TLC Property Management has filed multiple evictions against Hyde Park residents — including one apartment where the monthly rent was only a little over $800 — for not paying their rent in April.
Since Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an eviction moratorium on March 20, TLC has filed at least 25 eviction lawsuits in the city and suburbs, according to case filings from the Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court. At least half of those cases are for non-payment of rent in the month April, after Pritzker’s stay-at-home order had taken effect, leaving thousands of people across the state temporarily or permanently out of a job.
On April 22 and 23, TLC filed eight eviction suits against Hyde Park residents for not paying their rent in April. The monthly rent in those cases, often for apartments with multiple residents, was between $814 and $1,500. TLC also filed 11 cases against Chicago residents on April 2, and another six cases against residents in its suburban properties across April.
TLC owns and operates about a dozen large buildings in Hyde Park, with more properties in its portfolio across Chicago and the suburbs. Earlier this month, the Herald reported that some residents in TLC buildings had been threatened with eviction if they didn’t pay their rent in April.
TLC President Stuart Handler is part of the Chicagoland Apartment Association, which signed on to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Housing Solidarity Pledge yesterday. The pledge states that landlords "affirm they may provide" a grace period for repayment, written repayment plans, and a waiver of late fees for renters affected by the pandemic. TLC did not respond to a request for comment over the phone or by email for this story — it is unclear whether signing on to this pledge means they will dismiss their eviction lawsuits.
Michelle Gilbert, supervisory attorney with the housing practice group at Legal Aid Chicago, which provides free legal service to low-income residents in Cook County, said that filing the suits might actually be counterproductive for the company.
“It’s unfortunate that landlords file these actions so quickly when we know that there are going to be homeless prevention funds available,” Gilbert said. “It’s much better for landlords to access that available money and preserve their tenancies.”
Organizers with TLC Tenants United, a group of TLC residents that has been organizing a rent strike for May, condemned the company.
“They actually filed evictions for dozens of tenants in April — that’s kind of scary. It’s going to be backlogged after May 18 when the courts open up,” said Bhuvana Pantry, an organizer with the group and a TLC resident. “We don’t know what’s gonna happen when we don’t have enough money to pay groceries let alone rent. The housing crisis is an actual health crisis. They can afford to cancel rent and we can’t afford to pay.”
Pritzker’s March eviction moratorium, which was updated on April 23, did not explicitly ban all eviction filings, though two housing lawyers told the Herald the updated order may ban most filings. (Seven of TLC's filings are from April 22, before the new executive order was given. One is from April 23.) It does prevent eviction proceedings from being carried out in the courts. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has said that his office won’t enforce eviction orders until May 18, and the county court also won’t hear eviction cases until then.
Mac Properties, another large Hyde Park landlord facing a rent strike, has also filed eviction lawsuits against tenants during both March and April. Peter Cassel, the company’s director of community development, said that Mac was not filing lawsuits against people for non-payment of rent after the beginning of the pandemic, and had signed on to Lightfoot’s pledge as well.
“We did file a number of residential non-payment of rent evictions in March. Using my kids’ language, those were BC, ‘Before Corona,’ as opposed to AD, ‘After Distancing,’ ” Cassel said. “Once the transition came through in March, as the CARES ACT was passed on a national basis, that was the end of our using eviction as a rent-collection tool.”
Mac did file two eviction lawsuits in April, both for what Cassel called a “lease violation that was serious enough to warrant eviction.” (He would not comment specifically on ongoing litigation.)
The Herald looked at the eviction complaints in both cases, which were filed in the second half of April. One involved a resident who allegedly smoked marijuana on two separate occasions during March, thereby violating the no-smoking agreement in the lease.
In the second case, a resident allegedly allowed their apartment to flood, and was also suspected of smoking marijuana inside the apartment. The complaint also claimed the resident was living there in violation of the lease, which was listed in their parent’s name.
An attorney from the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing told the Herald that, under the terms of Pritzker’s new executive order from April 23, “minor violations” of the lease were not grounds for filing an eviction proceeding.
“On April 23, J.B. Pritzker adjudged that there the continuing emergency makes all evictions public health issues, and the governor banned filing evictions except for extremely limited circumstances. Those circumstances are when the tenant poses a direct threat or risk to the safety of others. This is a very high standard and it should be used for deserving cases. While we cannot speak to this specific case, minor violations leading to eviction would be in contravention to the executive order,” said Carl Sessions, a staff attorney.
This story has been updated with more information about J.B. Pritzker's April 23 executive order.