Forfeiture Process for Vacant Buildings

As part of Chicago’s ongoing commitment to protect our communities from criminal activity and blight associated with vacant and abandoned nuisance buildings, the city of Chicago continues to aggressively prosecute the owners of these vacant properties in the Circuit Court of Cook County. As a result, the city of Chicago has obtained court orders to demolish hundreds of properties located throughout Chicago. A list of properties currently slated for demolition can be found in the Related Links section below. 

Forfeiture is a legal remedy (Pursuant to Section 13-12-145 of the Chicago Municipal Code), which allows the City to file a petition in the Circuit Court of Cook County based on dangerous and hazardous conditions that have not been addressed, and request that the property be forfeited to an eligible third party. The goal of forfeiture is the abatement of criminal activity and blight associated with these nuisance buildings and the preservation of viable housing stock whenever possible.

The forfeiture process is open to all qualified applicants, and private citizens are encouraged to participate. The cost of obtaining a property through forfeiture is essentially the cost of the delinquent taxes plus the cost of rehabilitating or demolishing the building in accordance with the Chicago Building Code. Obtaining a property through forfeiture could be an affordable option for many potential buyers including private citizens, developers, and first time home buyers.

All applicants must complete a Property Forfeiture Application Form. The application must identify the address and PIN number of the property, and calculate all delinquent taxes along with total cost of the rehabilitation or demolition. The successful applicant must demonstrate that 1) they have the ability to pay the associated costs, and 2) they can complete the work in a timely manner. A separate application is required for each requested property.

Qualified applicants will work with representatives from the Department of Buildings and the Department of Law to determine if the identified property is a good candidate for a court ordered forfeiture. Examples of a good candidate are: 1) the owner is deceased, there are no heirs interested in the property and there are no mortgage or liens on the property, 2) the owner agrees to the forfeiture and there are no mortgage or liens on the property and 3) there are liens on the property and the lien holder agrees to release the liens. If the property qualifies, the applicant will work with the Department of Law to bring the case before Circuit Court. The presiding Judge is the ultimate decision maker in all forfeiture actions.

A forfeiture is completed through a hearing in Circuit Court where the City requests the Court to 1) enter a finding that selected property meets the elements of the ordinance and 2) issue a judicial deed to a third party. To assist you with this process, please reference our Procedures for Circuit Court Forfeitures for step-by-step guidance. Please keep in mind that forfeitures will not be subject to contested hearings. Accordingly, applicants must identify whether there is an owner of record, and whether there are any unreleased liens or mortgages as part of the application process.

In most cases applicants can quickly identify property owners, liens, and mortgages of record by visiting the Cook County Recorder of Deeds website at and performing a property search by Property Index Number (PIN). Applicants can easily obtain the subject property’s PIN number and relevant property tax information (in most cases) by visiting the Cook County Tax Portal website at and performing an address search.

Please mail or email your completed applications to:

John Scott
City of Chicago, Department of Buildings
2045 W. Washington
Chicago, Illinois 60612