Local writer continues crusade against Monique Davis as Eviction-Reform bill passes first hurdle

time2Columnist blasts suburban cops as he rails against legislator rather than recognizing systemic problems

Chicago Sun Times columnist Mark Brown does not get it.  Back in February, I wrote about a law proposed by state representative Monique Davis, allegedly inspired by the legislator’s distaste for the annual winter eviction moratorium, that would eliminate bad weather as a valid reason to delay evictions.  At the time, I indicated that I did not support the measure.  The proposed law sought to remove “weather conditions” as a factor in staying the enforcement of evictions.  I thought such a measure to be overly harsh but went on to suggest that the system is in dire need of reform.

I am pleased to report that since then, the bill, HB5395, has been significantly amended to change its language and has picked up a number of co-sponsors.  The big news on the eviction-law-reform front is that yesterday, the bill was recommended for adoption by the house judiciary committee.

Here is the amended text of the proposed law:

Sec. 9-122. Judgment for possession; enforcement.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in a municipality with a population
of 500,000 or more, the following apply:
(1) The number of motions a tenant may file to stay the enforcement of an
order for possession is limited to 2.
(2) The sheriff shall evict the tenant within 30 days from the date the
order for possession is entered by the judge if a motion for stay of enforcement
is not filed. If a motion for stay of enforcement of an order of possession
is filed and denied by the judge, the sheriff shall evict the tenant within 30
days of the denial. If a stay of the enforcement of an order of possession
is granted, the sheriff shall evict the tenant within 30 days from the date
when a stay of the enforcement of an order for possession ceases to be effective.
(3) If the sheriff does not evict the tenant within the time specified by paragraph (2)
of this Section, the plaintiff is authorized to utilize a third party, including, but not
limited to, the local police, to execute the order for possession.

So, basically, the proposed law says that in larger municipalities (like Chicago), a tenant can only file two motions to stay the enforcement of an eviction order (some tenants use multiple requests to stay the eviction just as a stall tactic) and the Sheriff is required to process and execute the eviction orders within 30 days after a stay that is granted expires or 30 days after the denial of a request for extension of a stay.  Finally, the law says that if the Sheriff cannot get the job done in time, the landlord can employ an “third party” like the local police to execute the order.

Sadly, columnist Brown decided that the actual “news” was Rep. Davis’ involvement with the law and the fact that a downstate representative had backed out of sponsoring the law.  In his Chicago Sun Times column yesterday, Brown criticized the amended legislation.  He recounted his own opposition to the law and recounted the events at the time writing that “I thought that [the law] was insensitive, and said so in a column in February, where I also pointed out Davis’ personal conflict and recounted the irony of her own well-documented history as a freeloading tenant.  I figured that would be the end of it, but Davis is nothing if not persistent. Some might say bull-headed.”

Way to go Mr. Brown.  You thought you had disposed of the issue?  Maybe if you took a deeper look at the problems and consequences of the current eviction system, you might be able to set aside your personal vendetta against Rep. Davis.

First, Mr. Brown argues that the law “in direct conflict with a long-standing winter moratorium on evictions in Cook County”.  I don’t read it that way.  Just because the 30 days have expired does not mean that the general order of the court prohibiting the enforcement of evictions in adverse weather conditions is nullified.  The moratorium stands separate and apart from the law and, in my opinion, would supersede the legislation.

Next, Mr. Brown goes on to rip local law enforcement posing the following query: “Can you imagine a bunch of rent-a-cops from some of these marginal suburban police departments being turned loose like auto repo men in the city of Chicago to evict families from their homes?” (emphasis added)  That’s painting with an awful broad brush, I think.  I doubt that local police want to get into the eviction game anyway, but to bash suburban law enforcement?  That doesn’t seem right.

Finally, Mr. Brown indicates that evictions are sensitive matters and the Cook County Sheriff’s extrajudicial (and, in my opinion, unauthorized) method of getting social services involved in evictions would be thwarted.  Mr. Brown says “In trying to carry out evictions humanely, the sheriff’s office goes so far as to use a social worker to contact the people being evicted to help them move and deal with complications that arise, such as a quadriplegic currently scheduled for eviction who has only partial use of one arm.”  So, we went out and found a worst-case-scenario example to illustrate the point that the sheriff needs to delay evictions involving certain defendants?

Let’s look at some facts.  The soonest an eviction in Cook County will be enforceable is three weeks after it is filed which is also one week after a landlord’s five day notice for nonpayment of rent is served (ie. one week for the notice, a two week court date, and one week stay of possession).  From there, based on Mr. Brown’s estimate, it will take the Sheriff eight weeks (maybe more for those cases where there is a person who needs social services help).  That’s twelve weeks.  That’s the soonest.  That’s almost three months without a dime of rent.  Apparently, Mr. Brown and many tenant’s advocates who believe housing is a “human right” don’t really care about the landlord falling into foreclosure during this time.  If a tenant hides from service or engages in baseless stalling of the case, the amount of time during which a landlord is left holding the bag can be staggering. Most of these landlords are just normal, everyday people.  The current system hurts them.

On a daily basis, landlords say things to me like “so I have no recourse?” or “I did not know that I had no rights”.  Unfortunately, they have rights, but they are rendered so ineffective that change is needed and it is needed now.  This law is a step in the right direction.  Who cares who sponsored it or why?  We need to discuss fixing the system.  The proposed measure is trying to do that.  To merely dismiss the concept because of its origin is so shortsighted that it is sickening.

The system is so very broken.  This law may not be perfect.  I am not an advocate of evicting people when weather conditions are dangerous.  I am, however, an advocate of prompt enforcement of evictions.  I don’t blame the Sheriff.  He has a huge number of evictions to perform.  I do think his desire to do them in what he deems is a humane fashion is inhumane to landlords and I also think that he does not have any legal authority to do what he does in those situations, but that is a different issue.  Reform is desperately needed.  Landlords, contact your representatives and urge them to make a smart and calculated reform of our eviction process.

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