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posted: 1/24/2010 12:01 AM

Process to evict nonpaying tenant can be delayed by missteps

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Q. I rented my condominium to a guy about two and a half years ago. I never had a problem with him. Six months ago, he signed a lease for another year. Two months into the new lease, the rent check was paid by someone else.

I never received December rent and tried calling the tenant. I never got a response. I tried going over to the unit but no one would ever answer the door. I did not get January rent either, but a few days into January, my old tenant called, apologized for the late rent and said he would send it soon. I never got the check and again went to the unit. This time someone answered the door and said he was now living there. I asked him about the rent and he said my old tenant was supposed to take care of that.

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What do I do now?

A. Start by serving a five-day notice both on the original tenant and current tenant. If you do not know the location of the original tenant, send the notice certified mail to the address of the unit (his last known address), addressed to the original tenant. Also, post the five-day notice on the door of the unit; however, it is likely you will not be able to recover money if the only evidence you have of service is the posting.

Once you serve the notices, attempt to contact the original tenant and work something out. Indicate to him he is responsible under the lease for the unpaid rent. If he will cooperate with you in removing the existing tenant, you will negotiate the amount due you. Remind him that every month the current tenant does not pay rent adds to the potential judgment against him. In the event the lease contains a provision for attorneys fees, point that out as additional financial exposure to the original tenant.

Once your notices are properly served, you can file a forcible entry and detainer action in the county where the property is located. It is advisable to seek the assistance of a qualified attorney, as any misstep along the way can cost you weeks or months in removing the current tenant.

Q. My husband and I closed on our first home about a month ago. We hired a home inspector to inspect the house. He found a number of things that the seller agreed to fix.

We have now discovered the laundry tub in the basement drains into our sump pit, which is illegal. We have received a quote from a plumber for $800 to correct the problem.

We think this should have been discovered by the inspector. We have called him and his company a couple times but no one has returned our calls. Do you think the inspector should be responsible for this and, if so, what can we do to get him to pay to fix the problem?

A. I would start by reading your contract with the inspector. Most inspection contracts contain language limiting their liability.

Regardless of the contract limitations, it seems to me this is something that should have been discovered by the inspector, unless the plumbing was hidden by walls or immovable objects. I would write the company, describe your issue and request compensation for the mistake. If they do not respond and they are a member of ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), lodge a complaint with that association. Perhaps it would exert some pressure on its member.

Absent relief from one of the above, I would suggest filing a pro se lawsuit in the county where the property is located. Pro se lawsuits are quick, easy and relatively cheap. You can tell your story to a judge and let him or her decide your fate.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine IL 60067, by e-mail to tdr100@hotmail.com, or call (847) 359-8983.

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