As a Landlord, I can find myself losing sleep at night when one of my tenants has gone “bad”. By going “bad”, I mean that they have stopped paying their rent, stopped communicating with me, and are no longer flexible to any type of a win/win scenario. A tenant can go bad for a number of reasons that can be either within or outside of our control. We have a multitude of experience dealing with “bad” tenants here in Chicago; these are tenants that we have inherited either from an occupied building we purchased or as property management we have taken over from another firm. By screening the tenant ourselves and controlling the process from the start, I believe that we are greatly reducing the risk of running into one of these problem tenants.
Unfortunately, once a tenant has gone “bad”, there is not an overnight fix to the problem. The financial and emotional pain that this can cause the Landlord can stretch out over many, many months. In Chicago, or Cook County, when a tenant stops paying, we try our best to avoid using the court system because there are many hurdles to overcome while trying to utilize the legal system here. When the offer for Cash For Keys or a move out negotiation tactic fails, we are left to file for eviction as a last case scenario.
Getting a tenant out through an eviction process in Chicago is possible, but it can be timely and there are many hurdles to overcome. Below are the seven hurdles to evicting a non-paying tenant here in Chicago or Cook County.
Serving the 5 Day Notice - To ensure you have the best chance of winning your case, you are required to make sure you hand deliver the 5 day notice (compared to 3 day notice in most states). Tenants are knowledgeable as to their rights, and we find that when they are aware that they are being given notice, they do not open the door. You can wait for the tenant to finally leave the home or you can hire a process server for $75-$100. The process server will trace their whereabouts to hand deliver the notice to them when it is appropriate.
Cost To File For Eviction - The US average for court filing of an eviction is around $50.00 and in Cook County the cost is $287-$500 depending on how many tenants are residing in the property. This isn't so much a hurdle but of the true expense of doing business.
Serving The Lawsuit - Once filed, the tenant must be served with the lawsuit. In Cook County the Sheriff must take the first pass at serving the lawsuit. If the sheriff is unsuccessful, the judge at the first court date, upon request, will allow the Landlord to hire a process server again for another $75-$100. This process can take up to an additional two weeks of time. We find the Sheriff has about a 40% chance of successfully serving the tenant, which is due mainly to local sheriff agencies being understaffed and overworked as well as Tenants successfully avoiding the local sheriff.
Tenant’s Rights - Even when you get to court with the tenant after they have been properly served, the tenant can ask for a continuance or request a jury trial. If they don't show up to court, the tenant has 7 days to file a request for extension bringing the case back to court in another 2-3 weeks. The options available to the tenant can add weeks, if not months, onto the process.
Getting Possession - If the process does go smoothly and the judge grants possession to the Landlord, there is more time added here. Once the process is past all the hurdles thus far, the judge will see the tenant is not following the lease and grant the Landlord possession at some point in the next 14-30 days.
Time For Sheriff To Show Up - Following the 14-30 days, the likelihood that the tenant will leave is slim. This forces the Landlord to file paperwork, for an additional fee of $60.50, with the sheriff to request the sheriff come out to remove the tenant from the home. The act of filing the fee is not the hurdle but the undefined timeframe for the sheriff to actually come out is where the hurdle really comes in. The sheriff can take anywhere from 60 days to 4 months to come and evict the tenant.
Sheriff Showing Up Day Of Eviction - Once you waited 2-4 months for the sheriff to come out, you will receive a phone call from the sheriff the day before.It will be you, as the Landlord, to make sure you this final step is completed. The day of the actual eviction there are many things that can go wrong causing you to have to start back over with the sheriff.
Real estate investors are business owners so there is going to be risk stemming from obstacles like this. Many landlords do not view themselves as business owners, especially when you may have a W2 income that is your primary income. The day you set out to buy a property you are a business owner, your property is your product, and your tenant is your client.
As mentioned in the start of this article a lot of this risk can be reduced when you have a strong tenant screening system and when you are not inheriting tenants in one way or another. If you do not have a good screening system feel free to reach out to me anytime and I can share with you our screening best practice and some of the tips and approaches we practice to limit your risk as a landlord when it comes to a tenant that is not able to pay.
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