Chicago steps up in fight with landlord with $15M in rat-related fines

Officials seeking to acquire eight parcels for CTA’s $3.6B Red Line extension

Chicago Steps Up Fight with Landlord’s Excessive Rat Fines
(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Chicago is getting tough on Suzie B. Wilson, a Chicago property manager whose companies racked up $15 million in rat-related fines stemming mostly from South and West Side sites.

The Chicago Transit Authority, along with the city, is suing a handful of companies linked to Wilson over eight properties, totalling 116,500 square feet, that are crucial to the agency’s $3.6 billion Red Line train extension project, the Illinois Answers Project reported.

This city’s involvement in the case follows an investigation by the news outlet that revealed Chicago’s struggles in rat control and its failure to collect fines from major violators, including the network of companies tied to Wilson. Her affiliation with the companies was changed after the investigation, with her attorney, Douglas Belofsky, now listed as the agent of record for the companies that hold the property. The companies’ managers are now LLCs in South Dakota.

To assert its claim on the properties, the city has recorded more than 40 court judgments for violations, including weed-cutting negligence and potential rat harborage. Some judgments date back years but were only recorded after the investigative report. The city comptroller and law department declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

The CTA, seeking control of the eight vacant properties for its Red Line extension, has spent over $7.5 million on acquisitions. The legal dispute arose after failed negotiations on property prices.

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The city recently filed a motion in one case, aiming to obtain a 3,125-square-foot vacant lot in the 300 block of West 111th Street that’s owned by Vivid LLC, a company managed by Wilson. The city recorded judgments against Vivid, claiming a lien on Wilson’s interest in the property, the outlet reported.

An attorney for Wilson and Vivid said that the city is attempting to “boot-strap its claims on other properties” onto the 111th Street property, and no judgements were recorded when CTA filed its lawsuit to obtain the property, the outlet reported. A judge is set to hold a hearing in the case.

In preparation to sell parcels, Wilson recently corrected a deed mistake for one property in question. Another company she managed previously sued the city for unconstitutional fines and ultimately lost the case. 

The investigation into Chicago’s rat problem prompted Mayor Brandon Johnson to increase the rodent control budget by $1.5 million. This will fund additional rat control crews and salary increases negotiated in a new union contract.

— Quinn Donoghue 

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