Conquering Courtroom Anxiety

My first eviction case was 1996 and it went perfect.

Gary and I purchased numerous HUD and VA forclosures from a realtor named Harold Carter. Harold had been a realtor for 35 years and owned numerous rental properties. He assured us that if one of the tenants fails to pay the rent-he had the solution. He had evicted numerous tenants during his 20 years as a landlord so he was experienced. I would say that Harold had been to the rodeo!

Tina passed the screening process and moved into our rental. She paid the rent right on time for 6 months. When I didn’t receive the rent on the 7th of the month I decided to talk to Tina. I pulled up to the rental and knocked on the door. Tina answered the door with a bad attitude on her face. I asked “Tina, where is the rent?” She replied “You are going to have to evict me” She slammed the door in my face. Tina was a different person when she moved in compared to this episode. Oh boy, when they start owing rent it can switch in one minute.

I immediately called Harold and he suggested coming to his realtor office. We made out a Illinois 5-day notice (quit or pay) and I served her. Harold came along as a witness in case she said she didn’t receive the notice in court. He made out an affidavit which states the place, time and person receiving the notice.

We waited the full 5 calendar days after date of service and still no rent received. I suggested we wait for another couple days in case she might pay. If she pays- I wouldn’t have to learn the court system. The courtroom anxiety was already finding a home in my thoughts. I own the property not Tina and I am going to learn the process. She didn’t pay and I had to make a move fast.

Harold met me at the Circuit Clerk’s office to guide me through the filing process. The Eviction process is called Forcible Entry and Detainer in Illinois. I filled out the Cover Sheet, Complaint, Summons and Order. He reminded me to sue for the amount owed, court costs and accrued rent. The Clerk issued a court date and instructed me to take the documents to the sheriff to serve. Harold suggested taking the documents to a licensed process server to serve not the sheriff. He already had a server labeled “Man on a Mission” that always got the job done!

The night before the court date I had trouble sleeping. I had never been in a courtroom and I guess it is the old fear of the unknown. My thoughts drifted from “what if he lets her live there forever” to “Judge is going to embarass me in front of the packed courtroom.” When I woke up in the morning I felt all sweaty like I was going up on trial. I kept thinking to myself “what is the worse that could happen?” I am the plaintiff not the defendant.

I remembered Harold told me to pick up the “Proof of Service” of the court documents from the process server. I picked up the abode the day before the court hearing to make sure I was totally ready. I wanted to make sure I was prepared for the big day.

Harold met me outside the courtroom and sat next to me. He instructed me that the Judge will want to be presented in order: Proof of Service and 5-Day Notice. He reminded me to keep the filled out Order in my possession until the Judge rendered a decision.

We had noticed Tina was already in the courtroom. If she failed to appear, he said I would go for immediate possession. Since she has appeared I would be asking for possession in 7 days.

When my case was called Tina and I approached the podium. The Judge asked for “Proof of Service” for the court files. He asked for the 5-Day Notice that was served to the defendant. I handed him the 5-Day Notice and he examined it thoroughly.

Judge: “What are you seeking Ms. Schmidt?”

Mrslandlady: “I am asking the courts to render a judgment for $970 in rent, $161 in court costs and possession in 7 days.”

Judge: “Tina, do you owe $970 in rent to Ms Schmidt?”

Tina: “Yes I owe the rent”

Judge: “Judgment for $970, court costs of $161 and possesion in 7 days. Do you have the filled out Order to sign?”

Mrslandlady: “Yes Judge”

Outside the courtroom I felt relieved that I could feel total success in the courtroom. Harold suggested having the judgment recorded which is called a Memorandum of Judgment in Illinois. That is the first step to collecting on the judgment. I have since collected over $300,000 in judgments and encounterd the Judge too many to times to mention.  I am so grateful that my business associate and friend Harold was there for me. I actually learned the system the right way the first time.

  1. Show the quit or pay to the new tenant at lease signing.
  2. Serve your quit or pay on the same day every month-no excuses
  3. Be sure to sue for accrued rent on the Complaint and Summons
  4. Keep the Order in your possession until the Judge renders a decision
  5. Take the documents to a licensed process server to serve
  6. Pick up the “Proof of Service” a day before the court date
  7. Arrive early to the court hearing and have your documents in order
  8. Keep rent owed separate from the court costs.
  9. Make sure you record the judgment to start collecting.
EVICTIONS, SMALL CLAIMS & JUDGMENT COLLECTION