I think we all know by now that “reality” television is anything but. It’s overwrought and overly dependent on drummed-up controversy. In the case of “Windy City Rehab,” it’s when the cameras stop that we see true controversy.
The show began as a one-off pilot in mid-2017 before its first series began in January 2019. It stars Allison Victoria of Kitchen Crashers’ fame. As is typical of the “brains and brawn” formula, Windy City Rehab’s first season co-star was contractor Donovan Eckhardt. Season two is scheduled for 2020.
The problems began surfacing in March 2019 as season one drew to a close. Aggressive timetables were the suspected cause of work beginning on-site before 8 a.m. Multiple calls by neighbors about the worksite’s overall disarray kicked off the show’s first meetings with Chicago’s Department of Buildings.
It also seems that while episodes show renovated homes show being sold, at least some of the supposed buyers were actors. One neighbor was quoted in a local television report, “There’s nobody in it. There’s a port-o-potty in the back. The garage is not completed. The backyard is all debris. There’s debris out here and the Dumpster is still sitting here.” One show property was tagged with two stop-work orders.
Season one claimed that seven of the 11 homes had sold, but a check of the listings in March 2019 (after the first series had ended) revealed only four had closed. One of those that hadn’t closed was a $2.2 million conversion on North Janssen Avenue home into four apartments they claimed had been rented. But the local MLS reported in March 2019 that three of the four had been unrented for over four months even after hundreds in rent drops.
One property on North Hoyne was hyped in the episode as having been fitted with super expensive doorknobs on the (ghastly) front door – to the tune of $2,000. When the cameras stopped, they were removed.
In a prescient moment, a March 2019 story notes the home on West Giddings Street (episode 6, aired January 29, 2019) remained unfinished long after the cameras stopped and had only closed in early March 2019 (after being listed for a year). The buyer’s mother claimed the show spent more than planned and tried to up the price to the sellers. The Morrissey’s, both lawyers (insert foreboding music), refused.
In July 2019, Chicago’s Department of Building halted both Allison Victoria and Donovan Eckhardt ability to file new building permits and posted stop-work orders on four properties that might feature in season two. In addition, the city was evaluating suspending Eckhardt’s developer and general contractor’s licenses for a year based on unpermitted work on 11 properties, all subsequently red-tagged. The city’s reasoning was that his operation had demonstrated “a pattern of unsafe work and building code violations at multiple properties,” and after three meetings in March and April.
Side note: This is something Dallas should take note of. Chicago has the ability to suspend licenses for individuals. This precludes bad builders from starting up again with a new business name. It’s legislation aimed at stopping “bad actors” from harming consumers.
Later in July 2019 it was announced that the show would be replacing Donovan Eckhardt in season two to ingratiate the show to the city. The city also made a determination to suspend Donovan Eckhardt’s contractor’s license for 45 days (instead of a year) and uphold the stoppage of both Alison Victoria and Eckhardt’s permitting privileges.
Bad News Continues Into 2020
Remember those lawyer-buyers the Morrissey’s? They filed suit December 30, 2019, alleging breach of contract, breach of warranty, defective and shoddy work, and consumer fraud. They want their home sale reversed and $80,000 reimbursed for “upgrades and landscaping” the couple paid for plus the usual pain and suffering.
After the very long closing, while the home was being finished off-camera, the couple moved in. The next day an upstairs shower leaked “gallons” of water into the kitchen below. There was a never-installed new roof that leaked, improperly installed windows and masonry that resulted in more leaking.
The lawsuit shows a text exchange between the buyers and Alison Victoria where she writes of former co-star Donovan Eckhardt, “If I have to cover his portion I will. I do not want him to f— with my life or business any more than he already has.” Eckhardt had bounced a check on the buyers.
Shortly after the suit was filed, Alison Victoria sought to have the lawsuit dismissed because their contract called for mediation before a suit could be filed. But at the same time said through her attorney she’d be “interested in buying the house back” and living in it herself.
One outlet puts the season two debut in April 2020 – just in time for the lawsuit to hit the courts on April 28.
Co-star Eckhardt has his own lawsuits to deal with. The same day the Morrissey’s filed their suit, a subcontractor sued Eckhardt’s Greymark Development Group claiming $108,500 in unpaid bills on a different property. That suit gets its first hearing on March 3.
Then on February 21scame reports of Alison Victoria claiming a notary public forged her name on a “large number” of financial documents – including loan documents, lien waivers, and operating agreements.
Not to slow this freight train, on February 26 it was reported that a property owned by Eckhardt and real estate broker William Fisher was being foreclosed on after missing payments in October. Once season two gets going we’ll find out if 2147 W. Moffat is one of its featured renovations. If it is, it’s taken its time. The home was purchased by Eckhardt and Williams’ LLC back in September 2017.
HGTV claims the first season of “Windy City Rehab” was one of its most popular programs. It received its second season green-light midway through the first season’s airing. Is it me or is there an even better show to be had following the wreckage once the cameras stop filming? That would be actual reality TV.