Tenants sue Pangea Properties, describing health, safety hazards

Pangea is one of the city’s largest landlords with 423 rental properties that include 7,500 units on the South Side and the West Side, according to the lawsuit.

SHARE Tenants sue Pangea Properties, describing health, safety hazards
Flanked by residents, attorneys and supporters, attorney Christopher Wilmes discusses a lawsuit filed against Pangea Properties during a news conference in front of Pangea Properties’ Washington Plaza Apartments, at 5501 W. Washington Blvd. on the West Side, Monday, July 18, 2022.

Flanked by tenants and supporters, attorney Christopher Wilmes on Monday discusses a lawsuit against Pangea Properties.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A lawsuit was filed against one of the city’s largest landlords, accusing the company of fostering dangerous living conditions including broken elevators, a lack of heat or electricity and severe rodent infestation.

More than a dozen tenants signed on to the lawsuit Monday against Pangea Properties, saying their complaints to the property managers largely have been ignored and seeking damages for deceptive and illegal business practices. They’re also asking that the lawsuit be certified as a class action.

Kayla Jones, 26, who moved in to a Pangea property in 2021 when she moved to Chatham from Dallas, is among those suing. She said she was moved to another unit at another property after numerous problems but that the new unit had just as many problems.

“There were obvious signs of pest infestation, feces from roaches and rats, droppings on my carpet, obvious signs of mice holes in the wall,” Jones said. “When I called the property manager to talk about the issues, they made it sound like I was the only one complaining about the problem.”

Jones said she made multiple complaints on the company’s online portal that were marked complete without anyone coming to look at the issues. She said she made several calls to 311 to report the ongoing problems and was advised it might be best for her to leave.

When someone from maintenance showed up to inspect the situation, they denied seeing any mice. Jones said they were in the kitchen running across the countertop and microwave unbothered by the presence of a human — some even were found dead in the apartment.

“The person from the company told me, ‘What do you expect? You live in the ghetto,’” Jones said of the maintenance worker.

A spokesperson for Pangea said it has been “committed to providing quality, attainably priced housing that benefits both residents and the communities” they are located in. Each of the properties’ in-house management team, the spokesperson said, prioritizes customer service through regular communication and is responsive to tenants' needs.

“While we take all resident concerns seriously, we strongly deny the allegations made in the complaint, which run counter to the high service standards that have allowed us to become one of the largest providers of workforce housing in Chicago,” the Pangea spokesperson said.

Pangea is one of the city’s largest landlords with 423 rental properties that include 7,500 units on the South and West sides, according to the lawsuit. The property owner also has more than 13,000 residential units in Illinois, Indiana and Maryland and uses hundreds of shell companies to purchase or transfer ownership of its buildings.

The private landlord is one of the city’s most prolific eviction filers and has taken thousands of families to court since 2009 — most of these evictions have been Black families living on the South and West sides.

The lawsuit doesn’t examine these eviction patterns but does allege threats of evictions were used against tenants by Pangea’s centralized management team to put a stop to tenant complaints.

“The lawsuit mentions a practice of ‘pay and stay’ where Pangea will put somebody in eviction proceedings and then while [tenants] are in proceedings trying to catch up on their rent, they’re not given access to the company’s maintenance portal,” said Christopher Wilmes, an attorney representing the tenants. 

Wilmes said Pangea “exploits renters by systematically ignoring maintenance requests in order to pad its bottom line.” He said the 14 people who filed the lawsuit have been dealing with different health and safety issues that include roach infestation, mold, lack of adequate heat in the winter months, flooding, sewage backup, squatters and broken elevators.

“The plaintiffs have filed this lawsuit to hold Pangea accountable and to say enough is enough,” Wilmes said.

The lawsuit said Pangea has had over 5,000 reported building code violations among its Chicago properties since 2009 which aligns with the many issues cited in the lawsuit.

Willie Bradley, 66, has lived in a Pangea-managed property for nearly eight years in the South Shore neighborhood and has faced issues with safe electricity, mold and a lack of heating.

“When I was in my apartment in the winter, it felt like being outside,” Bradley said.

“For years, the Legal Aid Society has represented Pangea tenants living in substandard and unacceptable conditions. It’s time that greater action be taken,” said Mia Segal, managing attorney of the Health, Housing, and Economic Stability Practice Group of the Legal Aid Society. “Pangea tenants deserve healthy, safe, and habitable apartments in return for the rent they pay.”

The Latest
The Bears’ decision to have a surveyor examine the south parking lot of Soldier Field, as a source confirmed Thursday, is the latest example of the team exploring options for a new stadium outside of Arlington Heights.
Lawmakers must consider new taxes, combining four regional transit agencies under one board and changing fee structures. The report recommends the state prop up public transit with $1.5 billion.
The area has been the subject of scrutiny by Ald. Bill Conway (34th) and neighbors who say a homeless encampment has spurred an increase in crime and disturbances.
In the five months since July, the city has seen the sharpest spike in robberies in 20 years, driven by crimes committed with a weapon.
Over-the-air TV is coming in handy for teams and leagues looking for new homes and wider distribution amid the upheaval pervading regional sports networks.