To many of our landlord clients and potential clients, one of the most important questions to be asked before starting an eviction case is “how much will an eviction lawsuit this cost?” This article will not deal with attorney’s fees, but will discuss the “costs” commonly involved in an eviction suit (these are in addition to attorney’s fees). Attorneys fees aside, costs are a major determining factor in whether or not to go ahead with a forcible entry and detainer case. The costs of an eviction begin with filing the case and usually end with a sheriff’s eviction and, in some cases, these costs can be substantial.
FILING THE ACTION AND GETTING TO COURT
Once a landlord has delivered the required notice of termination to your tenant and waited the requisite time period, a lawsuit in forcible entry and detainer may be filed with the Circuit Court. In Cook County, Illinois, as of April, 2012, the cost of filing the action is two hundred thirty seven dollars ($237) for cases seeking possession only or rent of $15,000 or less. In cases where the rent award sought is in excess of $15,000, the filing fee is four hundred thirty two dollars ($432). This fee is paid to the Clerk of the Circuit Court and covers the filing of the complaint against the tenant.
Next, a landlord must provide for service of process on the tenant. This requires a trip to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to deliver a copy of the summons and complaint. The Sheriff charges sixty ($60) dollars per person being served. The defendant “unknown occupants” is considered one person. Remember, a landlord must individually serve all persons in the premises over the age of 18, including “unknown occupants” if they are named in the complaint.
When our office handles an eviction matter, we usually hire a clerking service to file the case and to bring the filed complaint and court issued summons to the Sheriff. The usual fee for this service is $85.
After placing the service order with the Sheriff, the Sheriff has to actually serve the tenant. In many cases, tenants are able to avoid the Sheriff. They may be expecting the eviction action and will not open the door for the police or may hide when they come to the door. In my own experience, the Sheriff is successful at giving service roughly sixty percent of the time.
In the Sheriff fails to obtain service on the tenants, the next step is to hire a “special process server” to file an alias summons. A special process server is a person in the business of privately serving a summons. Their success rate is usually better than the Sheriff, however, there is no guarantee that they will be able to serve the tenant. Depending on the circumstances and the server you choose, a special process server can cost anywhere from seventy five to one hundred fifty dollars ($75 to $150). In addition, your attorney may charge an extra fee for an additional trip to court to have a special process server appointed and to obtain an “alias summons” (the court requires this trip in the event a special process server is to be utilized).
In the event that the process server is unsuccessful and the landlord has made a diligent attempt to locate the tenant, including attempting to have the tenant served at home and at work, the landlord can opt for service by an alternate means known as the Sheriff’s Posting Notice. This process is available only after the sheriff fails, a special process server fails, and it is demonstrated to the court that the landlord has made diligent efforts to find and serve the tenant. In the case of a Sheriff’s Posting, the court will only obtain jurisdiction over the property (known as in rem jurisdiction). With in rem jurisdiction, the landlord can obtain an order for possession of the property but cannot obtain a money judgment against the tenant. (Money judgments may only be obtained when a landlord has personal service on a tenant). A posting usually costs about thirty five dollars per adult to be served.
Depending on the facts involved, a landlord may choose to have a court reporter available for the eviction trial. Although this is uncommon, it can be an added cost of the lawsuit.
THE FORCIBLE EVICTION
Finally, once a landlord obtains an order for possession against a tenant and the tenant remains in the property past the date possession is to be turned over, the landlord may bring the order to the Sheriff who will then forcibly remove the tenant and the tenant’s belongings from the property. The Sheriff will require a fee of sixty dollars. The Sheriff used to take a larger fee and refunded a portion of the fee based on how long it took to move the tenant’s property out. The Sheriff no longer provides the service of removing the tenant’s property.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The cost of eviction is high. In most cases, the decision to evict the tenant is an easy one, as the tenant is not paying rent or is causing trouble. However, the cost to evict is often a surprise to a landlord. In addition, for landlords who cannot personally serve notice on a tenant, there may be additional fees to pay a professional server to serve a 5, 10 or 30 day notice on a tenant. The general breakdown of evicting a married couple from a property, in the event that a money judgment is desired and the Sheriff does not obtain service is as follows: (FOR COOK COUNTY)
|Filing Fee under 15,000
Filing Fee over 15,000
Service of Process
Special Process Server
Eviction by Sheriff
$60 per defendant (approx)
Keep in mind that these costs do NOT include the cost of your attorney and are presented to give the reader an idea of the most common costs that could be faced. In an eviction with a jury trial, the costs could be higher as they could include costs of discovery and court reporters, subpoena or witness fees, or other costs.