Landlords can hire process server to find elusive tenant

Posted6/20/2010 12:01 AM

Q. My husband and I own a condominium that we have rented out the past few years. All had been going well until this year, when our tenant stopped paying rent. We were told we could handle the eviction ourselves, so we served the five-day notice and then filed the eviction with the forms we found online.

We have placed this with the sheriff twice now to serve the tenant, but both times it was returned "not served." Meanwhile, the tenant continues to live in our place for free. What can we do to get the tenant served and get our property back?

A. The easiest and fastest way to serve the tenant would be by posting. Next time you are in court, ask the judge to allow you to serve the defendant by posting. This request will generally be granted once you have unsuccessfully attempted service through the sheriff. Once your request is granted, there are different forms that need to be completed, filed with the clerk and placed with the sheriff. The sheriff then "posts" notice of the next court date at the property and other conspicuous places.

The advantage to posting is that service is virtually guaranteed. The disadvantage to posting is that although you will likely obtain an order for possession of the property, you will not receive a judgment for the unpaid rent.

In many cases, not obtaining a money judgment is no great loss, as often the defendants are uncollectable. However, if your tenant has a job or owns property that you are aware of, you may wish to pursue a different route. Another option would be to hire a process server to obtain service. Whereas the sheriff simply knocks on the door and leaves if no one responds, the process server will be more diligent in obtaining service. For example, he may wait in front of the property for the tenant to leave for work.

My wife and I are very interested in trying to buy a short sale property. We understand the process can be very long but we don't really have any time issues as we are currently living with my parents. What we don't want though is to be tied up to a property for a real long time only to find out we didn't get it. Our goal is to move in somewhere by the end of the year.

What can we do to protect ourselves from waiting on a property for months and then being shut out?

A. Depending on the situation, I often include a provision in the contract that allows my purchaser-client the ability to terminate the transaction in the event the short sale is not approved by seller's lender within a certain period of time. That period of time is often two to three months from the date the contract is accepted. In the event this provision is agreed to and approval has not been received by the agreed upon date, the purchaser would have the option of terminating the contract or continuing to wait for approval.

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