There are many house-flipping shows out there, and most of them have never stopped surprising us with the creativity, hard work, and care for details that designers and contractors put into every restoration. While the famous Chicago-based “Windy City Rehab” is one of those shows which didn’t cease to amaze us in every episode, the more surprising and serious issues behind the show were the ones to take the major spotlight.
A court case, illegal permits, house issues, complaints, and problems between the cast members are only a few of the many problems which came out of “Windy City Rehab”, effectively changing the course of the show and its stars forever.
So what really did happen with “Windy City Rehab”? Stay here to know all about it!
Why Did He Sue The Show?
It hasn’t been a peaceful ride for “Windy City Rehab”, because of all the legal problems the show has been involved in for a while, including a lawsuit filed by the show’s former host Donovan Eckhardt.
News of Donovan’s legal action against the show was first revealed in January 2021, when he sued “Windy City Rehab”s and Discovery for defamation, stating that claims against him and his reputation made in the show affected his business and his emotional well-being. The $2.2 million lawsuit wasn’t directed at Donovan’s former co-host Alison Victoria, yet it claimed that she had acted as a victim and put the blame all on him when the pair’s professional downfall was featured in the show during the second season “Windy City Rehab”.
The lawsuit was first dismissed by an Illinois court, considering it was under California’s jurisdiction, but Donovan’s case wasn’t met with any more enthusiasm by other judges. As reported by Deadline, some of Donovan’s claims about fictionalized aspects of the show were proven reasonable in court, but his accusations against the production company and network for allegedly creating a villain narrative against him were dismissed once again.
In the end, the case was left to be forgotten in March 2021, but it made evident how bad the professional split between Donovan and the show was.
Previous Legal Issues
Though the lawsuit filed by Donovan Eckhardt didn’t go far, such a serious matter was the expected result of several other issues and personal crashes faced by him and his former co-host Alison Victoria.
It all started in May 2019, when Alison and Donovan’s work permits were suspended by Chicago’s Department of Building, after finding the pair at fault for several violations of local regulations, such as working without proper permits on 11 properties, lying on their applications, not complying with safety codes, hiring unlicensed people for their projects and several more. The work suspensions for the pair and Donovan’s company Greymark Development Group were ultimately lifted in November of that year, but they were unable to file new applications for the time being.
That wasn’t the end of “Windy City Rehab” problems though, as in January 2020, the show and its host were sued for fraud by an Illinois couple who had their Lincoln Square house featured in the first season. As appeared in court documents, the $1.36 million house renovated and sold by Alison and Donovan had several problems, including water leaks, and floor and roof issues.
Another lawsuit came in April 2020, this time from another couple featured in the show, who also complained about the work done by Alison and Donovan in their house, claiming the repairs needed to fix the house amounted to over $100,000. This case was fortunately settled months later, but more problems followed afterwards.
More Lawsuits & Problems
While having their work permits stalled by the government, and facing two lawsuits at the same time was something no one would want for themselves, that was just the start of problems for Alison Victoria and Donovan Eckhardt.
The lawsuit for faulty work at a Lincoln Square house filed in early 2020 was accompanied by another lawsuit from a subcontractor, who claimed they were owed over $108,000 from the same project. As if that wasn’t enough, in October 2020, the plaintiffs in said house’s case also temporarily stopped Victoria from selling her $2 million house.
Also in June 2020, a man named Michael Ward Jr. and his family sued Donovan and Alison for fraud, alleging the pair had failed to manage their projects, and had deliberately misappropriated $3 million in loans for their projects.
As reported by The Real Deal, the money invested by the Wards in seven of Donovan and Alison’s projects came from the family’s sold stake in another company but failed to have any positive results when put in the hands of the “Windy City Rehab”s hosts, leading them to ask for $2 million in damages. As well, Ward argued that Alison’s claims of not knowing about Donovan’s usage of their joint accounts were false. At the same time, Alison sued a public notary for forgery for allegedly using her signature on loan documents related to Ward’s lawsuit.
As a result of the numerous legal problems faced by Alison and Donovan, the professional relationship and friendship they had until then definitely ended. Their falling out was featured in “Windy City Rehab”s second season, which aired in late 2020 and showcased the tense moments between both hosts, their arguments over their projects’ finances, and their ultimate professional split.
Photos: Wicker Park home restored by HGTV’s “Windy City Rehab” team: $2,300,000 https://t.co/0HUC42v2dy pic.twitter.com/RokTxAMror
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) March 31, 2019
Though a lot about the issues going on with the pair was already known at the time through press coverage, the show’s second season let the audience see some of the less-seen aspects of Donovan and Alison’s fall out, such as the time they were denied a bank loan, the theft of materials stored in one of their house projects, and Alison’s realization that Donovan had allegedly been managing the business without her knowledge.
As Alison said in front of TV cameras, she lamented letting her former-business partner take charge of budgets and all financial aspects of their joint projects. Her claims of not knowing what her former co-host did weren’t taken lightly by Donovan, and resulted in the $2.2 lawsuit he filed against the show in 2021, a year after his firing from the show in late 2019.
What Happened To The Houses & Other Cases?
It was a long ride for Alison, Donovan, and “Windy City Rehab”, but in the end, all the legal issues faced by them were solved. The $3 million lawsuit against the pair was settled in mid-2021, and the same happened to both lawsuits for faulty work.
As well, in July 2020 Alison dropped the fraud lawsuit against the public notary from Chicago, after both parties agreed that said notary was legally restrained from signing or meddling in any agreements involving Alison for at least five years from then. Furthermore, in July 2021 Alison and Donovan were sued once again, but this time it came from lenders who claimed they were behind thousands of dollars in payments for loans they had asked for projects featured in “Windy City Rehab”.
While it’s unclear what the resolution of this later case was, Alison’s lawyer told The Real Deal that the lawsuit was one of the long-coming problems resulting from her failed business relationship with Donovan.
Regarding the fate of the houses featured in the first two seasons of the show, in mid-2021, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that all 16 of them had been sold at the time, though some deals were done for considerably less than expected; it’s unclear if the drop in prices was caused by the legal controversies surrounding the show or for different reasons.
What Happened To Donovan & The Show?
Once his lawsuit against the production behind “Windy City Rehab” and Discovery was dismissed, Donovan Eckhardt moved forward, and is now focused on other projects. While his company Greymark Development Group appears as temporarily closed these days, on his Instagram account, Donovan has shown he’s been working on other house-flipping projects with the Arlington Heights-based company Vail Development, in Illinois.
It’s unclear if Donovan has plans of moving back to Chicago, but seeing all the professional and legal projects he faced in the city, that seems an unlikely possibility.
That being said, all the controversy surrounding “Windy City Rehab” didn’t mean the end of the show. After Donovan’s termination from it, two further seasons starring Alison Victoria alone have aired on HGTV. The most recent season premiered in early 2023 was described as a ‘fresh start’ by Alison during an interview with People, in which she also admitted that she and Donovan were completely over, and no longer kept in contact.
All in all, after so many issues, lawsuits, and seeing their projects and reputation fall out overnight, Alison and Donovan have already moved forward and apparently left those terrible times behind.