YMCA tenants file suit alleging unfair eviction

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By MARTY STEMPNIAK

A class action lawsuit was filed against the West Cook YMCA last month, accusing it of various improprieties.

Attorney Berton Ring is representing one former and two current YMCA residents in the lawsuit.

He represents Kevin Scott and Edward Bolf (still tenants), along with former tenant Marvin Roach. The lawsuit contends the YMCA is engaging in "illegal conduct" in replacing and removing tenants from the building. Allegedly, they have failed to give proper notice of five days before evicting residents, Ring said.

They also allege the YMCA is overcharging residents because of how they divide the rent.

"That's one class where these people are ripped off," Ring said. "They're charging an excess amount of rent because of these deceptive calculations."

Late charges of $5 per day place an unfair burden on residents, the suit contends. The lawsuit has a total of three different classes.

The suit is seeking punitive damages, payment of Ring's legal fees, refunds of certain fees to past and present tenants, and stopping any unlawful eviction practices, Ring said.

Just with refunded security deposits for thousands of residents and attorney/court fees, Ring estimates a possible settlement could reach the millions. He added that his firm, Berton Ring PC attorneys at law, is working for free on this case, and it rejects 70 percent of the cases it considers.

"They treat us like we're kids and we're in some kind of summer camp or detox center," Bolf, 61, said, referring to strict rules for residents.

Reached over the weekend, Kevin Scott declined to comment without the presence of his attorney.

Scott Gaalaas, YMCA president and CEO, said the organization was yet to be served with the lawsuit as of last Wednesday. Thus, he declined to comment on specifics of the suit.

"It's not appropriate for us to make comments about those personal and private issues," he said.

Speaking in general terms, Gaalaas said the YMCA always warns tenants about evictions unless someone's behavior is "flagrant." The average tenant stays at the YMCA for about 6-12 months. That high turnover is because the building is intended as temporary housing.

Rent is due for residents every Friday by 9 p.m., and they must pay a fee if late. Rent is $110-$120 per week and those wanting to pay monthly rent must pay for every Friday in the month.

Gaalaas could not say for certain how the lawsuit would affect the YMCA's process of moving to Forest Park. "I don't think it's going to help anything. Who does this help?" he said.

The organization is currently raising money and working on getting zoning approval for its new Forest Park facility. YMCA hopes to raise close to $12 million and will make an announcement when they reach 50 percent. They're a year or two away from the new building being complete and within six months of moving, they'll make an announcement and help residents transition to a new home.

Architect Erroll Kirsch, part of the team hoping to redevelop the YMCA's Oak Park properties, said his group is validating its conceptual plans and processing the project through the village's system of approvals. Nothing has been submitted to the village yet, he said.

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