Lincoln Park bldg. manager agrees to expedite repairs

January 26, 2012 2:32:56 PM PST
City lawyers took a North Side property manager to court Thursday to get the heat turned back on for residents who have been without heat or hot water for 3 days.

The heat could be back on by Monday, according to an agreement reached between city officials and Lakeview Associates , the property manager of 2738 N. Pine Grove. After the city threatened to take over the repairs, the property manager agreed to expedite matters and add fire safety personnel to staff the building.

"We are happy with the agreement we received today and their prompt action once notified by the city to start making emergency repairs, Steven McKenzie, senior assistant Corporation Counsel, said.

Peoples Gas shut off the services to the 14-story building due to a blocked chimney, which created high levels of carbon monoxide. Residents have been without heat or hot water since Monday, which means the building is not in compliance with city code. Under the code, tenants should receive adequate heat every day of the cold winter months.

The city sent out inspectors.

"The inspection found that the chimney flue had holes and was in bad repair, McKenzie said. "I don't know if you want to call that negligence, but it was not up to code and they're taking actions to repair it."

Lakeview Associates, Inc., the property management group, originally told residents that it could take three weeks to fix the problem. The people who live there say the situation is unbearable.

Resident Meredith Novak is staying with her boyfriend until the heat is back on in her studio apartment.

"They're giving us the option to completely move out, break the lease without any penalties, so I'm still thinking about it," she said.

"I can't really afford to move right now, so I am just going to kind of rough it. I have two friends that live a block and a half away," said Emily Degerberg.

"It's insane. I can't live like that for two weeks," said Matthew Sullivan. A letter to residents from the property manager suggested they boil water for bathing, buy electric space heaters and "turn your oven on to supplement heat as needed." The letter has infuriated some residents who believe this is more than just an inconvenience, but that the suggestions are unsafe.

The Chicago Fire Department has now taken issue with some of those suggestions, saying an oven should not be used for heat and space heaters are too risky.

"I was angry the first day when I read this letter; my mouth dropped. I couldn't believe it," Novak said.

The city went to court Thursday to ask a judge to appoint a receiver to take over the repairs, but an agreement between the city and Lakeview Associates, Inc., was reached. Repairs could be made by Monday and the landlord agreed to staff seven fire guards, 24 hours a day, to watch for fire hazards.

"My client feels, doesn't feel good about that this happened. The tenants are important to them, this is an important business to them. As far as I'm aware, it's a nice building ," said Don Wilson, attorney for Lakeview Associates, Inc.