CHICAGO (WLS) — Many people may struggle to pay their rent. The I-Team spoke to a woman who paid for hers with the help of government assistance money, only to have her landlord begin eviction proceedings shortly after securing that funding.
“I shouldn’t have to worry about having to find alternative accommodation and being evicted,” said Jeanette Viti.
Viti, an assistant teacher with five children, said her landlord received $6,650 in federal money, distributed by the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services. The money paid rent from December 2021 to June 2022. Viti also showed receipts which she says show she paid rent for her Austin neighborhood apartment in July and August. However, Viti still received a final eviction notice dated August 22 from her landlord, Eugene Vdovychenko.
“This program is supposed to help people not become homeless,” Viti said. “For him to take advantage of this situation, it’s wrong of him, he has his money, he shouldn’t kick me out.”
Viti now has an attorney through Legal Aid Chicago. The attorney filed a motion to challenge the eviction order. He claims that as part of the landlord’s participation in a housing assistance scheme, he agreed to ‘stop all eviction proceedings’, adding that recent housing assistance money covered his rent.
The motion also challenges an earlier judgment against Viti that she owed rent and court costs, saying her rent was covered by that federal funding and payments.
“I can’t sleep sometimes, I wake up often, you know, so many times in a period of the night,” Viti said.
The I-Team sent emails, texts, letters and called the owner, but got no response.
The I-Team also contacted the landlord’s attorney, who said Viti now owed approximately $2,700 in rent owed over the past two and a half months, since Viti only stopped paying rent after the eviction notice.
Viti said his attorney advised him not to pay until the case was resolved.
John Bartlett said his organization, the Metropolitan Tenant’s Organization, had received similar complaints from tenants.
“If the landlord gets the money, he’s not supposed to evict you,” he said.
The city agency that distributed the Federal Housing Department money to Viti’s landlord told I-Team that “the landlords agree to immediately cease all eviction proceedings during the months in which they participate in the program”.
If your landlord received pandemic relief money from the US Treasury Department, the rules are similar. The DOT said it encourages landlords who receive funds not to evict for nonpayment of rent for 30 to 90 days after the period covered by housing assistance.
“You always want to document everything that happens. If you get a note from the agency that you got the money, document it,” Bartlett said.
“I’ve been homeless in the past and I don’t want to be there with my kids. My kids shouldn’t have to be homeless,” Viti said.
Viti’s attorney recently helped her settle with her landlord. It puts an end to any eviction procedure and waives any current rent due. Viti agreed to leave the unit by December 16.
If you are in a similar situation, you can contact Chicago Legal Aid.
Free legal services for people living in poverty – Legal Aid Chicago
Rental Help in Illinois
Indiana Rental Assistance https://www.in.gov/ihcda/homeowners-and-renters/rental-assistance/
Treasury rule if your landlord received pandemic rental assistance
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