Chicago Real Estate Statistics: Cook County Evictions

Hi! This eviction series was updated in 2013 with much better data.
Click here to read the new series.

 

Photo of the Daley Center, Chicago Illinois

The Daley Center. Where Chicago landlords and tenants go to fight.

One of the most common complaints I hear from would-be investors is that Chicago is biased in favor of the tenant when it comes to evictions and enforcement of the laws.

Today we’re starting what will probably be a very lengthy process of analyzing whether or not this myth has any teeth. Using the Cook County Clerk of Court’s public dockets, I’ve (somewhat painstakingly) gone through case after case to give you an idea of the eviction stats. Cook County (and most jurisdictions) refer to these cases as “forcible entry and detainer” or “joint complaint” suits. They are handled at the civil level and can be filed either with an attorney’s help or without, also known as pro se.

Total Eviction cases opened at the 1st Municipal (Chicago) Cook County Circuit Courthouse

In 2010: 30609 (122.4 per non-holiday weekday)
In 2011: 31074 (124.3 per non-holiday weekday)
From Jan 1 through May 10, 2012: 10422 (115.8 per non-holiday weekday)

Estimated total rental units in Chicago, 2011: 549328 (Source: [1])
Approximate Eviction rate: 5.6% per year

So those are some pretty impressive numbers, but let’s look at the story of a couple of individual days. I’ve chosen the first days of February, March and April 2012 as decent snapshots.

Methodology

I wanted to focus on Chicago here so I used only the numbers from the First Municipal Circuit Court of Cook County, located at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago. While Cook County landlords may file their suits in any county courthouse (and many Chicago landlords will prosecute in Skokie to avoid the crowds), most landlords will file at the closest available courthouse.

I determined that the case numbers for evictions at this courthouse usually take the format YEAR-M1-7#####, where the 5 digits at the end are assigned in numerical order starting from zero each year. So, the first case in 2012 would be 2012-M1-700000. I used this info plus a Firefox plugin called “URL Flipper” to isolate the first and last case filed on each day, and then page through the cases one by one.

For both days I’ve looked only at cases involving financial amounts. The zero-balance cases are generally either behavioral disputes or foreclosures. I have also ignored any case where the Plaintiff was obviously a condominium association, as association evictions are not quite the same thing as landlord-tenant evictions. For the sake of nice clean statistics I wanted to keep things focused on cases brought before the court due to unpaid rent only.

In counting outcomes, I have deemed it a successful eviction if possession was granted, regardless of if the tenant was required to pay back rent as part of the judgment.

While I cannot guarantee these stats are 100% accurate, they’re as close as I can get them.

February 1, 2012

Total money judgment eviction cases filed on this day: 112
Pro se cases: 26 (23.2%)
Total monetary damages requested: $309122.55

Total cases still open 2 months later: 14 (12.5%)
Total successful evictions: 63 (56.25%)
Total cases dismissed: 35 (31.25%)

Percentage of successful evictions presented pro se: 20.6%
Percentage of ongoing cases presented pro se: 42.8%
Percentage of dismissed cases presented pro se: 20%

General notes for February 1:

  • Close to 89% of the cases that opened on February 1, 2012 are closed now, just over 3 months later.
  • The average landlord prosecuted for just under $2750 in unpaid rent.
  • Over half of the landlords were successful in evicting their non-paying tenants.
  • There is no statistical evidence backing up the idea that an attorney is required to successfully evict.

March 1, 2012

Total money judgment eviction cases filed on this day: 67
Pro se cases: 20 (29.8%)
Total monetary damages requested: $164099.88

Total cases still open 2 months later: 14 (20.8%)
Total successful evictions: 33 (49.2%)
Total cases dismissed: 20 (29.9%)

Percentage of successful evictions presented pro se: 27%
Percentage of ongoing cases presented pro se: 28.5%
Percentage of dismissed cases presented pro se: 30%

General notes for March 1:

  • Close to 80% of the cases that opened on March 1, 2012 are closed now, just over 2 months later.
  • The average landlord prosecuted for just under $2500 in unpaid rent.
  • Just about half of the cases were successful.
  • Landlords defending themselves had a slightly higher chance of losing their case, but not really enough to call it outside the statistical noise.
  • An abnormally high number of foreclosure-based evictions were filed on this day.

April 2, 2012

Total money judgment eviction cases filed on this day: 63
Pro se cases: 28 (44.4%)
Total monetary damages requested: $209160.44

Total cases still open 1 month later: 26 (41.2%)
Total successful evictions: 22 (34.9%)
Total cases dismissed: 14 (22.2%)

Percentage of successful evictions presented pro se: 59%
Percentage of ongoing cases presented pro se: 38.5%
Percentage of dismissed cases presented pro se: 28.6%

General notes for April 2:

  • Just over 40% of the cases opened on April 2, 2012 are closed now, just over 1 months later. this information combined with the data from March tells us that about 40% of the Cook County eviction suits take a month, 40% take 2 months, 10% take 3 months and the rest take over 3 months.
  • The average landlord prosecuted for just over $3300 in unpaid rent. This amount is significantly higher than it was in February or March.
  • Just over a third of the landlords were successful in evicting their tenants in one month.
    Landlords defending themselves had a much higher chance of winning, while attorney-defended cases had a better chance of taking longer. Note that this does not necessarily mean that attorneys will drag the case out longer – as the March stats show, given time, the odds balance out. I would say that the April pro se vs attorney-defended numbers illustrate a more sensible trend of landlords with complex, lengthy cases choosing to seek legal assistance.

Overall based on the eviction data it looks like landlords have about a 50% chance of successfully evicting their tenants, and that most cases will complete in about 2 months. This does not seem outrageously biased to me although the timeframes are long. However, I focused only on whether the landlord got possession of the apartment. In the majority of these cases there was no monetary award. Yes, landlords, you will get your apartment back about half the time, but the unpaid rent is probably not coming your way. The courts undoubtedly think themselves unbiased, but when you have to settle for half a win over and over again it does start to feel pretty unfair.

These numbers were pretty labor-intensive to obtain. I still have them, though, and am happy to extract more data from them if you would like.

Note: This is Part I of a series on Chicago’s landlord-tenant biases. Check out Chicago Real Estate Stats: Cook County Evictions Part II to find out how many of these cases also see a judgment issued for back rent payment.

Photo from Wikipedia, released public domain.

 

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