CHICAGO (CBS) — The Morning Insiders hear about a lot of landlord-tenant disputes. This next story comes from a mother of three who was concerned about water gushing into her home.
Her landlord said she needs to pay for the repairs, per her lease. Is that legal? CBS 2’s Lauren Victory dove into this headscratcher.
Water is dripping out of Tina Jackson’s kitchen cabinets. It’s not the only strange spot for a shower in her new South Shore townhome. Water also is coming in through her daughter’s bedroom.
Jackson said the leaks began only about two weeks after signing her lease.
“When it rains, it comes down back here,” she said. “They can see what I’m doing in here because i’m unable to hang my curtains up.”
No privacy, because the wall is crumbling away. No progress, because the landlord’s fixes haven’t worked, she says.
Weeks after a roof repair, leaking continued.
By then, she noticed more problems, like something moist growing in the basement. A high schooler was sent to fix it.
Landlord Cliff Billingslea didn’t deny some the work was done by a 16-year-old; he even defended the job.
Asked what he’s doing about the roof, Billingslea said that’s already taken care of.
“Mold is growing on my kids’ stuff,” Jackson said.
Billingslea said Jackson was a nuisance, and needs to fix the recurring issues herself. He repeatedly pointed to her lease, where the first line in bold says: tenant is responsible for all repairs and maintenance. It actually might be a little backwards.
“If it’s a serious widespread mold problem, then the tenant could potentially start reducing the rent,” said John Bartlett, executive director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization.
Bartlett said the tricky part, legally, is proving the source of mold, but having a sound roof that doesn’t let water in is a basic renter’s right in Chicago. Bartlett said a tenant wouldn’t pay to fix that.
“The landlord needs to take care of it; is supposed to seal the home so that it doesn’t let any outside elements in,” he said.
Something’s going to have to give, and soon. Jackson said all three of her kids have asthma, and all the moisture isn’t helping.
“It’s mold on everything,” she said.
Chicago’s had a Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance for more than 30 years. The city confirmed that those renters’ rights trump the clause in Billingslea’s lease about the tenant’s responsibility for repairs and maintenance.
After CBS2 contacted the Department of Buildings, an inspector went out, but did not gain access to the unit because the tenant was at work. Inspectors spoke with the landlord, who said fixes were made and that the “mold” was dirt. DOB says the landlord now needs to prove those claims. Jackson is in the process of scheduling an inspection for the inside of her unit.