Chicago Housing Department Officials Blame the Fed for Checking Rent Assistance That Goes to the Deadbeat Tenant Instead of the Landlord

Chicago (CBS) — It’s a program meant to ease the financial stress caused by the pandemic, but a landlord reached out to us to say, the city’s emergency rent assistance program did the opposite.

Two weeks ago we shared her story, and now we have an update from Chicago’s Department of Housing, which is blaming the Fed.

You will remember the story of Babette Finger, After her father passed away last summer, she became the landlord of their West Lawn home.

He said that only then the above tenant stopped paying. Months went by without a rent check, so she and the tenant applied for Chicago’s Emergency Rent Assistance Program. Finger hoped it would cover his loss.

“I have the documents showing, congratulations, I’m approved,” she told CBS 2.

But she says the $6,300 of your taxpayer dollar check, which should have had her name on it, went to the deadbeat renter instead.

“I don’t understand how they can send him my check after so many months of not paying the bills. It’s unbelievable,” she said.

We reached out to the city’s housing department to find out why the check went to the tenant, not Finger, and they finally returned our emails after our original story aired. He said this was because Finger sold the house at the end of last year.

Finger said, “I think it’s weird that I didn’t know that, if I sold the house, I wouldn’t get the money, it would go to him. I never would have even applied.”

A Department of Housing spokesperson could not state whether warnings for landlords were in the emergency rent assistance application documents. We certainly couldn’t find it in the online FAQ.

City officials blamed the US Treasury Department for creating rules for the emergency rent assistance program, which they say did not matter if Finger was applying for rent paid before selling the home. The federal government says the check has to go to someone tied to that address, and the city listened. So instead of saving or donating it, he gave the taxpayer money to a person who was knowingly not paying the rent.

“The story that CBS 2 reported was one of the most grim examples I know of,” said Christopher Anderson with the Chicago Association of Realtors. “It’s a Yeoman job the city is attempting to do, but we’re disappointed they missed a great opportunity to do it in a faster and more streamlined fashion.”

Anderson said her organization and other housing advocacy groups want her to have a voice in creating those emergency rental assistance rules, with the hope of stopping this kind of red tape.

“I would ask the city and city bureaucrats to investigate that not only through the lens of trying to get money out the door, but to make sure the money is paid to the proper person,” he said.

Finger said, in his case, that didn’t happen. So that’s $6,300 and months of desperation she’ll never come back.

“The guy who was living in the house and still doesn’t deserve that money. Being rewarded for not paying his rent, it really sends a bad message to the city,” she said.

In an email, the Department of Housing told Finger that it could hire a lawyer to try to get her money back from that tenant, but at this point, Finger said she had already spent and on the issue. Lost enough money.

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