South Side Chicago landlord under fire from tenants

Residents of three buildings claim to have suffered threats, dangerous living conditions

219 E. 79th St., 7908 S. Prairie Ave., and 319 E. 79th St Chicago (Google Maps, iStock)
219 E. 79th St., 7908 S. Prairie Ave., and 319 E. 79th St Chicago (Google Maps, iStock)

Tenants of three South Side buildings say they are living in dangerous conditions and were threatened by an armed man who said he worked for the buildings’ management company.

The tenants say they haven’t been able to reach their landlord since Spring, when they formed a tenants’ organization, according to the Sun-Times. The residents, who live at 219 E. 79th St., 7908 S. Prairie Ave., and 319 E. 79th St., allege they’ve been locked out of their units, threatened by a man with a gun who claimed to work BSD Realty security, and have been living with inadequate heating and lighting in the communal hallways.

Last week, members of the tenants’ group gathered in front of the BSD office seeking answers. The problems have been compounded by the properties’ recent change in ownership, which has left tenants confused about where they should be sending their rent.

Eli Sieger, who says he bought the properties three months ago, said he and BSD have been working to fix problems in the buildings that existed prior to their purchase.

“We’ve put in a tremendous amount of money in upgrading the quality of life and the quality of living in these buildings,” he told the Sun-Times. “We put in brand new boilers. We fixed leaks that were coming in.”

BSD officials didn’t come out to speak with tenants last week, but emailed a statement to the Sun-Times saying they communicate regularly with tenants via email. The company also said the new property owner made improvements and plans to install new boilers. The boilers in place now are functioning correctly and heating the buildings, they said.

BSD also disputed the lockouts and said it doesn’t have armed security. It did hire a watchman to call the police if anything happened at the properties.

“These expenditures are to make sure that the tenants have the best and most reliable heating, and that there are no long-term problems,” the statement read. “The owners have done and are planning to do a lot more, and they are committed to bring the buildings to the best possible conditions so that the tenants have a good and safe place to live.”

Marminta Dunigan, one of the building’s residents, said she received a flyer last year telling tenants that the building was under new management and instructions about paying rent, which listed a company other than BSD as the property manager. The flyer said a new management office would open by Oct. 1.

By Oct. 11, she received a five-day termination notice listing BSD as the management company. The notice came days after she called the police to report she had been locked out of her unit.

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“I want BSD to be held accountable,” Dunnigan said, according to the Sun-Times. “Well come to talk to us because this (has) to stop. They are in the South Side of Chicago, (it doesn’t) mean that they can do what they want to do.”

JoLondon Jamerson, another resident, said the building management has changed four times in recent months. She thinks at one point she was paying rent to a company that didn’t actually manage the building and that she’s unsure if her landlord ever received the funds from the rental assistance programs she applied for.

“They’re not doing anything, and we’re freezing in there,” Jamerson said about BSD Realty Group.

Jamerson said she sleeps with electric heaters to stay warm inside her apartment, and she gets help from her neighbors who carry flashlights to navigate the dark hallways.

The building at 319 E. 79th St. failed three inspections in 2021, according to the city’s Department of Buildings website, the Sun-Times reported. The most recent inspection happened in November, and the building was cited for failing to maintain the floors free from holes, failing to maintain exterior door frames, missing window screens and for issues with a brick, load-bearing wall.

In city records, 219 E. 79th St. and 7908 S. Prairie Ave. are combined as one property that city inspectors visited at least four times in 2021. Some of the violations from last year stemmed from a mice infestation, failing to provide adequate lights in the hall and stairwell, and missing fire extinguishers, according to records from the city’s Department of Buildings cited by the Sun-Times.

Resident Carlos Banks said tenants have only spoken in person with people who identify themselves as security for BSD, rather than the actual property manager.

“We are looking for help and we seem to not be getting it from the people that we should be getting it from,” Banks said. “We have older folks in these buildings that cannot be walking around in these conditions, especially if they don’t feel safe with the lights out in the building.”

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[Chicago Sun-Times] – Harrison Connery

 

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