APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT
THE HAVANA NATIONAL BANK, Guardian of the Estate of Nina J.
521 N.E.2d 645, 167 Ill. App. 3d 562, 118 Ill. Dec. 363 1988.IL.453
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Mason County; the Hon. Thomas W. Brownfield, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court. LUND and SPITZ, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCCULLOUGH
On May 28, 1987, the plaintiffs, the Havana National Bank, guardian of the estate of Nina J. Windsor, and L. B. Windsor, brought suit in forcible entry and detainer against the defendant, Satorius-Curry, Inc., for possession and unpaid rent. On June 10, 1987, the court entered judgment in favor of plaintiffs for possession, unpaid rent, and costs of the suit. The defendant never filed an answer and failed to appear. On July 9, 1987, the defendant filed a motion to vacate the court's judgment. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-1301(e).) The defendant appeals denial of this motion.
On appeal, the defendant claims: first, that the court's refusal to set aside the default judgment constitutes an abuse of discretion, and second, that he asserted a meritorious defense to the complaint.
On May 1, 1964, the plaintiffs and the defendant's predecessor entered into a ground lease for a term of 25 years. The defendant came into possession by assignment of the lease in June of 1975. The lease provided for an annual rental rate of $600 per year, payable in advance, on the first of May each year. The defendant-lessee had the option to renew the lease upon the same terms and conditions at the expiration. The defendant additionally had the burden to discharge all taxes and other assessments upon the leased premises.
The lease specifically stipulated that if rent was not paid within 10 days after becoming due, the lessor had the right to reenter. At the end of the leasehold, lessee was to yield up the premises in the original condition. In the event of the failure or refusal to remove any improvements, the lessor reserved the right to do so with indemnification by lessee.
At the time of the assignment to the defendant, there was a building on the leased premises. The defendant paid consideration in the amount of $50,000 for the building. Subsequent to the assignment, the defendant constructed an addition to the building, incurring costs of approximately $87,000.
The plaintiffs initiated suit in response to the defendant's failure to pay rent for 1986 and nonpayment of real estate taxes for 1985 and 1986. Upon the defendant's failure to respond or appear, the court entered judgment on behalf of the plaintiffs. At the hearing on defendant's motion to vacate the court's judgment, Dale Satorius, president of the defendant corporation, testified as to his understanding of the terms of the lease. Satorius admitted nonpayment of the amounts alleged and made no claim whatsoever that the amount of the judgment or the judgment itself were in error. Satorius further did not contest the issue of notice, admitting that he was fully apprised of the hearing date. He claimed that he did not appear in court because he did not have the money to pay the plaintiffs. Satorius stated that he paid the judgment on June 26, 1987, with his own personal funds. Satorius also stated that rent for 1987 was not yet paid.
The defendant claimed entitlement to possession of the premises for the remainder of the leasehold due to the substantial amounts expended in the erection of buildings on the premises. The defendant argues that payment of the judgment cures any default ...