Where do I file? Important info for landlords/property managers filing an eviction action.
Property managers, landlords, and attorneys for landlords: did you know that you MUST file your eviction action in the court district where the property is located? If you try to collect unpaid rent by filing a suit in a different district, you may face liability under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA,”) a federal law.
Most, if not all, residential property managers, landlords, and attorneys who collect back rent or damages from residential tenants are considered debt collectors under the definition in the FDCPA. So, it applies to you.
In 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court Of Appeals ruled in Suesz v. Med-1 Solutions, LLC, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 12562 (7th Cir. 2014), that debt collectors (that’s you) must file collection actions in the “smallest geographic area that is relevant for determining venue in the court system in which the case is filed.” In Cook County, that means that collection lawsuits should be filed in the Municipal District where the debtor resides (and if you’re filing an eviction, that means the district where your property is) or where the contract was signed.
If you ignore this rule, and file in a different district, your tenant’s lawyer can bring a FDCPA claim against you as a counterclaim. The FDCPA is a strict liability offense, so if they can prove you filed in the wrong district, you lose. You’ll also be liable for your tenant’s attorney fees spent on suing you! After all of that, your eviction action still won’t be resolved.
Don’t be fooled by people who think landlord tenant actions are simple and easy; the many intersections between state and federal law could ultimately cost you.