M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Owners and Property Managers
FROM: Sanford Kahn, LLP
RE: Recent Developments
DATE: July 7, 2017
Since our last memorandum, there have been several developments in the area of landlord-tenant law and court procedures that should be brought to your attention, as well as some other issues of importance.
For all Chicago properties, there have been significant developments in the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. Most notably:
- The separate security deposit interest rate summary must be the Chicago-issued version of the summary, and the City of Chicago completely redesigned the summary for 2017. The current version of the security deposit interest rate summary is available on the City of Chicago’s website. Because using the incorrect summary can allow a tenant to unilaterally terminate the lease and even file a class action lawsuit against the landlord for thousands of dollars, it is important that landlords use the correct version of the summary in their leases and renewals.
- The City of Chicago also recently revised the general RLTO summary. To ensure you are using the correct version, you should obtain the most recent version from the City of Chicago’s website. The same penalties apply for the RLTO summary that apply for failing to use the correct security deposit interest rate summary: a tenant can unilaterally terminate the lease and sue the landlord. Accordingly, it is important for you to ensure that you are using the correct versions of both Chicago ordinance summaries.
SECURITY DEPOSIT INTEREST
- Outside of Chicago, the landlord does not need to pay interest on the tenant’s security deposit after the end of each 12-month rental period unless the interest equals $5.00 or more. Outside of Chicago, if the interest is less than $5.00 after the end of each 12-month rental period, the landlord must only pay interest to the tenant when the lease is ultimately terminated.
- In Chicago, however, the landlord must pay interest on the tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of the end of each 12-month rental period. While we recommend against taking any security deposit, if you do accept a security deposit, you must ensure that you strictly comply with § 5-12-080 of the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance to avoid significant financial liability.
SUCCESS IN DEFENDING AGAINST RLTO CASES FILED BY TENANTS
- We continue to have great success defending landlords against lawsuits filed by tenants under the RLTO. Our clients frequently bring us demand letters from tenants’ attorneys seeking various money damages under the RLTO. In most cases, we contact the tenant’s attorney and send a strongly written response showing why the tenant’s letter is flawed. In most cases, our clients do not have to pay the tenant any money as a result of our action. If you are given a letter by a tenant’s attorney, time is of the essence, and you should immediately contact us to discuss any potential liability and any duties you have moving forward. We generally obtain the best results for our clients when the client sends us the letter immediately upon receiving it.
- Please note that in Evanston, the Evanston Residential Landlord-Tenant Ordinance requires that a copy of the Ordinance be attached to every residential lease or lease renewal for property located within the City of Evanston.
- In Chicago, if a tenant demands a jury trial, the case is usually resolved within several months. In the past, the case could pend for a much longer time, but that situation has been remedied as additional judges have been assigned to conduct jury trials.
- Our attorneys regularly win contested motions, bench trials, and jury trials. Recently, in January 2017, we tried and won a 12-person jury trial where a trust sought to evict a problematic beneficiary of the trust from an apartment. In that case, based on our representation, the jury deliberated for only 15 minutes before returning a judgment in our client’s favor. Additionally, in April 2017, we tried and won a 6-person jury trial where the owner of a condominium unit sought to evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent. The tenant caused numerous problems at the property, which caused the condo association to fine the unit owner for the tenant’s bad behavior. At trial, we were able to secure an immediate judgment for possession in our client’s favor. While many eviction cases are not decided at a jury trial, it is important for our clients to have attorneys who are experienced in, and regularly win, jury trials.
As a reminder, in March 2014, the Illinois Appellate Court issued a ruling requiring all corporations to hire lawyers to represent them in administrative hearings held before the City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings. Since that ruling, our firm has successfully handled numerous building code violation matters, which are held at 400 West Superior and 2006 East 95th Street, by negotiating lower fines or avoiding liability altogether for our clients. Please contact our office if you have building code cases that require representation.
HUMAN RIGHT/DISCRIMINATION CASES
Recently, our firm has seen an influx of discrimination cases filed by tenants with the City of Chicago and with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Our firm routinely handles such matters and tirelessly works to ensure that the investigators receive the necessary documentation that they demand in a timely manner. While the majority of these cases are baseless, they nonetheless require a lot of attention and effort to appease the investigators at the Commission. We are happy to report that none of our clients have lost any cases before the Commission in the past year.
SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY
Currently, our most difficult issue is trying to reduce the time it takes the Sheriff of Cook County to perform an eviction after the Court has entered an order of possession against the tenant. The Sheriff’s office claims it is only six to eight weeks behind in performing residential evictions, whereas, in McHenry County, the Sheriff is performing evictions within fourteen days of the Court order and within twenty days in Lake County. I can only suggest that you may want to write to Sheriff Tom Dart and complain about his lack of efficient service, which unreasonably results in your loss of rents even after you have been granted possession of your property by the Courts.
In DuPage County, Judge Diamond continues to set shorter trial dates, usually less than one week from the original court date; thereby expediting forcible cases. We have had much success representing our clients on trial in DuPage County. Please note the Judge in DuPage is very conscious of the military and property manager affidavits presented to him in court, so please make sure your office provides our office with these forms prior to court.
Beginning this year, the judge in Kane County, Thomas Stanfa, reduced his court call to only thirty cases per day for three days a week. Because his call includes both eviction and non-eviction cases, this caused a massive delay in the time between when a case was filed and when it was initially heard. Our office spoke with the judge and got him to agree to increase the number of cases per day to seventy-five (75). You may continue to see a slight delay when the initial court date is set until the backlog is cleared out.
Our firm continues to enjoy great success with cases filed in the suburban Cook County courthouses. As the judges frequently fluctuate, our office both educates and adapts to each new judge to best serve our clients. Our weekly court calls in Maywood, Markham, Bridgeview, Skokie and Rolling Meadows continue to expand. Additionally, while more and more tenant attorneys broaden their practice to include suburban court calls in the last year, our office maintained a concise course of action to avoid typical delay tactics. This has brought a reduction in jury demands filed by tenants, thereby reducing the expense and time associated with evictions for represented tenants.
We currently have seven attorneys representing our clients in six municipal districts and seven counties, as well as four secretaries and one law clerk (who spends much of her time cajoling the Sheriff to schedule your evictions).
As always, we appreciate your continued business, and if you have any questions or problems, or if you need additional assistance, always feel free to contact us.