Life is about to get rougher in the inner city of Chicago, a city whose high poverty and gun violence death are at an all time high. Rep. Monique D. Davis, D-Chicago, has put forward House Bill 5395 that will privatize the eviction process. Through privatization, for profit companies or contractors would now be able to get into the eviction business.
Currently, evictions in Chicago are carried out by a specially trained unit in the sheriff’s department. When the unit is deployed, it includes a social worker to help the elderly, disabled and family with children. This team is also trained in landlord-tenant law. The new bill would allow any off-duty police officer hired by a private company or landlord to conduct the eviction process. An off-duty police officer still has all arrest powers and can still carry their service gun.
Currently, when a person is evicted, the police department is not involved in the eviction process; only the sheriff’s unit. The Cook County sheriff is opposed to this new law, with the sheriff’s director of communications, Benjamin Breit is quoted in part as saying “Evictions are inherently difficult and often tragic, particularly when children and other at-risk populations are involved. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is able to provide social services to families that we are ordered to evict because we care about them. Placing this authority with those that have a financial stake in the process would incur unthinkable consequences.”
The law was written in such a way by Rep. Davis, who is also a Chicago landlord, to apply only to counties whose population is at least three million or more. The only county in Illinois that meets this criterion is Cook County. That means that the new law is specifically targeting Chicago. Portions of this law restrict a tenant’s right to file a motion to delay the eviction for such reasons as a disability or illegal process to only two attempts. After that, a landlord could hire someone to evict a tenant by removing their belongings and moving another family into the unit or in extreme cases, forcing a person out at gunpoint. Being evicted at gunpoint in Chicago was in fact a reality until tenant’s rights groups stopped the process through advocacy and legislative support.
Davis allegedly owns at least five apartment buildings in Chicago and has had landlord related problems.