K&G tenants cite utility, security problems

By Abby Seiff

Sometimes referred to as the “Slumlords of Hyde Park” by disgruntled residents, K&G management has nevertheless carved out a niche in the student-housing market in Hyde Park. With an abundance of apartments and relatively low rent, K&G has attracted thousands of students over the years—tenants who, because of the temporary state of their living situations, or simply because they are attracted to affordable housing, put up with the apartments’ less-than-ideal conditions.

“I just think they have enough of a monopoly on apartments that they don’t have to be good,” said K&G tenant Jessica Clapp, a third-year in the College. “If there were not such a monopoly on cheap apartments in the area, they’d have to be good to get tenants.” Clapp used to live in Broadview but moved out because her apartment is “cheaper by half.”

Clapp explained that her building can be a nuisance, citing such problems as dirty water that pools in the basement when the washing machine runs, doors that fit poorly into their frames, and a water supply that is shut off without notice.

Despite these problems, Clapp said she is happy with her situation. “I like my apartment in the large scheme,” she said. “It’s cheap, there’s heat, the water works—usually.”

K&G Management was contacted seven times over the past two weeks, in writing and by phone, to ask for a statement or reply to tenants’ accusations. They declined to comment.

Although many such complaints deal with heating, cooling, and landlord-tenant relations in general, some tenants have taken greater issue with matters of security.

David Berger, a second-year in the College, said that while the back door of his apartment is protected by a deadbolt and clamp, the protection on the adjacent window is inadequate.

“We’ve tested it out, and the burglar bars we have are not sufficient to prevent someone from reaching in through the window, releasing the clamp, and turning open the deadbolt,” he said.

Berger’s building is not the only one whose residents are wary of the protection afforded by K&G’s security measures. Tenant Danielle Tcholakian, a second-year in the College, recounted a similar problem with her summer rental.

“We were on the first floor, and our porch was incredibly accessible , as anyone over three feet tall could have simply hopped over the banister onto the porch,” she said.

Tcholakian’s apartment was burglarized three times over the summer. “The windows in the sunroom didn’t lock,” said Tcholakian’s roommate, fourth-year Sarah Birgé. “So even after we padlocked the doors, they got in and smashed down the door.”

The Chicago Municipal Code details residential exit and security requirements. K&G, however, has been known to invoke “grandfather clauses” as an excuse for avoiding basic reparations, according to tenants, because it has managed many of its buildings since before the codes were put into effect.

Birgé said that in her first K&G building, the pipes in her ceiling leaked bucketfuls of water every time it rained. “K&G said that it was a problem with the whole building, and they’d have to rip out all of the plumbing to fix it,” she said. “There was a grandfather clause so they didn’t have to fix it.”

According to the Chicago Municipal Code, every owner or operator must “exterminate any insects, rodents, or other pests in any family unit, if infestation is caused by the failure of the owner or operator to maintain the dwelling in a rat-proof or reasonable insect-proof condition.”

But students complain of apartments that are infested even upon moving in. Didi Ahmad said that when he moved in to his current apartment, “the kitchen counter was crawling with roaches.”

The same code limits the right of landlord access: “The landlord may enter only at reasonable times except in case of an emergency. An entry between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. or at any other time expressly requested by the tenant shall be presumed reasonable.”

Clapp, however, recalled that in her last K&G apartment she was woken at 7 a.m. by workers knocking on her back door. “They came to redo the windows in the apartment,” she said. “They didn’t give notice of anything.”

After third-year Adam Crager’s building was the subject of noise complaints, K&G permitted the neighbor in an unaffiliated building to access the structure by providing him with keys to the front and side gates, according to Crager.

“What is further alarming is that K&G did not notify us of giving our keys out to a stranger,” Crager said. “We found out from an anonymous, aggressive letter posted on the front door to our building.”

Some students do not choose to contact the company when problems arise. “I just put up,” said Clapp. “So I cannot claim that they are unwilling to fix them.” Others, like Birgé, after failing to elicit a response despite repeated calls, walk away with the impression that “K&G are gross, unscrupulous slumlords.”

Tcholakian falls into the latter group. One of her many outstanding complaints is a cracked front-door pane. “Not only dangerous in a burglary-related sense, but also because once the temperature hits freezing, the entire thing could shatter—possibly while someone was opening it,” she said. “I’ve asked them several times to fix it, to no avail.”

For some, the problems are eventually fixed, but only after an extended wait. When Ahmed wanted the graffiti left by previous tenants to be painted over in his former apartment, he called the company three times. “It took K&G over four weeks to actually get it done, although when I first told them about it, they said that they would get it done within a week,” he said.

Finally, there are those who simply avoid interaction, citing K&G’s reputation. “I never got around to calling K&G about these things because I’d heard how difficult they are to deal with,” Berger said.

When he finally decided to report the problems, workers came the next day to make the necessary repairs. Nonetheless, Berger admitted, “I’d be kind of nervous asking them to change the locks to comply with fire code.”

K&G declined to respond to tenants’ claims or offer their own.

Despite the myriad problems tenants have encountered in their K&G-managed buildings, they rarely file formal complaints or seek counsel. “I haven’t really had people calling with serious building-violation type of complaints,” said Mickey Conino at the South East Chicago Commission, adding that she does receive questions from students who don’t like their roommates and want to get out.