Tag Archives: parking

Cook County Eviction Stats Part 3: Are other trials also biased?

When I started this adventure I based my concept of "a fair court system" on an ideal of 50% of cases won by the plaintiff (the landlord) and 50% won by the defendant (the tenant). Even something between 48-52% would have been sufficient. The results I got from the Cook County Eviction stats over the past 8 years indicated that 62.8% of eviction cases were won by the landlord. If I compared this to my idea of a perfectly fair system it clearly indicated a bias, and not the "anti-landlord" bias purported to exist by many Chicago landlords.

The world is not perfect. Neither is the justice system. I started wondering if my ideal 50/50 split of verdicts was even attainable outside of a courthouse run by androids and angels. What if the court system is structured so that 62.8% is as close as you can get to a fair trial in the US? I started digging to find out the verdict balance in some other types of cases.

Is it possible that the Cook County Eviction court is the fairest one of all?

Could Cook County Eviction court be the fairest one of all?

In the process I discovered several excellent sources for court data. The Illinois Supreme Court has annual reports online going back over a decade. The US Bureau of Judicial Statistics may be my new favorite site, but it's up against the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics at the University of Albany. Of course, no online source can compare with having a law librarian for a friend - my friend Taylor has been extremely helpful in hashing out this entire project and I'm very grateful.

Evictions vs Felony Cases

A felony trial is at the far opposite end of the spectrum from an eviction trial. One is a large scale case where one side - after all, a felony is a serious crime handled by the criminal justice system, while evictions tend to be small claims matters handled in the civil system. Defendants in felony trials are far more likely to have attorney representation than tenants in eviction cases. The fines and penalties at stake are far higher when you're dealing with a felony trial. Most people don't wind up in jail at the end of an eviction lawsuit.

The bias is more pronounced as well.

If the stats are to be believed, you may only be innocent until proven arrested.

If the stats are to be believed, you may only be innocent until proven arrested. (No kangaroos were harmed in the process of nicking this image from 4closurefraud.org.)

According to the Illinois Supreme Court's annual reports, from 2004 to 2011 the average annual conviction rate for felony cases in Cook County was between 67% and 74%, with the cumulative average at 72.02% convicted. Looking nationwide the conviction rate is even higher. According to the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Studies, in 2010 about 91% of felony cases heard in US District Courts resulted in a conviction. In other words, if you're a tenant in an eviction case you've got a far better chance of staying in your apartment than someone on the stand in a felony case has of staying in theirs. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that compared with felony cases, the so-called "bias" in Cook eviction cases looks downright even-handed and totally fair.

Evictions vs. Traffic Court

So, comparing evictions to felony trials is not really an apples to apples comparison. It's more like comparing apples to airplanes. I thought I should look at something lower key, like parking tickets. While I could have done a FOIA request to find out the exact stats, the Red Eye and the Tribune have both done relatively recent studies about contesting parking tickets. (The Red Eye article is no longer available online.) I've had about enough of extracting research from government agencies this month so I'm going to trust their numbers even though they're a little dated.

If you contest a parking ticket in person or by mail, you're technically appealing your conviction of a parking violation by means of a trial at the City of Chicago's Bureau of Administrative Hearings. If we were to get nitpicky about it, you're a plaintiff/appellant and the City is the defendant.

Or perhaps you're innocent until proven double-parked?

Or perhaps you're innocent until proven double-parked?

According to the Trib research, in 2007 62% of tickets contested by mail were dismissed, and 56% of the tickets contested in person were dismissed. Fast forward to 2009, after privatization of the Chicago parking meters, and 72% of the contested tickets were dismissed. If the trend has remained consistent, this means that you've got a better chance of winning when you contest a parking ticket than you do if you're a landlord trying to evict a deadbeat tenant.

But wait a minute. If felony cases AND parking cases both make it easier for the plaintiff to win than eviction cases, does that mean that the courts may be biased against the landlord after all? If every other scenario gives you a 72% chance of winning, while you've only got a 62% chance in an eviction case, then yes, I'd say so. However, we've got another even more precise scenario to consider: national statistics for contract disputes.

Evictions vs. Contract Cases

On Wednesday I paused for a moment to mention that we're only looking at situations where the landlord sues the tenant for non-payment, and largely neglecting situations where the tenant takes the landlord to court for negligence or other matters. The latter type of lawsuit is considered to be a contract dispute, and fortunately the Bureau of Justice Statistics has a whole lot of information about those. In fact they've got so much info that I've been able to make a handy chart with three years of data, comparing the verdicts in all types of contract disputes.

NOTE: The "rental/lease agreement" cases here refer largely to situations where the tenant is suing the landlord. They are not evictions.

Wow that's a lot of data! There's several very important things we can learn from this chart.

First of all, if tenants think their chances of losing an eviction case are pretty bad after yesterday's news, the scenario for homeowners involved in foreclosure cases is downright bleak. Anywhere from 72-89% of foreclosure cases were decided in favor of the plaintiff. That's the bank. A finding for the plaintiff in a foreclosure case has the same result as one in an eviction case: the sheriff is going to be paying a call to throw someone out of their home.

Secondly, we learn that anywhere from 55-65% of all contract trials nationwide are found in favor of the plaintiff, and the numbers have increased over time. Also, the lion's share of these cases have averages over 50%, indicating that when it comes to contract trials the idea of a 50/50 fully balanced court system is a pipe dream. Only employment discrimination suits are hovering anywhere close to the 50% mark that would indicate a completely fair court.

Thirdly, we finally have some data on what happens when the roles are reversed! I mentioned on Wednesday that we weren't going to spend too much time talking about what happens when tenants sue landlords, but in this case the USBJS Reports made it nice and easy for me to pull some numbers. They couldn't be more perfect.

When a landlord files an eviction case in Cook County, 62.8% of the landlords eventually win.

When a tenant sues their landlord nationwide? Anywhere from 62.5 and 64.9% of the tenants win.

Dang that feels good.

Dang that feels good.

Nothing could prove my point better. This isn't about landlords and tenants. It's about the entire justice system, with landlords and tenants caught up in the chaos.

Chicago Evictions vs New York Evictions

I had this article all set to go to print when an email from Chicago Landlord Tenant attorney Rich Magnone sent me in an additional direction. He wondered how the stats held up against other local counties that are purported to be more friendly to landlords. I wasn't able to find that particular information - for all that Cook County made my quest for knowledge a challenge, they were far more forthcoming than the suburbs. I did, however, find a great article on New York city housing court (PDF)with a fantastic chart.

Courtesy of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board.

Courtesy of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board.

This is a fantastic chart and I wish we had this kind of data for Chicago. In New York not every eviction case winds up with a court hearing. Many settle out of court. The ones that don't, and wind up going to a court date are considered to be "calendared." This means that this chart eliminates everything except for those cases which made it all the way to the judge.

The line that really demands attention is the lower grey one - that's the percentage of cases that were successful on the part of the landlord. Remember that in Chicago we're looking at 62.8%. In New York City it's apparently been hovering around a 20% success rate since the early 90s. You want a system that's unfairly biased towards the tenant? You got it. Chicago is ridiculously tilted towards the landlord by contrast.

Evictions and FOX News: Fair and unbiased, for certain definitions of "fair" and "unbiased"

While our 62.8% average for cases found in the landlord's favor is technically biased when viewed in a vacuum, it's pretty much as fair and unbiased as you're going to get once it's put next to its closest judicial relatives. Compared with the defendant's chances of winning felony trials, foreclosures and Chicago traffic court, the 1 in 3 chance of a defendant renter winning an eviction case seem downright rosy. Compared to the situation in the New York housing courts, Chicago landlords have a cakewalk.

Overall what we've learned here is that any bias existent in Cook County eviction cases is not related to the evictions themselves. It's reflective of a nationwide inherent bias towards the plaintiff seen at many levels of the system. The judges don't hate landlords. If anything, they hate defendants.

It isn't my place to criticize the entire justice system. It's based on a long history going back to the Classical era and I am merely a housing nerd with a quiet fancy for "Law and Order" reruns. As much as we know deep down that it's an unbalanced system, it's the best we've got right now. Rich Magnone wisely pointed out in his email to me that any landlord who's willing to go through the filing process probably has a good case. This is a valid point, and I think it carries over into the court system in general. Winning and losing is not a matter of luck. This is not a casino. If you can sustain your righteous anger long enough to press charges and get in front of a judge, chances are you've got a very good and believable reason.

So, if you're a landlord or tenant, maybe hold off a bit on complaining about the state of evictions in the Chicago area, because it isn't all about you guys. A 50/50 split is probably impossible.

Monday we'll take a pause in this saga and enjoy the first installment of Rent Bacon in its new form. Wednesday I'll be back to dissecting the eviction data with a focus on location, location, location. Cook County has six different courthouses. Do you get a better result at one over another? Come on back and find out! (In the meantime, please share this series with your friends? It would mean a lot to me.)

This is part of a series on Chicago evictions. You should probably start at the beginning. Here are the rest of the articles:

Let’s Talk about Parking.

Oink if you love Bacon!

Guys, I can't believe I've spent nine months writing this blog and haven't done any posts about parking! Major oversight. Fixing that right now. Today is rental parking day, all day. Tasty crunchy numbers that you've come to know and love, but this time for your car. I'm excited. But first...

What We Will NOT Be Doing Because CNT Does It Better...

First of all, if you're looking to assess the total cost of transportation in Chicago, this is not the place. We're talking about parking here. However, the fabulous Center for Neighborhood Technology has two apps that will serve you nicely. Abogo will tell you, by location, how much you can expect to spend per month on transportation. And yes, it's location-sensitive for you people on smartphones. There's also the Housing + Transport Affordability Index, which allows you to compare neighborhoods by the full combination of home prices and transit costs.

I ♥ the CNT. You should too. This is their logo.

Oh and while we're on the subject, PublicTransportation.org has calculators that can help you compare the cost effectiveness and carbon neutrality of driving vs taking the CTA.

If you're looking for the cost of getting from place to place, those guys are doing an excellent job of spitting out the numbers, and they're getting grant money to do it, so more power (and less carbon) to them. However, they don't talk about what happens when you're done driving about and have to plonk your car down, preferably in a place where the city's parking elves can't trim it with orange.

Looks just like Christmas. If, y'know, orange was a Christmas color. (via theexpiredmeter.com)

So You Want to Rent a Parking Spot.

The phrase "EZ street parking" or something similar shows up in a whole lot of apartment ads. You can always try to park on the street, but this is Chicago. We've got meters, curb cuts, residential parking zones, alleys, driveways, disabled parking zones and snow routes to consider, not to mention our supercritical mass of hydrants that seem to multiply at an exponential rate. On many streets, tiny puddles of shattered glass bear silent witness to the car windows that have gone before you. I don't blame you for wanting to stow your precious vehicle somewhere off of the streets.

A vision from the future. This is how a Chicago sidewalk will look in 2022.

The first question, of course, is how much you're going to pay for parking at your apartment. Therefore, I have taken a glance through the MLS to see what the rates have been for off-street rental parking in seven different neighborhoods over the past year. I counted the printed rent rates for any parking spaces listed as available with apartments that successfully rented. I also took a quick average of the rents paid for the apartments so that I could get a rough ratio of what it costs to house people as compared with their cars.

 Average Parking RentParking Rent RangeAvg Parking as percentage
of Average Rent
East Rogers Park
Albany Park
Uncovered $88.46$75-1507%
Covered $93.33$60-1257%
Hyde Park
Uncovered $95$50-1456%
Covered $137.50$100-1759%
Uncovered $135.81$1-2607%
Covered $157.88$75-2758%
Wicker Park/Bucktown
Uncovered $157.14$100-2507%
Covered $171.73$100-2508%
South Loop
Uncovered $161.84$75-4007%
Covered $197.05$150-4009%
Near North Side
Uncovered $209.50$100-3008%
Covered $230.09$100-437.509%

I chose three neighborhoods that are, in my opinion, underserved by the CTA - Albany Park, East Rogers Park and Hyde Park. All three have bus service but very little train service. I also chose Lakeview and Wicker Park/Bucktown, two popular but lower-density neighborhoods with good CTA service. Finally I also chose two luxury, high-density neighborhoods with lots of high rises and 3rd party garages, but not a lot of street parking.

As you can see, pretty much across the board you can expect to pay an additional 5-8% of your rent for uncovered parking spaces, and 7-9% of your rent for garage parking. It's remarkably consistent across all of the neighborhoods I studied. Personally I went into this thinking that parking prices were pretty arbitrary, but it looks like there's a method to it.

So if you want to avoid street parking, be ready to up your housing budget by 7-9%.

But Can You Even Get One?

Parking prices are lovely to know, but what sort of availability are we looking at? Do you have a one in ten shot at finding an apartment with parking, or is it pretty much guaranteed? And what if you can't increase your rental budget by another 7-9%? Well, if you're working with a Realtor to find an apartment in these neighborhoods, chances are pretty good that you'll find an apartment with parking. However, chances of finding one with free parking vary more widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. Check it out.

NeighborhoodUnits with free garage ParkingUnits with any free parkingUnits with any assigned parking at all
East Rogers Park10%27%53%
Albany Park21%32%55%
Hyde Park14%29%41%
Wicker Park/Bucktown41%62%81%
South Loop45%49%94%
Near North Side19%20%83%

Once again we've got those same seven neighborhoods, and for the sake of comparison I've even included them in the same order. I was surprised to see that in all but one of the neighborhoods I studied, over half of the apartments rented this year had some sort of parking available. Not a lot of parking for rent in Hyde Park, but given the demographic makeup and more insular nature of the neighborhood, plus an abundance of university parking lots, I don't find that too surprising.

University of Chicago Logo

U of C. 215 acres from which you will never depart for your entire four years of undergrad.

What I did find interesting is the breakdown of free parking vs. paid parking. The most expensive neighborhood, Near North (including tony districts like Streeterville, River North and the Gold Coast) offered nearly universal parking availability, but the lowest percentage of free parking out of the seven districts. In other words, if you're living around there you're going to have to pony up extra for parking. Meanwhile, South Loop has even greater parking coverage with 94% of the rented units offering at least one parking space, but almost half of them were free garage spots.

Most impressive was the showing put forward by Wicker Park & Bucktown, two areas that always make me pull my hair out trying to find parking when I'm down there for a night out. With 81% of the apartments over the past year offering some sort of parking and 62% of them offering free parking, this area offered what might be the best scenario for renters with cars. (Of course, finding an apartment in these two trendy neighborhoods is a challenge, but if you survive the Thunderdome of Wicker Park apartment hunting at least your car will be safe, right?)

Vision from the future. Wicker Park apartment hunting competition in 2022 will involve gladiatorial combat.

What Did I Forget?

Hopefully that answers some of your questions about parking. If you want me to crunch the numbers for your neighborhood just drop me a comment or use the contact form.