Tenants go weeks without heat; city & court step in

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Some people say the heat in their apartments hasn’t worked for weeks. When the problem wasn’t fixed, the city of Champaign took the property owners to court.

Tyler Sigler got the keys to his unit about three weeks ago.

“I actually moved in and the heat wouldn’t turn off. Maintenance came out and hit the heater until it stopped working and told me it was broken,” he said.

The property owners of Champaign Park Apartments still haven’t fixed the heat.

“They haven’t been returning my calls, my emails, anything,” Sigler said.

As temperatures dropped, he and other concerned tenants began calling the city’s Neighborhood Services Department.

“My main concern was – I’m going to work, my cat’s there. But I know there are families out there – people with children, single mothers – who have limited options on relocating,” Sigler said.

It led to at least six buildings in the complex getting condemned.

“Because of the danger, because of the drop in temperatures, and the safety hazards posed by the alternative methods that they were using – we felt that the public safety as well as the residents’ safety was an issue so we sought an emergency injunction,” Assistant City Attorney Nancy Rabel said.

The first report came in last month. Rabel said people in affected units have been using space heaters and even leaving their ovens on to stay warm.

“These have absolutely no heat. The boilers aren’t working in them at all,” Rabel said.

A court order was issued that requires the property owner to provide tenants alternate housing for up to ten days.

“To our knowledge, they have not done so,” Rabel said Sunday.

To keep people warm, the city started relocating people over the weekend. They also posted flyers on doors including the phone number listed on the Champaign Park Apartments website. The problem is, if you try to call, it won’t go through.

“In fact, we’ve attempted to call that number and it was disconnected,” Rabel said.

The flyer said to contact the city if the complex doesn’t respond. Rabel said while the property has changed owners recently, the code violations go back years. Code Compliance Manager Tim Spear can’t say exactly what those violations were, but he said this one is serious.

“While it’s going to be warmer this week, it’s still at night cold enough that you really need heat. Even during the day, it’s not warm enough to not have any source of heat at all,” Spear said.

They’ll be back in court on Monday. Until then, if you don’t have heat, you can call the city and request a tenant inspection. Spear said the property owners have since distributed their own flyers with a working phone number for residents.

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