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updated: 12/18/2010 2:32 PM

Even with court order, evictions are not easy

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Q. We went to court to evict our tenants who were not paying the rent. The judge agreed with us and told the tenants they had to get out by Dec. 10. We went to the property on Dec. 11 and they are still there. We knocked on the door and they would not answer. What do we do now? Can we turn off the utilities? Can we change the locks?

A. Changing locks, turning off utilities, breaking knees or any other action taken in an attempt to force out the tenant is considered "self help" and is strictly prohibited in Illinois. In fact, you could subject yourselves to a lawsuit as a result of taking any of these types of actions.

How you proceed now depends on the county where the property is located. In Cook County, you have your Order of Possession certified at the clerk's office and then take the certified order plus $65 to the sheriff in the Daley Center. You will be notified one day before the day the sheriff appears at the property. You are required to physically move the tenant's possessions out and change the locks. The sheriff is there basically to ensure the peace.

If your judgment is in another county, contact the sheriff and ask how to proceed with the eviction.

Q. We filed an eviction lawsuit against our tenants. When we went to court, the judge ruled that the tenants had to leave and gave us a judgment for $2,450. The tenants have left but they did not pay the judgment. How can we collect the money they owe us.

A. There are numerous methods to collect a judgment, the extent of which is beyond the scope of this column. However, I will provide some direction on some of the more common ways to collect judgments.

The most common method is a wage garnishment. If one or both of your ex-tenants are employed, you complete some forms, file the forms with the clerk of the county where you obtained the judgment and then serve the employer through the sheriff. The employer is then required to answer the garnishment, indicating whether or not the judgment debtor is employed at that establishment and, if so, his earnings.

You are generally entitled to 15 percent of the judgment debtors earnings per pay period, though this is subject to numerous factors, such as current rate of pay and prior garnishments, including child support.

If you are aware of the bank where your ex-tenants did business, you could serve a citation on the bank, much the same way as a wage garnishment is placed. If the bank responds indicating the judgment debtor has funds in that bank, those funds are frozen and you ask the court to issue a "turnover order," directing the bank to turn over funds to you to satisfy the judgment.

In the event the tenant owns real estate, you can record the judgment against that real estate. This generally does not provide immediate relief, however, at some point, the judgment debtor will attempt to refinance or sell the property, at which point you will be contacted to release your judgment lien. Obviously, you will only release the lien in exchange for the judgment being satisfied.

There are other methods to satisfy a judgment. Contact an attorney familiar with collection.