City takes landlords to court for failing to provide residents heat

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Complaints of little or no heat in residential buildings during the recent weeks of freezing weather had the City of Chicago taking some landlords to court on Thursday. (WLS)

Complaints of little or no heat in residential buildings during the recent weeks of freezing weather had the City of Chicago taking some landlords to court on Thursday.

Since last Wednesday, city officials said the Buildings Department has received 1575 complaints, 1272 of which have been resolved. The department said 31 inspectors responded to 239 complaints over the weekend.

A city ordinance requires landlords to provide heat from September 15th to June 1st. Apartments must be heated to 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees at night.

One woman, who calls herself Tanya, is one of hundreds of tenants complaining about building owners not abiding by the city's heat ordinance.

The Chicago woman said the two-bedroom apartment she rents in the 8500-block of South Muskegon Avenue has been without heat for the last two days as frigid temperatures have gripped the city.

Thursday afternoon, a housing court judge asked landlords to fix the problem, dismissed the case for lack of cause, or appointed a receiver to take over operations and take the necessary actions to restore heat and other utilities, using rent money for it.

Of the nine emergency heat cases Thursday, three had receivers, one was dismissed, and landlords are making necessary repairs to the others.

"In these conditions, with such extreme weather, these cases were imperative to be in court to get resolutions," said Steven McKensie, the City of Chicago Assistant Senior Corporation Counsel.

The owner of the Muskegon property where Tanya lives, Eric, came to court to defend himself, saying the only reason the heat is off in his building is because of a vindictive tenant who owes back rent.

"This is something she deliberately did, it wasn't because I cut it off...you have tenants being very vindictive," said Eric.

As Chicago moves closer to tying a record for one of the longest cold snaps in more than 50 years, city officials are working to relocate some residents to habitable units.

City officials said anyone who doesn't have heat should call 311 and reminded people to never use an oven or propane tank to heat their home.
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