Protesters criticize corporate landlord for filing evictions during pandemic

TLC Management filed dozens of eviction lawsuits in Cook County in April, records show.

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Dordie Hester (left), V.J. Craft, and Antwain Miller hold protest signs outside the downtown offices of landlord TLC Management, May 6, 2020.

Dordie Hester (left), V.J. Craft and Antwain Miller hold protest signs Wednesday outside the downtown offices of TLC Management.

Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

A handful of protesters converged at the downtown offices of one of Chicago’s biggest landlords Wednesday to decry evictions filed against tenants during the coronavirus pandemic.

The landlord, TLC Management, filed dozens of eviction lawsuits in Cook County last month, records show. Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s emergency executive order, the enforcement of evictions are banned for the time being.

But protesters said TLC Management is pressuring tenants to leave despite CEO Stuart Handler being second vice president of the Chicagoland Apartment Association, which promised “to work with homeowners and renters to prevent displacement and foreclosure” under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 housing pledge released last week.

“Once the stay-at-home order is lifted, evictions and foreclosures are going to [overwhelm] people who haven’t been able to make payments for three months,” said Dordie Hester, a community organizer with ONE Northside, a housing advocacy group, at a news conference outside TLC Management’s offices Wednesday.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) criticized Lightfoot’s housing pledge at the news conference, saying Handler’s willingness to file evictions shows it lacks teeth.

“Developers have so much influence on the fifth floor [of City Hall] that they’re not even honoring a pledge they signed a week [ago],” Sigcho-Lopez said.

TLC Management said none of the eviction filings is “in violation of the ... spirit of the pledge” as some tenants it has sued “did not clearly communicate their financial needs” with the company, a prerequisite for getting rental assistance.

TLC Management said it has extended grace periods, agreed on amortized payment plans and waived late fees for April’s rent “in nearly 100 instances.” As of last year, the company owned more than 5,200 units in the Chicago area, according to Crain’s.

The mayor’s office did not respond to requests to comment.

Lightfoot’s Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge, announced April 29, is a non-binding commitment to show “flexibility and restraint” between housing lenders, landlords and their tenants during the pandemic.

Aside from the Chicago Apartment Association, other signatories include Bank of America, Seaway Credit Union and the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing.

Many affordable housing advocates criticized the pledge for not providing enough concrete help for renters, which make up more than half of Chicago’s households.

Advocates have called on Pritzker to repeal the state’s preemptive ban on rent regulation and to put a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments for as long as the stay-at-home order is in place. Pritzker has said he legally cannot lift the ban on rent regulation unilaterally.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.

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