‘It’s not right’: Woman calls on CBS 2 to help get thousands owed to her by a tenant who won’t pay rent

CHICAGO (CBS) – These last two years, filled with pandemic job losses and other changes, have led to a delicate dance between some landlords and their tenants.

A Romeoville woman reached out to CBS 2 after her interest stopped paying. She asked the City of Chicago for help, but they sent her money to the wrong person.

Now, CBS 2 is uncovering why the city said that’s her problem.

“It’s been a major toll on me,” said Babette Finger.

If you’ve been a landlord, you may identify with Finger’s stress. It’s been constant since she took control of her father’s West Lawn home.

“He owned that house since 1957,” Finger said.

Her dad, Richard, passed away in August of last year, and Finger said the tenant took advantage.

“The tenant decided that since Mr. Richard had passed on, that he no longer had to pay his rent,” Finger said.

And that continued, she said, for months and through the end of the year, leaving her to pinch pennies.

“The electric bill, the gas bill the property taxes, everything in that house I had to pay for,” Finger said. “And I have my own house to pay for, so I’m paying double bills.”

Her attorney recommended she apply for Chicago’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program to make up for some of those losses. It requires both renters and landlords apply, and so she and the tenant did. And it paid off.

“I have documentation showing. ‘Congratulations I have been approved,'” Finger said.

A total of $ 6,914 covering nine months of rent and utilities was said to be coming by check to Finger’s home.

But months passed and it did not arrive. So she reached out to the Chicago Department of Housing. In an email from a Program Director, Finger learned her tenant received the check, with his name on it. They wrote “it’s unfortunate the tenant cashed the ERAP check and did not pay his owed rent.”

Translation: The deadbeat tenant got the nearly $ 7,000 and that’s taxpayer money and the city will not help.

“I just do not understand how they could send him my check, after he did not pay his bills,” Finger said. “After all those months, it’s unbelievable.”

The Department of Housing went on to say it’s “unable to send another check for rent assistance,” suggesting Finger “follow up with a lawyer for options to recoup her money.”

“They made a mistake and now they expect me to pay for it. It’s not right,” Finger said.

Finger is at a loss. She’s since sold her father’s home where she says the tenant’s still living, but because of this mix up, the stress caused due to this property still has not stopped.

“I just can not believe that they can not make their wrong right,” lamented Finger.

We reached out to Chicago’s Department of Housing but did not hear from them before our original deadline. After Finger’s story aired, we received an email from the Department answering our question as to how this happened.

The Department said because Finger sold the home in December of 2021, she was no longer entitled to the money she was awarded through the program. It says according to rules set federally by the Treasury Department, the Emergency Rental Assistance money must go to someone tied to the property – and Finger was no longer that person.

The Department says that is why the money ended up going to the renter.

Finger says there was no documentation or warning during the Emergency Rental Assistance application process that selling a home would disqualify her from the program. She is also frustrated as the money the program was helping her cover was rent she paid prior to the sale of the house.

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