South Side tenants sue owner of troubled building over problems at Ellis Lakeview Apartments

They want financial compensation from a South Side building owner after having to live with mold, rodents and plumbing issues.

SHARE South Side tenants sue owner of troubled building over problems at Ellis Lakeview Apartments
Ellis Lakeview Apartments, 4624 S. Ellis Ave.

Three residents of the Ellis Lakeview Apartments, at 4624 S. Ellis Ave., filed a lawsuit Thursday in Cook County circuit court against the building’s owner, Apex Chicago IL LLC, and the company that used to manage the property.

Mengshin Lin / Sun-Times file

Tenants from a troubled South Side building have filed a lawsuit in Cook County circuit court, seeking monetary compensation for poor living conditions at the Ellis Lakeview Apartments the past three years.

Three residents who live at the apartment complex at 4624 S. Ellis Ave. filed the lawsuit Thursday against the building’s owner, Apex Chicago IL LLC, and the company that used to manage the property, Integra Affordable Management LLC.

The 11-story building has 105 family units, and it’s federally subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing, which isn’ part of the litigation.

The tenants say in the suit that Apex failed to maintain the property, which had issues related to mold, rodents, plumbing and a leaky roof. They accuse Apex and Integra of being negligent in maintaining the building and say the owner hasn’t paid interest on their security deposits.

Tonnett Hammond, one of the three residents who sued, said they decided to do so in an effort to hold Apex and Integra accountable. They’re asking a judge to grant class-action status to their suit, so it would apply to other residents as well.

“You just can’t get these buildings and say forget about these people because of the title ‘low-income,’ ” Hammond said. “I feel like this class-action lawsuit will be an example for many more to come.”

Attorneys for Apex and Integra could not be reached.

Hammond is among residents who have been pushing for repairs and changes for years.

In March 2021, City Hall filed a housing complaint against Apex Chicago over building code violations. Earlier this year, lawyers for the city filed an emergency petition seeking the drastic measure of having a receiver take over the property until repairs were completed.

After a three-day hearing, the city withdrew the petition, and Apex Chicago agreed to hire a new management company, 5T Management, on June 9, according to court records. The city’s housing case against Apex is still pending.

The new management company isn’t named in the lawsuit, which focuses on the period July 29, 2019, to June 8, 2022, before the new company took over management of the property.

Hammond said she and the other tenants want to give 5T Management a chance to fix the issues and said the new management team has been in close contact with residents.

The past couple of years, Hammond said, her apartment has had plumbing problems that at times forced her to find another place to take a shower.

“It’s embarrassing because sewer comes up from my tub, and that’s still an ongoing issue,” she said. “And when the water comes up, it takes three days, maybe a week, sometimes more for it to go down.”

The city’s housing case is focused on enforcing building codes, said Elizabeth Mazur, one of the attorneys representing the tenants in the lawsuit.

“To compensate them for things like property losses, and really the difference between the fair-market value of what they had leases for, which was a habitable apartment,” Mazur said. “And the value of what they had to live with, which was a building where elevators disdn’t work, where there was flooding, where they couldn’t use their own bathrooms, where they’d get sewage coming up through the bathtub.”

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust

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