A City filed an action in circuit court to declare a property “abandoned” under a procedure authorized by the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/11-31-1(d)). The City sought to demolish the “Tower,” an historic
building that was constructed over 100 years ago and that had fallen into disrepair. According to the lawsuit, the Tower
had not been used for some time except for the use of the rooftop for cell antennas leased by two cellular companies.  

The circuit court granted the City’s requested relief and issued a judicial deed to the City. The owner of the Tower appealed, arguing that that the circuit court erred when it declared the Tower abandoned because the City failed to show all of the statutorily required elements under 65 ILCS 5/11-31-1(d), which provides as follows:

(d) In addition to any other remedy provided by law, the corporate authorities of
any municipality may petition the circuit court to have property declared abandoned under
this subsection (d) if: 

   (1) the property has been tax delinquent for 2 or more years or bills for water
service for the property have been outstanding for 2 or more years; 

   (2) the property is unoccupied by persons legally in possession; and 

   (3) the property’s condition impairs public health, safety, or welfare for
reasons specified in the petition.” 

Specifically, the owner argued that the City failed to show that that the Tower had been tax delinquent for 2 or more years or that water invoices have been outstanding for 2 or more years. The City argued that the property had no water service for decades which, in the City’s view, demonstrated abandonment.

The Appellate Court rejected the City’s argument, finding that it failed to meet all three elements required to establish abandonment. Because the plain language of the statute is “clear and unambiguous,” the Appellate Court would not read into the statute additional requirements or exceptions. As a result, the Appellate Court reversed the circuit court’s finding of abandonment and found the court’s issuance of a judicial deed to be in error. 

City of Danville v. C.A. Collins Enterprise.