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.