Saturday, October 24, 2015

Why You Need an Eviction Defense Lawyer in Chicago

Sometimes people think they can go it alone in Chicago's eviction courts.  Sometimes they can.  But here's a real world example of a tenant with a great defense who got steamrolled.  

I was waiting for my client's eviction case to be called at the Daley Center.  The case before mine involved the alleged non-payment of rent.   The landlord had a lawyer and the tenant represented herself.  

Under Illinois law, before a landlord can file his eviction lawsuit for unpaid rent, he must give the tenant a 5-Day Notice stating how much rent is past due and giving the tenant 5 full days to pay and keep the apartment.  Only after those 5 days pass with no payment by the tenant does the landlord get the right to go to court.  Illinois law also says that if the tenant tries to make a full payment within the 5 days, the landlord must accept it.  If he refuses the payment and files the eviction anyway because he, "just wants them out," the case should be dismissed and the tenant gets to keep the apartment.  Well, that's how it's supposed to work anyway. 

In the case I watched, the tenant testified that she got the 5-Day Notice and went to pay the landlord the next day.  She told the judge that she had all the money but the landlord refused to accept it saying that he said he just wanted her out.  The landlord did not deny, dispute, or even try to explain this when the judge turned to him.  Instead of throwing the case out, the Judge looked at the tenant and said, "How soon can you be out?  I'm entering an [eviction order] today that gives you 2 weeks to move plus a money judgment for the rent." 

Now the tenant, who should have won her case and kept her apartment, has to move right before the holiday season.  And she also has a judgment on her credit report that will stay on there for 7 years.  Even worse, the judgment could be collected on for up to 27 years.        

Friday, October 2, 2015

I Just Missed My Eviction Court Date in Cook County. Is it too late?

No.  It's not too late.  Chicago tenants miss their court date at the Daley Center for all sorts of understandable reasons. There may be slow trains, missed buses, no babysitter, or the dates just got mixed up.  If the tenant is served with the summons and complaint but misses the court date, the Judge will usually enter an Order for Possession (the eviction order).  The eviction order will usually include a money judgment against the tenant for the back rent and give the tenant only 7 days to move out before the landlord can have the Cook County Sheriff throw the tenant out.

How to fix it.  This is not the end of the world.  The tenant must move to vacate (basically, rescind) the eviction order.  The tenant has to act fast. He only has 30 calendar days to submit a written motion to the Court asking it to vacate the eviction order.  So long as the Motion to Vacate is filed within 30 calendar days, it should granted.  The tenant must be careful:  if the Motion to Vacate is filed at the last minute, say, on the 30th day, some judges might see this as "gaming the system" and refuse to grant the tenant's Motion.  But generally the result is that the eviction order will be vacated and the tenant will then have the right to defend his case.           

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How Soon Can I Get Evicted in Chicago?

Pretty fast.  The eviction timeline is considered "expedited" in Chicago.  

When a landlord files for eviction, the court automatically schedules a trial date for two weeks later.  

If the Sheriff serves the tenant with the summons and complaint, the trial will usually be held on the first court date.  

If the landlord wins the trial (and they generally do), an Eviction Order will generally be entered that states the tenant must vacate the apartment within 1 to 2 weeks.   

If the tenant fails to vacate, the landlord can take the order to the Cook County Sheriff.  

The Sheriff will then send deputies out to the property to remove the tenants from the apartment and supervise the changing of the locks.  It's too late to move then.  

Don't let this happen to you.  Work with an experienced lawyer to help you get reasonable time to save money and move, negotiate the back rent, and make sure your rights and defenses are respected.  You may even get moving money depending upon who is evicting you.  Your legal dollars are limited:  make them count!     

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Do I Need a Lawyer to Defend My Chicago Eviction?

People often ask if they need an attorney to represent them in a Chicago eviction case. Probably. If the tenant is a corporation or other formal business entity, it must have an attorney represent it.  

But for everybody else, it's always good to have an attorney. Of course, if money is tight, the tenant might not want to hire a lawyer just because it "wouldn't hurt."  So, here are a few examples of when hiring an attorney can be very helpful and a good use of legal dollars. 

1.  When the landlord has an attorney.  "Never bring a knife to a gunfight." Landlord lawyers usually try to work out deals with tenants before court starts. This means the judge never decides the case. Some of these deals are fair but many are awful compared to what might have happened if the judge made a decision instead. The problem is tenants don't really know if they're being offered a good deal. That's where an experienced eviction lawyer can step in and negotiate a better deal or let the judge decide.  

2.  When the tenant has a defense to the eviction. Eviction defenses are very technical and any mistake by the tenant or the landlord can lead to an eviction or to the case being thrown out. Tenants need an experienced Chicago eviction attorney to spot these defenses and raise them properly.  

3.  Where the tenant needs more time to move.  Generally, a tenant will be given only 2 weeks to move out if he loses his trial. This may not be enough time to save money or move a family with someone elderly or handicapped. An experienced Chicago eviction lawyer can help the tenant obtain more time to put his affairs in order and move without the humiliation of being put out by the Sheriff.        

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back in 2007 or 2008, I was a guest on "Up Front" with the Reverend Jesse Jackson.  The topic of the show was the looming foreclosure crisis.  He suggested that a "Million Homeowner March," on Washington, D.C. was necessary.  I told him that was pointless because the real power wasn't in Washington; it was in New York City and other places far removed from the Mall.  I wish I had been wrong.  Virtually nothing was done to help millions of struggling homeowners.    

03-04-2008 Homeowner Angela Gray & Mike Van Zalingen, CLTV

Faces of Foreclosure, Michael van Zalingen, ABC7 Chicago

Friday, August 21, 2015

Will the Cook County Sheriff Evict in the Winter?

The Cook County eviction courts are busy places and people fall behind on their rent all year round.  Chicago has a long, cold winter and tenants sometimes think that the Cook County Sheriff will not evict them during the winter.  This is actually an urban legend.  

Here is when the Cook County Sheriff will not evict:  (1)  during the Christmas moratorium imposed by the Court every year from around December 18 to January 3;  (2)  when it is 15 degrees or colder on the day of your eviction; and (3) whenever extreme weather conditions endanger the health and welfare of those to be evicted.  Source - Cook County Amended General Order 2013-07.  

Over the last two winters we had a lot of days below 15 degrees and a huge Chicago eviction backlog piled up. I saw evictions take as long as 8 weeks to complete. 

According to the news, winter 2016-17 will have a mild La Nina in the Pacific Ocean.  That means we may be in for a cold, snowy winter.