CHICAGO (CN) – Housing officials improperly failed the units of a low-income-housing landlord who had criticized the inspections process, the landlord claims in Federal Court.
David Schlessinger sued the Chicago Housing Authority, CVR Associates and nine Chicago city employees in the Northern District of Illinois.
Under the Chicago housing choice voucher (HCV) program, low-income families may live in private housing of their choice if they find a landlord who agrees to rent under the program. The property owner must enter into a housing assistance payment (HAP) contract with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), which will then directly pay a housing subsidy to the owner. The family must pay the difference between the price of rent and the amount subsidized by the program.
“Schlessinger is a landlord that has participated in the HCV since 2005 and has owned and operated approximately 16 rental units leased to HCV participating tenants,” according to the complaint.
To stay in the HCV program, the housing authority must inspect subsidized units for tenancy suitability.
Schlessinger says that he “has been subjected to about twenty inspections per year by the CHA since mostly all of the plaintiff’s properties are in Chicago.”
Throughout 2009 and 2010, he claims he “complained, on several occasions, to several officers and agents of the CHA regarding government waste and abuse pertaining to the long term and ongoing process of the incompetence of the inspectors and the enormous amount of additional unwarranted expenses incurred by the plaintiff due to this incompetence.”
Schlessinger claims that he personally complained at meetings of the CHA Board of Directors, to Public Housing Director Steve Meiss, and to Deputy Director of Inspections Ken Love.
In retaliation for his outspoken criticism of the inspections process, Schlessinger says that inspectors failed his housing units as a pretext for canceling his contract with the Chicago Housing Authority.
“On or about the months of January 2011 to August 2011 the CHA was consistently failing the plaintiff for deficiencies that did not exist, were not the responsibility of the plaintiff, and were not fail items according to HQS [housing quality standards] and CHA’s own inspection guidelines,” the complaint states.
“The plaintiff continued to incur numerous unwarranted expenses to make unjust repairs.
“The plaintiff continued to file complaints with the CHA, by fax, email, and verbally. “The plaintiff was forced to have many original inspections reevaluated by supervisors, managers, and agents of the CHA’s inspection department,” Schlessinger says.
These failed inspections allegedly permitted the Housing Authority to stop paying Schlessinger its housing subsidy for numerous HCV tenants.
“As of May 1, 2012 the plaintiff has incurred losses of $19,012.70 due to the CHA’s breach of the HAP contract and violation of his First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights,” according to the complaint. “The plaintiff continues to incur losses each month as the HCV tenant continues to reside in plaintiff’s units without subsidy payments from CHA in continued breach of the HAP contract and the supporting federal regulations.”
“Upon information and belief, the CHA … has terminated these tenants from the HCV as a pretext in retaliation against the plaintiff for exercising his constitutional rights,” he claims. (171)
Schlessinger seeks punitive damages for the violation of his First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights, breach of contract, conversion, and emotional distress. He also seeks a permanent injunction to prevent the defendants from inspecting HCV properties without proper certification.
He is represented by Howard Brookins Jr.