According to a recent story published in the Chicago Tribune, a number of Illinois landlords have been set upon by a nightmare tenant who, at first glance, seemed like an ideal renter, but ended up leaving a trail of lawsuits from Wisconsin to Chicago.
Since the 1990s, Marion Berntsen, 74, has moved from rental to rental, failing to pay rent and then abusing the legal system to delay eviction. In at least five Illinois cases, Berntsen delayed evictions by filing counterclaims against landlords, demanding jury trials and asserting various frivolous motions. Most of the cases were eventually dismissed, some when Berntsen failed to show up on the day of trial.
In a recent case, landlord Anja Hertel agreed to rent a room in her McHenry home to Bernsten based upon her representation as being a Christian blogger named Jamie Pryce looking for a quiet place to write. Bernsten brought with her over 150 boxes of belongs with her when she moved in, and, after a few weeks, filled Hertel’s refrigerator, freezer and garage with groceries. When Bernsten failed to use the food, it spoiled, but she refused to throw it away.
Bernsten began filing false police reports, alleging that the other tenants in the home were stealing from her, and when Hertel objected to Berntsen ‘s insistence on keeping the spoiled food, Bernsten made thirteen complains to police against Hertel, sought a restraining order, and filed a civil lawsuit. Judge John Bolger denied Berntsen’s restraining order, opining that the complaint was “long on outrage and short (on) specific facts.”
In another case in 2011, Berntsen rented a room in a home shared by other tenants in Fox River Grove, Illinois, again refusing to dispose of rotting food she had amassed in the home. Berntsen again accused other tenants of stealing her possessions, and fought with the real estate agents hired to sell the property. When the landlord sought to evict Berntsen in the fall of 2011, she filed a length counterclaim against the landlord, the landlord’s family, the real estate agents, and two of the other tenants.
One landlord who rented to Berntsen complained, “She comes into your home, she takes over. She makes life completely miserable.” The landlord fought Berntsen for months in court before he was able to evict her, during which time she sued three of his children and his ex-wife.
This blog has discussed on numerous occasions the statutory provisions designed to protect the rights of tenants embodied in the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”). This blog has also commented on the problems associated with the negative perceptions many property owners have when it comes to renters. Tenants such as Bernsten give the many renters with legitimate complaints against their landlords a bad name.
If you have questions regarding the rights and obligations you have as a tenant or believe you have been the victim of the unfair practices of a landlord, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.