Eviction Court, Part IV: “You tell ‘em, King Judge!”

Read "Eviction Court, Part III: She’ll tell you they’re selling drugs in her apartment, Your Honor!”

I entered another courtroom where I watched one judge read the Riot Act to a tenant’s attorney for how a case was handled. By law, the lawyer had thirty days after a previous court appearance to file a motion on behalf of the tenant. The lawyer waited until the twenty-sixth day to file.

The judge reminded the lawyer that the thirty-day filing window was designed more for the benefit of a self-represented tenant unfamiliar with the legal process—not an experienced attorney. The judge also asked; if the place to file the paperwork was another office inside the same building, what was the reason the lawyer did not file immediately after the previous court date?

The lawyer shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot and silently stared at the judge like a deer in headlights. She could offer no reason at all.

Even though the procedure was technically not done incorrectly, the judge spent ten minutes scolding the lawyer for drawing out the case unnecessarily. Essentially, the judge was saying that she was inconveniencing the landlord and benefiting her client by delaying the resolution of the case.

“Your colleagues from your office keep doing that,” the judge said. “I've talked to you guys about this before.  You need to go back and tell them to stop sending attorneys in my courtroom with that nonsense.” The unspoken point the judge seemed to be making was that these types of habits were likely intentional.

YoBlog cheerleader 4u tell ‘em, King Judge!” I thought to myself. “Three points for judicial fairness for landlords!” I silently snickered at the lawyer--the way you laugh at a little brother who tried to get you in trouble but got himself in trouble instead.

In another courtroom, a landlord was suing to evict an occupant not named on the lease. The individual living in the unit was a relative of the absent tenant (it was unclear if the actual leaseholder was deceased or in a nursing home.) The defendant said that the family had occupied the space for forty years and was asking for time to pack a few decades of accumulated items. On the surface, this was a reasonable request. But the occupant, who had remained for several rent-free months already, wanted to continue to stay in the unit without having to pay rent.

“You need to be out by the end of the month,” the judge said after hearing the details. This gave the defendant a little more than three weeks to make other arrangements.

“I need more time, Your Honor,” the unauthorized occupant said.

The judge asked, “How much more time?”

“Ninety days at least,” she offered.

“Ninety days without paying rent?!” the judge exclaimed. “You’re not getting more time. [The landlord] has a building to run.”

“I can’t pay by then,” she explained, trying to draw on the judge’s sympathies. “I need time to get the money to move.”

The judge reminded the defendant that the other option was, by law, she could receive less time to move. “Look, you have two options: You can have three weeks or you can have one week. And the landlord is being generous by giving you that. That’s all I can do for you.”

Boom! Final score: Landlord, 3 pts. Freeloader, 0.

Landlords are not in the business of running social service agencies. And unfortunately, many residents will take a legitimately challenging life circumstance and manipulate the outcome to an unfair and unreasonable extent. When left unchecked, actions taken by the tenant can then create challenging life circumstances for the landlord who, let’s not forget, is human, too.

My visit to eviction court was a formative experience for me on my road to becoming a more successful property owner and manager. The only drawback is that it took me fifteen years worth of fear, procrastination, and bad experiences before I finally got up the nerve to do something good for me. And it was a surprisingly pleasant and eye-opening experience.
My advice to you is to take just two hours to address any fear you might have holding you back from being better at something you care about--whether that’s being a landlord, a business owner, an artist or a parent. You, like me, will be so glad you did. Cheers!

The End

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Tip for Landlords:  You might consider adding the question "Have you ever been evicted?" to your application for prospective tenants. No matter if the applicant checks "yes" or "no," view the link below to verify.  If they have had an eviction and they answered truthfully it might not be a deal breaker. The applicant might have a valid explanation. If they have had an eviction and they were dishonest that's a huge red flag for the type of behavior you can expect if you give them possession of your valuable unit. Check out Atty Richard Magnone's ChicagoEviction.com: A Blog for Landlord's article "Just one simple check of Cook County eviction court records could save landlords money"

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