Two former tenants of this building at 120 Callan Ave. have filed the latest case

For the third time this year, Evanston landlord Sargon Isaac has been sued by former tenants, all of whom claim Isaac provided unsafe and unsanitary housing and refused to make repairs because the residents were Black.

But the latest suit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, also alleges the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) knew about the deplorable conditions, but still let government Section 8 vouchers help pay the rent, and has taken “little or no action” to get the properties repaired.

According to the lawsuit, the Housing Authority “employs inspectors to review” the dwelling units, and so was aware of the problems.

“However,” the suit continues, “due to their financial interest in continuing to do business with Sargon, HACC fails to require him … to maintain the subject properties.”

Attorney Sheryl Ring filed all three cases. The most recent one is on behalf of former tenants Tanisha McGrone and Antoinette Gamble, who both lived in the Isaac property at 120 Callan Ave., but at different times during the past few years, and in different units.

Each lawsuit has multiple examples of what are described as “unsafe, unsanitary and uninhabitable” conditions.

The current suit says that McGrone was moved to a different Isaac property after she complained to the City of Evanston. But, the document continues, “conditions in the [new] unit were even worse” than in the Callan building, including “urine and sewage leaking from electrical units causing electrical shorts ….”

This suit asks for at least $10 million in damages, and is also seeking class action status, in order to bring in other Isaac tenants.

A spokesperson for the Housing Authority tells Evanston Now that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Voicemail messages were also left for Sargon Isaac, and for his son Peter Isaac, who is also a defendant in all three lawsuits, however, we have not received a response.

The filings say that Sargon Isaac has more than 128 housing units in Evanston, and also has a long history of code violation citations.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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8 Comments

  1. I am very concerned that while Evanston is doing an excellent job providing reparations for past discrimination, current residents are suffering at the hands of these landlords. These persons who own 128 units in Evanston must be held accountable for their properties.

    1. It is the tenant who clogged the toilet and caused it to over flow. Tenants are responsible for maintaining the plumbing fixtures. Read any basic lease. The landlord is not at fault for this event. But yes he must repair it in a timely fashion.

  2. As someone who rents here in Evanston and has worked as an assistant manager for buildings I’d like to share another perspective. These stories sound fishy. First they’re suing the city of Evanston and then Biss, now Section 8 ??

    Let’s dig into this more. “urine and sewage leaking from electrical units causing electrical shorts ….” This happens when the neighbor above you clogs the toilet and instead of using a plunger they keep flushing and flushing till the toilet overflows and the toilet water comes out of the renter’s bathroom light socket below. Yes the landlord has a duty to come in and clean up afterward and usually will have to completely repair the ceiling but the landlord will prioritize unclogging the toilet over the ceiling repair. If an object was flushed down the toilet (happens more than you think) the whole toilet will have to be removed so there is access to the pipe. Not an easy job. And if you’re a decent person you’ll hopefully recognize the fault lies with your neighbor above and not your small time landlord and not expect them to come take care of it the second it happens.

    Section 8 apartments are regularly inspected by section 8 and the city of Evanston. When they inspect units they give you a list of items to repair down to the smallest detail and a time frame to complete the repairs. I can’t imagine how this landlord above (I do not know him or his properties) gamed this system.

    I quit my job as an assistant manager because some renters are so difficult and I realized I didn’t have the temperament to deal with them. And I know tenants now who have worked through the pandemic and had stimulus checks but told the landlord they couldn’t pay. Some people have been living rent free for 2 years! Maybe the landlord is behind on repairs because of that.

    I imagine right now this landlord is in the process of selling his buildings to some big investment group with a giant corporate machine who will fix your overflowing toilet just as slowly but the second you are late on your rent will kick you to the curb. Or maybe they’ll redo the building and charge $3000 for the rent or turn it condo. Evanston talks a lot about affordable housing but really does nothing to support those who are trying to deliver on that.

  3. I was a tenant of his for a few years he is the worst landlord he doesn’t fix anything he doesn’t like to keep the buildings up and he really does it strictly because you’re African American cause he believes that you’re deplorable he said it several times that’s why I had to get away from him

  4. I lived in his building on callan as well and I ended up breaking my lease because of the living conditions I signed a 1 year lease and moved out in 8 months I have a housing voucher and nothing was done I reported him and nothing was done and now I’m living in another building in Evanston different landlord but the same condition I’ve been trying to get help but I’m black and don’t have the money to go forward but if I did I would because these landlords needs to get these properties together they getting rich city of Evanston haven’t done anything

  5. Every business is short staffed, so I’m sure that it’s hard to get someone out to fix a unit. I can’t even get someone to fix the draft coming through the window panes of my house. I got 2 quotes and agreed and neither time did the workers don’t show up. It sounds like the residence is looking for another way to get paid besides getting rent paid for by the housing authority. It seems to me that only tenants have rights in Illinois. They don’t have to pay for rent and landlord suffers when trying to pay taxes and mortgage. Evictions take over 1 year of non payment.

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