By Christopher Tyioran
Organizers from the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, staff and volunteers at Lakeview Pantry, and other social service outreach programs met at Lakeview Pantry with residents from Hotel Chateau on Thursday, February 14th to discuss tenant’s rights and affordable housing options in Chicago.
Residents of Hotel Chateau, which is a single room occupancy hotel located at 3838 North Broadway Avenue, are being forced to find new housing after it was announced that the hotel was purchased by a group of local investors and would be shutting its doors.
Hotel Chateau is closing following a series of inspections and a Housing Court case. Over 100 building code violations were cited in the court case. Concerns were raised over the safety of the residents of Hotel Chateau, as well as the residents in the surrounding area, but these concerns were not met by the previous owner, according to an announcement from the website for Ald. James Cappleman.
Although many residents of Hotel Chateau have been issued 30-day or 5-day notices to move and will have to find new housing soon, “There are still procedures that are important for the residents to know to protect their rights”, said Noah Moskowitz of Metropolitan Tenants Organization. “One important thing to remember is that tenants have the right to live in their apartment for as long as they have payed through and that applies to residents who have received 30-day notices as well.”
"The only person who can legally evict you is a Cook County Sheriff, and only after they have given you a written notice."
Moskowitz also recommended that residents should pay their rent with a witness present, in a money order, and get a receipt.
“When you pay, make sure you take someone with you as a witness, and make sure you get a receipt," Moskowitz said. "These things are important because the management might try to take your money and then make you leave.”
Lamar Jackson, a former resident at New Jackson Hotel, another SRO housing unit in Chicago, said he had similar experiences of deception by building management while living there. He said, “The landlord was trying to meet with individuals, and he was telling one person one thing and another thing to the next person.”
Moskowitz also told Hotel Chateau's residents that their landlord can't legally evict them themselves.
“The landlord can't throw you out," Moskowitz said. "That means he can't tell you to move, or put locks on the doors or try to intimidate you into leaving. The only person who can legally evict you is a Cook County Sheriff, and only after they have given you a written notice.”
In addition to Metropolitan Tenants Organization and Lakeview pantry, City officials from the North area center of Department of Family and Support Services were present at the meeting to talk to the residents about emergency services they offer to help people to move.
The DFSS has following services available—shelter placement, rental assistance, crisis intervention and others—to assist the residents at Chateau. They can also help residents find landlords who are lenient towards tenants with past evictions on their records.
Staff members of LIFT Chicago and Thresholds also attended the meeting. LIFT helps clients find jobs, housing, and other referrals. Thresholds assists clients with mental illnesses and works with clients to find mental health services, including recovery services, as well as housing, employment, and educational programs.
The Chateau Hotel joins 4 other SRO units to close in 2 years, and is the last SRO housing unit still open in the Lakeview neighborhood. When these SRO units close, residents such as Deenaice Wright must make a difficult decision: Where do they go when the doors close?
Some of these residents must go into shelters if no other affordable housing is available to them. Wright said she will most likely have to stay in a shelter for the time being after she leaves Hotel Chateau.
“I've been waiting five years to get my section 8—five years,” she said. “I wanted to stay here until next month because I'm finally getting it, but I think I'm going to have to stay in a shelter until then. But what about the people who don`t have section 8?”
Other residents were concerned that the closing of Chateau puts them at risk for evictions, which would make it even harder for them to find housing. Resident Sarah Saunders said she owed the landlord $245 and was issued a 5-day notice to pay the rest of her rent, but when she tried to pay, they refused to take her money.
“It was important to have this place because I can't afford anything else," Saunders said. "If I get evicted, I don't know where I'm supposed to stay. I think it's heartless. Instead of fixing the place and making it better, the place is a mess and the owner just wants to sell it."