DALEY CENTER — In the aftermath of the polar vortex, some landlords are feeling the icy sting of the city’s Law Department.
After fielding scores of 311 complaints from tenants without heat, the city called an emergency session of Heat Court Friday at the Daley Center.
For the first time in history, the city used its emergency powers to proactively repair six buildings it says were absolute emergencies.
The city will seek to recuperate the money used to fix those buildings from building owners when they take them to court at a later date.
Normally, the city takes landlords who aren’t providing proper heat to regularly scheduled Heat Court. But since courts have been shut down during the cold snap, they took expedited measures to make repairs ahead of time. Now, they want landlords to foot the bill.
Preliminary hearings were heard at Friday’s emergency heat court, with most future court dates set for Feb. 7 and Feb. 21. Building owners who showed up for their hearing had a good chance of being given the opportunity to fix their buildings on their own.
But owners who failed to appear will be summoned to court. For these particularly non-compliant landlords, the city will make the repairs themselves through a third-party contractor (called a receiver) — Globetrotters Engineering.
Jecheri Pilate, a Park Manor resident who works as a customer service representative, was at the emergency court session. She said that she has been living with intermittent heat for months.
“I feel tricked,” she said. “It’s been an uphill battle ever since I moved in.”
Pilate said that her landlord told her she would need to get cooking gas for the apartment. But when Pilate attempted to acquire cooking gas she learned that there was no piping in the basement.
She said she hasn’t had heat during these coldest days and has had only cold water since September. Pilate said attempts to reach her management company were largely unsuccessful — until the city took them to court.
Representatives from the company, which couldn’t be reached for comment, started showing up within the last few days, offering to put her in a new apartment, she said.
“It didn’t feel right,” Pilate said. “They said we couldn’t tell anyone about it and it would have to be hush-hush.”
Steve Q. McKenzie, a city attorney, said the emergency Heat Court was called “out of absolute compassion.”
“The government is here and the city is here to make sure you are safe,” he said.
McKenzie said the city took steps to alert building owners of the impending weather conditions. He had little sympathy for them on Friday.
“Everyone in the world knew this storm was coming,” he said.
McKenzie said landlords who appeared Friday with plans to make repairs will have a much better chance at receiving mercy from the city in the form of settlements. But all building owners who were on the docket Friday will ultimately face some sort of fine.
“These owners wasted a lot of city resources,” he said, referring to the inspections, repairs and court appearances required to adjudicate the heat complaints.
Many of the building owners to appear in Heat Court Friday are owners of two- and three-flat buildings, not larger properties with more tenants. When asked why the city didn’t go after larger buildings, McKenzie said that these were the buildings that showed a significant level of non-compliance.
Here are the six properties that the city says were non-compliant. In these cases, the city decided to use its emergency powers and step in:
• 7732 S. Ridgeland Ave.
• 1825 S.Fairfield Ave.
• 1723 N. Kedzie Ave.
• 6042 S. May St.
• 622 N. Lorel Ave.
• 5649 W. 64th St.
The rest of the building owners in Heat Court Friday will have time to make repairs and have the city inspect them to ensure the repairs were made. The city will decide how to handle each landlord’s case depending on the level of compliance and repairs needed. Those buildings are located at:
• 3705 W. Ohio St.
• 1419 S. St Louis Ave.
• 1510 E. 67th Pl.
• 1621 W. Wolfram St.
• 5103 W. Washington Blvd.
• 10251 S. Avenue L
• 144-146 W. 66th St.
• 3733 S. Ellis Ave.
• 6557 S. Laflin St.
• 5465 W. Walton St.
• 8234 S. Hermitage Ave.
• 734 W. Sheridan Rd.
• 710 W 14th St.
• 3831 W. Grenshaw St.
• 1743 N. Leavitt St.
• 1767 N. Milwaukee Ave.
• 7000-10 S. Oglesby Ave.