Tenant battling cancer begs developer to save his apartment

Astor House tenant James Burnett, who is recovering from cancer, is now also on the brink of homelessness.

Burnett’s eviction may occur as soon as this week. He has been pleading with BJB Principal Jamie Purcell to allow him to stay in the building as a rent-paying tenant.

But so far, Purcell has not budged.

James Burnett and his supporters, who have personally urged Purcell to reconsider his actions, have yet to receive an indication that Purcell will suspend James Burnett’s eviction.

Tenants at the Astor House building at 1246 W. Pratt have been struggling with poor building conditions and discriminatory evictions for the last year, since BJB Properties purchased the building.

Like many tenants in the building, Burnett says he was taken to eviction court in the first place because BJB falsely accused him of not paying rent to the building’s previous owner — then refused to accept additional rent payments.

Burnett settled his case in an effort to avoid a costly legal battle, but has been unable to find an apartment over the past several months. Unless Purcell calls off the eviction, Burnett says, he may become homeless before the week is out.

James Burnett’s Story:

“My name is James Burnett and I am a tenant at the Astor House, 1246 W. Pratt. I’ve been here for 6 years. My lease ended Aug. 31, 2012. I continued paying rent in September, October and November. But I was unaware the building had been sold until the building’s new manager came around giving me, and all the tenants in the building, five-day notices saying that I owed them $1,400 – rent I had already paid the old manager over the last several months.

The new manager, Leon Martinez, told me, “The bookkeeping was bad. The old manager fleeced a lot of tenants out of money. We don’t know who owes what, so we are just giving everyone $1,400 five-day notices.”

He told me that he could not accept my rent. “We are shutting the building down. We are not accepting any rent,” he said. At eviction court, the judge reduced my rent to $200 a month. Even so, management would not honor the judge’s order, and refused to take the money. When I asked Leon for the owner’s name and contact information, he refused to share it with me.

I wanted a jury to hear my case, but the judge informed me that if I lost the case I would have to pay court costs for my landlord’s attorneys, the back rent I already paid to the previous building manager, and the rent they had refused to accept for months – potentially $7,000 or $8,000. Ultimately, the only option was to settle the case move out. I would have preferred to have paid my rent to BJB.

Now, I know that Leon lied when he said they were shutting down the building. BJB is renting the building to new tenants every day. I believe that this is discrimination; they are trying to get rid of all the old tenants in the building and rent it to a new group of people. My goal is to come to an agreement with the new owners so I don’t have to be evicted.”

For more information, contact James Burnett at 312-758-1817 or Arbie Bowman, 773-302-5171