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In re Application of County Treasurer and; Ex-Officio County Collector

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

May 16, 2017

In re APPLICATION OF THE COUNTY TREASURER AND EX-OFFICIO COUNTY COLLECTOR for Order of Judgment and Sale of Land and Lots Upon Which All or Part of the General Real Estate Taxes Are Delinquent, Including General and Special Taxes, Costs, and Interest, Pursuant To The Illinois Property Tax Code
v.
William Monroe and Caroline Reed, Intervenor-Appellants). (Alliance Partners, Ltd., an Illinois Corporation, ) Petitioner-Appellee,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court Of Cook County. No. 14 COTD 002365 The Honorable Susan Fox Gillis, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Pierce and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          NEVILLE, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 After the circuit court entered an order directing the county clerk to issue a tax deed to Alliance Partners, Ltd., two occupants of the property subject to the deed filed a petition to intervene, alleging that they received no notice of the proceedings for a tax deed and asking the court to vacate the order for a tax deed. We hold that the trial court abused its discretion when it dismissed the petition to intervene without holding an evidentiary hearing and the court erred by dismissing the petition to vacate the order for a tax deed without an evidentiary hearing. We reverse and remand for further proceedings in accord with this order.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On January 8, 2014, Thomas Soriano purchased a property in Chicago at a scavenger sale for unpaid taxes. The property had three commercial units and twelve residential units. Soriano transferred his interest in the property to Alliance. On July 2, 2014, Alliance filed a petition for a tax deed to the property. Alliance served notice of the petition on the owners, two commercial tenants, and an entity called "Ross Management, " which Alliance served with process at an address in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. No one responded to the petition.

         ¶ 4 On December 11, 2014, Alliance filed an application for an order directing the county clerk to issue a tax deed for the property. At the hearing on the application, held January 8, 2015, Judd Harris, an attorney for Alliance, testified that no one had redeemed the property and the redemption period had expired. Harris said, "There was a company called Ross Management that has a sign at the subject property. And so we directed service to them." He added,

"[W]e also observed that the residential units are completely vacant in this building. *** [T]he residential units appeared to be completely vacant when we visited that property."

         ¶ 5 The circuit court, on February 23, 2015, entered an order directing the county clerk to issue a tax deed for the property to Alliance. Two months after the hearing on the application for a tax deed, on March 9, 2015, Alliance filed an application for an order of possession for the property. It sent notice of the hearing on the application to the owner, the two commercial tenants, and to seven persons listed as residents of five separate residential units on the property. Alliance offered no explanation for the conflict between the notice and Harris's testimony that the residential units were vacant. On March 27, 2015, the court entered the order of possession Alliance sought.

         ¶ 6 Alliance did not immediately seek to enforce the order of possession. On August 4, 2015, Alliance filed a motion to extend the order of possession. William Monroe and Caroline Reed, as occupants of the property, came to court to object to the motion. The court stayed proceedings to allow Monroe and Reed to seek legal counsel.

         ¶ 7 On September 17, 2015, Monroe and Reed, with the assistance of counsel, jointly filed a document titled "Petition for Leave to Intervene Instanter; Motion to Quash Service and Vacate Order of Possession/Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Extend the Order of Possession, " seeking relief from the order for issuance of a tax deed under section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2014)). They alleged that Monroe lived in one unit on the property and Reed lived in a different unit on the property. Neither received notice of the petition for a tax deed or the application for an order directing the clerk to issue a tax deed. Reed admitted that on March 16, 2015, she received notice of the hearing on the application for an order of possession, but she alleged that Soriano, acting as an agent for Alliance, told Reed that she did not need to attend the hearing because Alliance would permit all occupants to remain in the building.

         ¶ 8 Monroe alleged that he received no notice about the transfer of ownership or the order of possession until July 23, 2015, when an agent working for Alliance sent notice of new ownership. Monroe alleged that Soriano told Monroe that Alliance would send him a new lease for his unit.

         ¶ 9 After hearing arguments on the motions, but hearing no evidence, the circuit court entered an order dated September 18, 2015, in which the court upheld as valid the initial tax deed and extended the order of possession. The court denied the petition of Monroe and Reed in all respects, "except for leave to intervene for arguments made" on the date of the hearing, September 18, 2015. The court additionally granted Monroe and Reed leave to file their petition with signed supporting documents. Only the attorney for Monroe and Reed had signed the petition, and the supporting documents bore no signatures. Monroe and Reed did not amend the filed petition or the supporting ...


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