By Tim McNicholas

CHICAGO (CBS) — A South Side landlord says her tenants have not paid rent in months – in fact, they owed her thousands before COVID-19.

But in this case, we’re not talking about an apartment. It’s a commercial property business, specifically a tow yard. And the landlord hasn’t been able to do much about it because the pandemic is causing holdups in court.

The landlord, Sofia Khalil, invited CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas to the tow yard in question to see for himself.

Khalil owns the lot, but she is not welcome there. First, a man she had never seen before stepped out of an office at the tow yard and told her, and McNicholas, to leave.

“I’m a news reporter,” McNicholas told the man. “We’re doing a story about how they’re not paying any rent here.”

“OK, go do it somewhere else,” the man said.

And then there were dogs that conveyed the same message.

“It’s a lot of my income in there. I have to pay the taxes, my mortgage,” Khalil said. “I can’t do nothing right now.”

Khalil said the woman who runs a towing business on the site started falling behind on the rent in 2019.

Last October, the tenant agreed in court to pay the thousands of dollars she owed and stop missing payments. But she still owed thousands going into the pandemic, and Khalil said the number is growing by the month.

“We can’t do anything about it. The government, the courts is not letting us evict them,” Khalil said. “There’s nothing I can do.”

Khalil’s lawyer said the towing business operator would be evicted by now, but the pandemic caused the court to put the case on hold.

For months, the Cook County Sheriff’s office wasn’t enforcing evictions anyway.

We drove to the current home address of the woman who runs the tow yard, according to state records.

A man walked out and said he had never met the tow yard tenant and was “just an employee.” But the tow truck in his driveway advertised a “Keep It Moving Towing” located at the exact address of the lot.

The man even told us he is still working and towing cars.

“Who owns the company you work for then?” McNicholas asked the man.

“I cannot give you no information, sir,” the man replied. “I’m not trying to get fired.”

Minutes later, we got a phone call from the woman for whom we were looking. She claimed she is no longer affiliated with the tow yard, and Khalil should find the new business owners.

She could not provide any proof of her claim, but her lease says she cannot sublet without Khalil’s permission.

“It seems like they’re still doing business,” said Khalil’s lawyer. “The lot is full of cars.”

Khalil’s lawyer, Ibraheim Shalabi, said he is not sure when the eviction would happen.

“Ms. Khalil has been extremely lenient and forgiving with these folks,” Shalabi said. “This has been pending since last June, and she has given them second and third chances.”

And the dogs did not sound like they were ready to move either.

The Cook County Sheriff’s office just started enforcing commercial evictions again. On Wednesday, Khalil’s lawyer was set to file another court motion to try to get the lot on the Sheriff’s office’s evictions list and get the tenant out.

Residential evictions are still off limits.

 

Tim McNicholas