HYDE PARK — With a rent strike looming, major Hyde Park landlord Mac Properties said tenants who are out of work because of the coronavirus outbreak can work out agreements with them on an individual basis, but they will not commit to suspending rent payments entirely.
In a letter sent to residents Monday, Mac officials offered three choices for residents facing financial struggles. They include payment plans, moving to cheaper Mac apartments with no transfer fees, and for “those who simply cannot afford” any Mac apartment, “a path to lease termination.”
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy that will enable us to meet the needs of all our residents in acute difficulty,” the letter reads.
There is a “spectrum” of financial situations among residents who live in the 5,000 apartments Mac Properties owns, director of community development Peter Cassel said.
While some have lost income, there are also those who continue to receive checks as normal, he said.
Tenants “should call us” if they’re concerned about their ability to pay, Cassel said. “We will then begin a process of them demonstrating to us how their situation has changed.”
When repeatedly asked if total rent forgiveness would be granted on a case-by-case basis, Cassel would not answer the question.
“I believe when we get to the end of this [pandemic], there will be instances of people paying less” than their full lease agreement, Cassel said.
He noted that Cook County has paused eviction enforcement, but did not definitively say whether residents unable to pay any rent would be allowed to remain in their home.
“Residents who have … stayed employed and have some financial stability, we hope and expect they will continue to pay rent as they agreed,” he said.
Courtney Robinson, who lives in the Algonquin Apartments, 1606 E. Hyde Park Blvd., said she is frustrated with the letter sent out Monday. It’s a “manipulative guilt trip” that makes tenants responsible for Mac employee’s salaries rather than the company, she said.
“At the end of the day they’re a multimillion-dollar company; [tenants are] living paycheck to paycheck,” Robinson said.
Though Robinson pays rent with student loan funds and can afford to continue, she will participate in a rent strike that, as of Tuesday, had 32 tenants pledging to withhold their April rent, according to the Hyde Park Herald.
“I don’t believe they’ll listen to anything other than losing money,” Robinson said.
Cassel rejected the idea that the company was asking residents to “self-evict” by offering them a path to lease termination.
“We’re not suggesting that someone, because they don’t have the ability to pay, should voluntarily walk out of their apartment and be homeless,” Cassel said.
Read Mac Properties’ full letter to tenants below.
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