Just one simple check of Cook County eviction court records could save landlords money

tscreenI received a great email from a person I spoke to about a landlord tenant issue just a bit ago.  We did not come to an engagement on the case, but this landlord wanted to update me about the eviction situation.  The landlord suggested I pass along one simple tip to my readers and so I’m going to do that.

While I have written here and there about tenant screening, here is a great and simple tip.  While I usually advise my landlords to obtain a full application from perspective tenants that includes full background information, references, work history, rental history, and a credit report, criminal background check, and prior eviction check, there is one quick and simple check landlords can do that can save them time and money.  A simple search of the Cook County Circuit Court’s Electronic Docket Search will yield potentially useful information to a landlord.

While I would never suggest that this do-it-yourself method should be employed as the sole check on a tenant, taking the time to see if a tenant has been evicted in the past can be a time and money saver.  The search is, of course, limited to Cook County public records, so it is not as complete as a full prior eviction search through a tenant screening information service.  That said, I have had plenty of clients who have found this resource once it was too late – ie. after the tenant was in possession of the rental property!

Here’s what the website will look like:

dbrownA landlord can set the Division Name to “Civil” and can then type in the prospective tenant’s last name into the search box and select “defendant”.  A search will yield a list of cases if there are any “matches” with the last name. Clicking on a case will bring up a bunch of information.

If there is a “hit”, the case will say that it is a SINGLE ACTION or a JOINT ACTION.  That’s an eviction case!  It looks like this (names redacted):

screenWhile a prior eviction might not be the sole determining factor in deciding whether or not to accept a tenant, it is certainly a significant factor.  I know for a fact that there are “professional” tenants out there who have five or six evictions in their past.  Avoiding them is a good idea and checking on prior evictions is one quick way to do that.

Don’t substitute this “quick and dirty” screening method for a full and complete screening plan and process.  This should just be one tool in the toolbox.

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4 Responses to Just one simple check of Cook County eviction court records could save landlords money

  1. mary says:

    thank you!!!!!!!! this information helped me out so much

  2. Pingback: Eviction Court, Part IV: “You tell ‘em, King Judge!” | The Urban Landlady

  3. Deb Zajac says:

    I find it interesting that I did this a few months ago after issues with tenant- used to clerk long ago- and found several evictions for the tenant In rental house. I find the general internet search yields lots of information on a possible tenant. He is a horror of a tenant. Damage, vandalism, stole refrigerator, took outside door off, and we are still waiting for sheriff to execute possession order so we can change locks and see if washer dryer is there.
    Landlord brother hired a realtor to find a tenant and manage his property. Why is it that these did not show up on her credit search stuff, but I found 4-5 evictions for tenant on docket search, researched internet and found several outstanding warrant arrests for theft and other things. All public records. Are those paid search companies not worth much?
    Did Rep. Davis’ proposed eviction code amendment Section 5- section 9-122 ever pass? To hire a third party to execute order of possession instead of sheriff so we could get possession soon?
    Is there a rule that the sheriff must wait 30 days from end of stay date after judgement for possession? I can’t find mention of it anywhere and sheriff tells me this is in a statute somewhere.
    Also, your blog is very informative, thank you.

    • Richard Magnone says:

      Evictions do not show up on a credit report because credit reports contain information reported to the credit bureaus by their members. If a landlord is a member of a credit reporting bureau and follows the laws, rules, and procedures, the landlord can report the transaction and debt to a credit reporting bureau. Most landlords do not want to spend the money nor follow the rules to correctly report a debt to a credit reporting bureau. As such, a landlord needs to obtain a past eviction search in ADDITION to a credit report to have a more complete picture of things.

      In addition, Rep. Davis’ proposed amendment (to allow private eviction services) did not pass. Also, the Sheriff may enforce an eviction order as soon as the stay period expires. The stay period is determined by the court. Once the stay period expires, the landlord “gets in line” and waits with the other landlords until the Sheriff is able to perform the eviction.

      Remember, this is general information and is not legal advice and I have not been engaged at this time to represent you.