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Escaping the Trap of Unhealthy Housing: Analysis of Remedies for Tenants in Substandard Housing Allyson E. Gold Supervising Attorney and Rodin Clinical.

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Presentation on theme: "Escaping the Trap of Unhealthy Housing: Analysis of Remedies for Tenants in Substandard Housing Allyson E. Gold Supervising Attorney and Rodin Clinical."— Presentation transcript:

1 Escaping the Trap of Unhealthy Housing: Analysis of Remedies for Tenants in Substandard Housing Allyson E. Gold Supervising Attorney and Rodin Clinical Teaching Fellow Health Justice Project, Loyola University Chicago School of Law

2 “In the United States today, the leading preventable causes of death, disease, and disability are asthma, lead poisoning, deaths in house fires, falls on stairs and from windows, burns and scald injuries and drowning in bathtubs and pools.” Surgeon General 2009, Call to Action to Promote Healthy Housing

3 Agenda 1.Understanding the problem of unhealthy housing 2.The Trap is Set: Limitations in Existing Law 3.Escaping the Trap: Policy Recommendations to Improve Health of Low-Income Tenants

4 Unhealthy Housing Conditions Common Issues Mold, infestations (rodent, cockroach, bedbugs) Peeling Paint Exposed wires, uncovered radiators, alternative sources of heat Unaffordable housing or utilities; insufficient heat, water, refrigeration Overcrowding Health Problems Asthma, chronic respiratory problems, rashes, mycotoxin reaction Lead poisoning Burns, injuries, fires Heat or eat, malnutrition, failure to thrive, chronic problems Spread of infectious disease

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6 Cost of Unhealthy Housing Source: American Journal of Public Health November 2009; 99 (Suppl 3): S666-S674.

7 The Trap is Set Current legal remedies are insufficient to enable low-income tenants to escape unhealthy housing

8 Remedies Against the Landlord Repair and deduct Adjust the rent to reflect decreased value of the premises Petition the court to appoint a receiver Sue the landlord for injuries Terminate the lease

9 Limitations of Inspection Practices Complaint-Based Inspection –The current approach to inspection in the majority of municipalities is complaint-based. –Under this system, the onus of reporting substandard housing conditions is on the tenant Fragmented Inspection Procedures –In many municipalities, there is no one, central agency that conducts inspections for all substandard housing conditions.

10 Municipal Duty of Care The law does not impute a duty of care on municipal government. Ferentchak v. Village of Frankfort Azziz v. City of Chicago Stigler v. City of Chicago

11 Tort Immunity Acts Tort Immunity Acts limit liability for government agencies, even if the government had a duty of care to tenants in the property Rasher v. City of Champaign, IL

12 Effect of Tort Laws on Tenants If an injured tenant can establish that the government owed a duty of care, she must then overcome significant statutory immunities given to local government by tort immunity laws. As a result, it is unlikely that a low-income tenant will ever recover damages for injury resulting from substandard housing.

13 Escaping the Trap Recommendations to improve housing stock and health of tenants

14 Reforming the Inspection System Proactive Inspection System –In order to enter the rental market, landlords are required to certify their units comply with the housing code Additional Tools for Municipal Inspectors –Training landlords as business owners –Working with landlords to abate unsafe conditions

15 Reforming the Inspection System Centralized Inspections –Training inspectors to address all substandard housing conditions Interprofessional Inspection –Coordination between inspectors, organizers, health services professionals, and lawyers to improve housing and health of low-income tenants

16 Funding Reform: Individual Level Business owner fees Mandatory Insurance –Carve outs for mom and pop landlords Liens on troubled properties –City repair fund

17 Funding Reform: Community Level Public/Private partnerships –Social impact bonds targeting improved health outcomes Affordable Care Act –Section 1115 waivers to fund housing improvements Private Insurance Companies –Early investment for long-term financial gains

18 Questions? Thank you! Allyson E. Gold Supervising Attorney and Rodin Clinical Teaching Fellow Health Justice Project Loyola University Chicago School of Law


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