sunday morning. An excellent question.

As I suspected, the landlord handled this illegally. Thanks, Ida, for checking the Internet to confirm our suspicions. Chicago has an unusually strong ordinance that protects tenants' rights, but sadly, the law is often flouted because many people don't know what's in it. You can read the law or read explanations of what it means at:

The nice lady next door to my friends, a parent who works at the local grammar school, tried to tell off the landlord, but it didn't do any good. After I got the official word from Ida, I went over and said, "Yes, you can call the police, and this is who you call if they don't help." Surprisingly, the police responded quickly and helpfully. A very nice pair of female officers showed up and the Spanish-speaking one negotiated the dispute. Everyone settled on 30 days to get a new place. I think they could have had 60 in the law, since the guy didn't notify properly, but there's a place for rent across the street and they'll have to leave eventually anyway.

So, for now, the boxes they had in the attic are in my basement and the beat-up navy Buick their dad wants to fix up is sitting on my parking pad. There's even an empty can of Modelo Especial sitting in the middle of the front seat. The car is blocking the view of the dumpster, which is a definite plus. And it reminds me of all those clunkers my dad used to litter our driveway with. How back to the future is that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey maureen, as I stress about where my pictures should go on the walls of my new apartment, all of my own, thanks for keeping it real.


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