Tenants Report Abuse

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

The Kimball Tenants Union (KTU) held a press conference on Friday, Dec. 28th to criticize the abuse and harassment they have reportedly experienced while battling eviction. According to KTU, their landlord Stark Chicago has shown “blatant disregard for the needs of low-income immigrants and people with disabilities.”
After a month and a half of attempting to reach an equitable agreement with the company’s owner, Charles “Chuck” Westphal, discussions have come to a standstill due to Westphal’s refusal to negotiate in good faith, stated one member of KTU. Westphal has refused and continues to pursue evictions while creating a dangerous environment for the remaining KTU members by aggressively proceeding with renovations as if the building was vacant, said a KTU member. “Coupled with the complications of being forcibly removed from their homes, tenants with disabilities are asserting their right to a safe home that accommodates their needs and allows them to thrive independently in their community.”
The tenants, alongside the Autonomous Tenants Union (ATU), are pushing to change the narrative around what true affordable housing looks like for those that can’t afford more than $500-$600/ month. Westphal, a wealthy investor and developer with dozens of properties across the city, stands to eliminate over 50 units of historically affordable housing from Albany Park with no community input at all, as the construction requires no zoning change. Residents of 4843 N Kimball in the Albany Park neighborhood formed the Kimball Tenants Union to demand their new landlord Stark Chicago, owned by Charles Westphal, make necessary repairs and meet with them to negotiate the terms of their tenancy. Stark bought their building in January 2018, and has inconsistently addressed conditions issues, failing entirely to fix some problems including leaky pipes, bad electrical wiring, broken smoke detectors, bugs and mice, extreme mold- remedied by a paint job-and more.
In July 2018, after organizing the KTU, tenants held a rent strike to protest the unjust evictions, numerous conditions issues and disrespectful treatment. After 12 days on strike, instead of simply talking with tenants, Stark Chicago served them all with 5-day eviction notices. Kimball Tenants Union collectively decided to end their rent strike by paying rent. After weighing the risks, it was determined that they would fight outside of court for as long as possible, given that housing court overwhelmingly favors landlords. Despite the August 31st eviction notice, residents are still living in the building due to rapidly rising rents, disabilities, lack of credit for apartment applications, and other barriers to moving.

Photo Caption: Tenants denounce landlords abuse and harassment amid eviction battle. Protests began this past summer.

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