The Chicago Housing Authority (“CHA”) administers the largest federally subsidized housing choice voucher program in the country. Guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) require that all units subsidized under the Housing Choice Voucher Program meet certain minimum health and safety standards. The CHA is tasked with ensuring that rental properties within its purview comply with these standards through regular inspections.
Such inspections are designed to ensure that voucher program properties possess adequate living space, are structurally sound, have necessary utilities such as electricity, plumbing, and heating, and present no conditions that could endanger the health and safety of residents. According to the CHA, such inspections address:
- Sanitation (facilities and condition)
- Food preparation and refuse disposal
- Space and security
- Thermal environment
- Illumination and electricity
- Structure and materials
- Interior air quality
- Water supply
- Lead-based paint
- Smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detector
Despite these strict requirements, a recent story published by the Chicago Reporter calls into question the efficacy of the CHA inspection process, especially with regard to voucher program properties that have fallen into foreclosure. The story follows a tenant of a building located at 6751 S. Jeffery Blvd., who moved in to the property in 2008, and has been plagued with numerous problems. According to the tenant, the building is infested with mold and rats, the elevator has been broken for months and, in November of 2013, the heat was off for at least a week.
What’s more disturbing, however, is that because six of the building’s units are occupied by publicly subsidized tenants, it was inspected 77 times between 2008 and January of 2013, earning a passing score only 20 percent of the time. Despite these failures, the CHA paid $178,000 to the building’s owners. It was not until the fall of 2013 that the condition of the property became so poor that CHA removed it from the program.
Part of the problem is the fact that the building has changed ownership several times over the last five years and recently fell into foreclosure. Due to the foreclosure, the mortgage on the building was transferred a subsidiary of Pangea Ventures, a real estate holdings company. In 2011, Pangea was paid over $1.8 million by CHA through the voucher program.
In August, the city filed a lawsuit against Pangea, citing numerous building code violations, including crumbling fire escapes, shattered windows, unhinged doors and a broken elevator. As this blog has discussed before, Illinois recognizes that every residential lease includes an implied warranty of habitability, which is guarantee that by leasing a property, the landlord is promising that the property is suitable to be lived in. A breach of an implied warranty of habitability is a defense to an eviction action that permits the tenant to set-off a portion of rent.
If you have questions regarding the rights and obligations you have as a tenant or believe you have been the victim of the unfair practices of a landlord, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.