Woman with stage 4 breast cancer says landlord unfair

[Mary Ellen Hintz, photo by Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune]

The Trib has shrunk physically--the pages became narrower some years ago--and it's much less hefty--what's so ingloriously called the news hole has shrunk down down down--but it is delivering cancer news two days in a row. Front page: A woman with stage 4 breast cancer was told she couldn't sign her lease herself. She had to have a co-signer or give her son power of attorney and let him do it. Or she could rent month to month. Her landlord said that there were staff reports she wasn't lucid, and he had a copy of a note from her doctor to her attorney saying she couldn't drive to contest a DUI charge because she's on narcotics. The DUI, she says, came from driving while using sleeping pills. Her landlord concluded that she couldn't understand the terms of the lease because of her medications.

The woman also admits that she pays the rent on the third week of the month, as per an agreement; two summer rent checks bounced but she now pays by mail order. Oh yeah, she also complained when her air conditioning broke down during the 90-plus degree days we had here.

The landlord raised her rent by more than $62.

What would you say? Was the landlord within his rights? Was he discriminating against her because she was obviously undergoing chemo and in late-stage cancer? Was he scared of having a cancer patient on his property? Was he, deep down, beyond monetary concerns, terrified she would die in her apartment? And if you're afraid, can you act accordingly? What were her legal rights?

The Tribune got the woman and landlord together and they agreed to a one-year lease with a rent hike of $62, which was smaller than his earlier stated hike. We're not told how much smaller. She signed in the presence of a witness who said she was of sound mind.

In this case, the newspaper came to the rescue. For everyone else, there's a national organization that provides legal help for people with cancer who have problems with insurance, jobs and housing. It's the Cancer Legal Resource Center, 866-THE-CIRC or 866-843-2572.