CHICAGO (CBS) — A landlord’s biggest nightmare is finding a squatter in their property because in the State of Illinois it doesn’t matter how the person got in. Landlords have to go to court to get them out.
Edwin Garcia discovered a squatter in his home in February when he went to check on the property. The locks had been changed and the gas and electricity were on.
Garcia called police, but the squatter not only produced a driver’s license with Garcia’s home address – he also showed police a lease.
Garcia tried to tell police it was fake.
“That is not my signature and this is not how I print my name,” said Garcia.
But since the man was in the house police said Garcia would have to take the man to court to get him out.
CBS 2 Investigators went by the house and spoke with the man behind the window, who claimed he wasn’t the man on the driver’s license but admitted knowing him.
“I watch the house for him every blue moon, but I don’t live here,” said the man.
Eviction attorney Lori Quist said that’s the way the law is written.
“Even when somebody breaks into the property you still have to go through the eviction process – which can take months,” said Quist.
It’s a lengthy process that can cost owners thousands of dollars in attorney fees, court fees, and paying sheriff’s officers to evict. Not only does Quist represent landlords trying to get rid of squatters, she also helps landlord get rid of tenants who committed fraud during the application process.
One case in particular is that of Candace Clark, whom Quist calls a “professional tenant.”
“(It’s a) person who has been evicted a number of times,” said Quist.
Our investigation shows since 2008 Clark has been evicted 23 times. The latest eviction was in January from a multi-million dollar home in Lincoln Park.
Clark used a stolen social security number, a phony pay stub, and a fake credit report to convince landlords to give her the keys. It took three months to get her out.
If you add up all of the lost rents, repair bills, and court costs from the nearly two dozen places Clark got evicted from, clueless landlords lost $301,842.
Attorney Robert Kahn also evicted Clark back in 2012 from a house in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood – only he didn’t remember her because she doesn’t fit the profile of most of his repeat offenders.
He said the typical repeat offender is a computer-savvy millennial targeting high end apartments in Chicago’s trendy neighborhoods.
“I’m seeing people with fake ID’s, fake socials, anything that you would need to lease up an apartment they’re falsifying,” said Kahn.
Michael Zink is another eviction attorney who has evicted the infamous Candace Clark three times. Each time, his clients had to endure long and costly court proceedings.
“There is no law that says anybody that lied their way into the property has to be evicted faster,” said Zink.
In fact, when we do the research it doesn’t look like the law exists in any state. That’s also the conclusion of a national group that represents landlords. But should there be a law in Illinois?
State Sen. Jacqueline Collinshas sponsored legislation protecting tenants from bad landlords. She says it may be time to consider laws that speed up the eviction process.
“If there is a pattern that this individual had in reference to her criminality, there should be a way the judge can deal with expediting that case,” said Collins.
Garcia’s been waiting three months to get the squatter out of his property, and the civil process is far from over.
“Someone is occupying (my house) that has no right to be in there. They used the system. The system needs to be fixed,” cried Garcia.