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Rent-Striking Tenants In Troubled Building See Improvements Made

Tenants of a West Side building that is in foreclosure are threatening a rent strike. They say the building's furnace was ripped out or stolen, and the building's receiver has not replaced it. (Credit: CBS)

Tenants of a West Side building that is in foreclosure are threatening a rent strike. They say the building’s furnace was ripped out or stolen, and the building’s receiver has not replaced it. (Credit: CBS)

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Tenants staging a rent strike at a foreclosed, 32-unit apartment building in the Austin neighborhood have a new receiver – and they are finally beginning to see some repairs.

But the leader of the strike said Thursday that it may be “months” before the tenants agree to pay rent again.

“Before, people have started working, but they’ve stopped,” said Pamela Johnson, who lives in a second-floor apartment at 5159 W. West End Av.  “So until everything is done in this building, we can’t afford to pay rent.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

The tenants say they consider the building, at 5141-59 W. West End Ave., a microcosm of what can go wrong when a bank forecloses on an apartment building. The building has been in receivership since 2008.

Johnson says workers have begun clean-up and repair work each morning this week.  So far, she said, they have removed debris left in empty apartments and have started a number of welcome repairs.

In addition, Johnson said, new receiver Mike Zucker of Peak Properties has requested lists of needed repairs from each tenant.  But she said much larger issues need to be addressed, such as the building’s furnace, apartment wiring, severe bedbug and mold problems and fragile wooden porches.

Johnson said a city inspector advised her to use her rear porch “only in case of an emergency.”

Zucker says he would love to talk about the challenges facing the building, but is legally barred from doing so.

Asked if the tenants may change their stand against paying rent, Johnson says it is not likely to happen quickly.

“It might even take months,” she said.  “It all depends how fast they go to get into the apartments and do the work that (needs to be) done.”