It’s happening now.
Some apartment residents in Evanston who have faithfully paid their rent on time for years, and have never been accused of being disruptive tenants, are still being told to get out of their units once their leases are up.
“It’s all legal,” says Dominic Voz, associate director of fair housing for Open Communities, a tenants’ rights organization, as long as the proper amount of notice is included in the order to vacate.
But just because it’s legal, Voz says, does not mean that it’s fair to those being non-renewed.
“It’s happening quite frequently where large investors buy property for renovation,” Voz notes.
And when properties are renovated, the rent sometimes goes up. Way up.
“It’s just sheer profit motive,” he adds.
The latest Evanston case involves five nearly century-old buildings, totaling more than 160 units, that were sold last summer to a new owner.
Several residents have told Evanston Now that they have been sent 120-day non-renewal notices, with orders to move out when their lease terminates. Evanston’s landlord-tenant ordinance only requires 30 days notice for a standard non-renewal, so in this case, the property owner did include extra time.
While those notices say the residents can move back into a renovated unit, at least one tenant has told us she cannot afford the anticipated $400-$500/month increase in rent.
The new owner, North Park Ventues, and its apartment manager, Quadrel Realty, have not responded to Evanston Now’s request for comment.
However, Voz says it’s likely all the tenants in those buildings set for rehab will ultimately get the same move-out notice “on a rolling, staggered basis” as leases expire.
“It’s a huge problem,” says Voz, on the issue in general.
He says non-renewal can lead to something called “root shock,” which he describes as “the psychology of displacement, and getting disconnected from communities.”
Tenants may need to relocate during the school year through no fault of their own, or may have a hard time finding something else affordable in an expensive place like Evanston.
Open Communities has been able, over the years, to get some two-month extensions on notices to vacate, if the tenants have a disability covered by the federal Fair Housing Act.
It’s called “reasonable accommodations.”
However, Voz says that’s just a short-term, tenant-by-tenant solution which does not apply to everyone.
Long-term, Open Communities is calling for a “just eviction” ordinance.
Voz says such a measure has been proposed in Chicago, and he says there is also some sentiment on Evanston City Council to consider the concept.
Such a rule, Voz says, would still allow eviction for cause, such as non-payment of rent, criminal activity, or if the unit is being taken off the market or rented to a relative of the owner.
However, if those conditions are not met, a landlord non-renewing a tenant would have to pay some amount of relocation assistance, which, Voz says, would “offer folks more dignity” if they are dealing with displacement.
The Chicago Association of Realtors opposes the Chicago measure, saying on its website that “For property owners, just cause evictions eliminates the right to serve a nonrenewal notice at the end of the term.” The landlord, the Realtors say, would need to show “just cause” for such a non-renewal.
Another group involved in real estate, the Illinois Rental Property Association, says building sales and renovation are more common in high-density areas such as Chicago and Evanston, where there is little space to build new units.
Paul Arena, the organization’s director of legislative affairs, says “there needs to be a delicate balance” between the rights of tenants and the rights of property owners to improve facilities.
“If you squeeze too hard,” Arena says, “you may shut down activity.”
Shut down that activity, he notes, and older buildings may deteriorate. Plus, renovated structures have higher property taxes, which means more revenue for governments to provide services.
If a place like Evanston gets “more aggressive” with regulations, Arena says, developers may simply look to a nearby jurisdiction for their investments.
Arena says a better answer is for localities to “incentivize lower cost housing,” which has been a long-standing challenge in Evanston.
While all of this plays out, individual property owners/investors and apartment renters are still dealing with the life-cycle of buildings, and the related opportunities and problems.
As for Evanston, city spokesperson Patrick Deignan tells Evanston Now “the City is reviewing its Landlord-Tenant ordinance, as well as those of Cook County and Chicago, and exploring other ways to expand tenant protections.”
In the meantime, one of the renters impacted by the latest round of non-renewals, Nancy Temkin, tells Evanston Now she has been granted a two-month extension on her notice to vacate.
But she still has not found a new place to live.
This is an actual issue that the council should spend time on. This is horrific and wrong. I understand the free market, but knowing how difficult it is to find an affordable apartment my heart goes out to the tenants. This is what the council should work on. How to help “housed “ people from becoming homeless. But instead the council decides to target small businesses and make running their business more difficult. Devon Reid should know a thing or two about potentially losing your home. But, I guess he only wants to focus on non existent groups that are being “disenfranchised” by the small business community. I cannot believe the hypocrisy of the council members. Please someone who has an ounce of a brain left spend time on real issues that help real people. Not Devon Reid or Biss’s absurd campaign to help people who honestly don’t want or need their help. For residents in Evanston it’s time we either start to stand up and be a lot more vocal, or leave town. Evanston is teetering and contrary to the crazy “Evanston thrives” campaign the downtown is a gutted shell covered with urine and human feces.
Thank you, Ms. Wadsworth, my sentiments exactly. My heart sinks when I read of these long – time tenants who may be teetering on the edge of housing instability. Evanston’s officials need to realize that we need to take better care of “our own”, instead of ” virtue signaling ” with misbegotten “projects” such as the Margarita Inn, which houses primarily out – of – towners…
Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident
Owners of buildings must have the ability to adjust residencies when they remodel, if the work makes respective apartments uninhabitable during the work. I suppose if the work was phased some tenants could be offered relocation in subsequently renovated units at a new price. Phased work often is not feasible however.
What I am more concerned about is the current national (even international) purchase of rental properties by REITS or other corporate entities that seek to better control the market and then raise rates to unreasonable amounts. These absentee corporate raider owners are typically more interested in profit and control than the needs of their renters. “Antitrust” legislation? should a corporate entity be allowed to own the majority of apartment buildings in any town?
This is true but see Landlord’s comment below. Independent landlords should be treated as local businesses just like local restaurants and stores. They are buckling under the pressure of inflation, non rent payments from the pandemic, and an unsupportive city council that treats them as a punching bag and when this happens they will sell their properties to REITs just to cut their losses. If you want independent landlords the city council and renters need to do their part of the equation. And we should all want independent landlords for this town. Good luck calling Blackrock to ask for an extension on your rent.
A “delicate balance” indeed.
Given conditions as they exist today, it seems to me that one cannot reliably plan to be a long-term resident of a place without buying. It would be good to change that if it could be done without unintended consequences that lead to even higher rents and/or lack of investment. Unfortunately, our current city council has been pursuing policies to advance causes without an appropriate regard for impact to investment, IMO.
It’s funny how no one in this article mentioned that the tenant should make responsible and sacrifice when it comes to their financing Living choices. They like to blame other people for their bad choices. I’m a landlord Here in Chicago on the West side. 30 years experience I have never been a slum Lord . Every day there is a Amazon. Prime, Fedex UPS truck And Uber eats pulls up every day. At my property The rents are below value the place need some updates, wear and tear taxes went from 8k to 11k.. I’m very transparent with my tenants when it comes to our bills.
I ask for a $300.00 rent increase Which is equivalent to $10 A-day A-day and now I’m the bad guy. Oh I forgot to mention that doing the pandemic my tenants scam me out of $30K.. The city and state basically told the tenants that they didn’t have to pay rent . And I could not qualify for that rental assistant money up to 25k. Some of the tenant were still working and not paying rent…. I offer them different jobs and where they can find work like home depot some cleaning projects and they just said that’s not what I do ….lol ….The elderly I understand… So now I have to sell!! Bye Bye Chicago!!!
Leave a comment