Possession Order Not Moot Even Though Tenant Vacated And Apartment Re-Rented

This landlord-tenant dispute evoked lots of attention from parties who regularly represent tenants. Beverly Olivier did not pay her rent for her apartment. Circle Management sued her for back rent and possession of the apartment.

Beverly and Circle entered an agreed order that required Beverly to pay monthly use and occupancy charges. When she missed the first payment, Circle moved for immediate possession of the apartment. The trial court granted Circle’s motion as a sanction for violating the agreed order. The court also stayed the case to give Beverly time to pay the use and occupancy charges and thereby purge the possession order.

Beverly appealed the possession order. But she also moved out of the apartment, and Circle rented it to another party. The first issue was whether the appeal was moot. If so, the appellate court would refuse to decide the case. The First District Illinois Court of Appeals acknowledged the general mootness doctrine. “A case becomes moot where it is impossible to render effective relief to the appealing party.”

But the appellate court decided the case even though Beverly vacated the property and the apartment had been re-rented. The appellate court ruled that this case fell under the “public interest” exception to the mootness rule.

First, the question of whether a trial court may award a landlord possession under the Act as a sanction for the tenant’s inability to comply with a use and occupancy order is one of public importance, affecting the rights of countless landlords and tenants in Illinois. Moreover, there is a need for an authoritative determination on this issue. At oral argument, both parties confirmed the accuracy of the statistics cited in the amici curiae brief submitted in this case, which reveal that this particular practice is “prevalent.” In addition, the trial court’s instruction to Beverly’s trial counsel to “take it up to the courts and get us some guidelines” when he challenged this practice indicates a need for an authoritative determination as to the propriety of this practice. Finally, because this current practice is so prevalent, it is likely to continue to recur absent any authority to the contrary.

In the end, the appellate court ruled that it was reversible error to give Circle possession as a sanction against Beverly. Read the whole case, Circle Management v. Olivier, No. 1-07-0621 (12/28/07), by clicking here.