Cook County Sheriff eviction enforcement procedures can be confusing and difficult

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s distaste for the enforcement of possession orders is well documented when it comes to foreclosure-related evictions.  Whether intentional or not, the Sheriff’s office has instituted a number of policies that make life difficult for landlords seeking the enforcement of their eviction orders.  I have reported here that the smallest “scratch out” on an Order for Possession, unless accompanied by a judge’s initials, will result in the Sheriff’s refusal to enforce the eviction order.

As a general rule, to be sure of enforcement these days, an eviction order needs to be drawn in a clean and clear fashion.  Even the tiniest deviation from perfection can lead to an order being rejected.  When a landlord prevails in a forcible entry case in Cook County, the Plaintiff commonly drafts the “Order for Possession” to be presented for the judge’s signature.  The judge signs the document and the court retains the judge’s signed copy for the court file.  A number of copies of the order are provided to the Plaintiff and Defendant.  One copy is initialed and stamped by the Court Clerk as a “Duplicate Original”.  The Plaintiff has no control over where this stamp is placed.

Hopefully, for the landlord’s sake, the stamp does not interfere with or cover any part of the case number on the court order.  Although a landlord may present certified copies of such a  court order, the Sheriff can refuse that order.  If that happens, the landlord will have to appear again in front of the eviction judge – wasting more time in an already overburdened system – to obtain a new, “clean” court order that can be placed for eviction with the Sheriff.

I can’t say what the policy is behind the Sheriff’s refusal to enforce these kinds of orders.  I suspect that his office might suggest that they are just being thorough.  Of course, no one wants people wrongfully evicted – that’s why good landlords go to eviction court rather than using less legal methods.  The problem comes from the fact that the Sheriff’s rules are more about form than substance and are not well coordinated with the Circuit Court. This leads to inefficiency and a waste of time for the judges, attorneys, landlords, and landlords and allows an even greater delay for tenants who have been ordered out of a property.

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12 Responses to Cook County Sheriff eviction enforcement procedures can be confusing and difficult

  1. morrie says:

    How do you read the eviction schedule? For Chicago residents?
    Trying to get info for someone else.

    • Richard Magnone says:

      The schedule is read in conjunction with the Sheriff’s receipt number and district number. Without those, it cannot be read. You can speculate as to the reasons for this, but it is likely because the Sheriff does not want tenants to be “prepared” when they come or to be able to know when the Sheriff is coming so they can stay in the property up to the very last minute.

  2. Joe garcia says:

    Hi. Well got a order for posession for Feb,1,,but dont a havd as place till the end of feb,,,worried cause have a family of 6,,,would the sherriff come,,during those weeks,thank u .

    • Richard Magnone says:

      Joe, I can’t say when the Sheriff will come out. You don’t say where you live and, as you may know, we don’t represent tenants, so I can’t provide you with legal advice. I can speak generally and can say that the Sheriff’s schedule is sometimes a mystery. In the middle of 2011, it was taking 14-16 weeks for the Cook County Sheriff to come out. Just before Christmas, 2011, the Cook County Sheriff was getting out there in 2-3 weeks. Each Sheriff’s office’s internal procedure is different.

      If you need more time, you should consult with a tenant’s rights attorney right away to see if there is anything to be done about your situation.

  3. Ernie Norrman says:

    QUESTION FOR RICHARD MAGNONE (or anyone else):

    What obligation does a landlord have to safeguard an evicted person’s possessions, and to allow that person access to them? For what time frame? What is the procedure? California has very specific procedures and time frames. What does Cook County and the City of Chicago have? Thank you for your answer. Ernie

    • Richard Magnone says:

      Ernie, the best answer I can give is “I don’t know”. For years, the Cook County Sheriff’s procedure was to remove the tenant’s items of personal property to the curb. When that policy changed a few years ago, it left us with a bit of a procedural black hole. The Forcible Entry and Detainer statute does not specify any procedure for handling a tenant’s personal property. So, we cobble together bits of bailment law and property law and try to figure out a procedure. The best we know for sure is that the Sheriff suggests that landlords give tenants an opportunity to remove their possessions and I think that is a sound position.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    About 2 weeks ago we got a letter in the mail for us to go to court on april 26th but then a couple days ago we get a letter from the sheriffs department saying final notice eviction and it also said they could come in 24 hours from the date of the letter and its date was 3/28 and its been a week already. So my question is when do you think they will come cause we have nowhere to go.

    • Richard Magnone says:

      I can’t say when exactly they will come, but it is ABSOLUTELY likely that they will be there shortly. As you probably know, we don’t represent tenants in eviction situations. You are facing a serious matter and should consult with an eviction defense attorney >immediately< to preserve your rights and obtain advice on how to proceed.

  5. Tony C. says:

    How can I reverse a standing “order of possession”. The order was entered prior to a bankruptcy. As a result of said bankruptcy, my understanding is that the order of possession is unenforceable because the debt was prior to filling bankruptcy. The entire debt was discharged, including the debt that involves the order of possession. Now, the foreclosure atty. for the bank has gotten me dismissed from foreclosure mediation because of the residency aspect, claiming the order gives possession to the condo association therefore I am no longer a resident. How do I overturn this order?

    • Richard Magnone says:

      Tony, you need to consult with a tenant’s rights attorney or your bankruptcy attorney about this and the sooner, the better. We represent landlords and cannot assist with tenant related eviction matters.

  6. Christian J. Smythe says:

    I have a commercial tenant who walked out on his lease and owes 9 months of rent. I have a personal guaranty for rent. We filed for possession. Tenant’s attorney will not agree to possession unless we waive the right to sue on the guaranty. Tenant vacated, owes 9 months of back rent, we want possession. Tenant’s attorney keeps delaying. There does not seem to be and end in sight. Is my attorney not doing everything she can?

    • Richard Magnone says:

      Christian, since you are represented by an attorney, my best advice is to consult with that attorney.

      I will say that there is no “trick” to eviction law and there is no “easy” way to get an order for possession. A tenant may agree to the entry of an order for possession if you can reach an agreement, but no one can force a defendant into an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, then there is no way to proceed other than moving the legal process forward. That might mean going to trial or bringing a motion for summary judgment if the facts warrant it.