What can I do to help address the problem of vacant buildings in
How do I find information about vacant buildings in my neighborhood?
Use the search function on this website to find information about vacant buildings
with code violations. You can search by address, police district, neighborhood/community
area or ward. No account is required to search.
Having an account allows you to receive email updates about vacant properties that
you add to “My Watch List.”
How do I report a vacant building?
Call 3-1-1 to report vacant or abandoned buildings or click here.
If unauthorized people are entering the building, call 3-1-1 (do not use the website)
to file a miscellaneous police report.
What happens after I call 3-1-1?
Your inquiry will be forwarded to the Department of Buildings. A building inspector
will be sent out to investigate the concerns and confirm that the building is vacant
If the inspector finds the building is in violation of the Municipal Code, the City
will bring an enforcement action against the owner(s) and other responsible parties
in the Department of Administrative Hearings or the Cook County Circuit Court. If
the responsible owner(s) and or mortgagee(s) do not take necessary action to eliminate
the violations, the City may seek significant fines and/or obtain authority to board-up
or demolish the building.
How do I make Freedom of Information (FOIA) request about a vacant
Vacant building registration information is maintained by the Department of Buildings.
Click here for the Department of Buildings FOIA information
Who owns these vacant buildings?
Unofficial ownership information is provided for most of the properties included
on this website under “Contacts.” You can obtain official ownership information
at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office, 118 N. Clark St.
Is my building a “vacant building”?
For a single-family home or residential building with less than 10 units, if no
one is legally living at the building, and no one who has lived at the building
in the past intends to return to live at the building in the next six months, the
building is vacant and must be registered within 30 days.
For a residential building with 10 or more units, if 90% or more of the units are
unoccupied the building is a vacant building and must be registered within 30 days.
For a non-residential building, if substantially all lawful business operations
have ceased the building is a vacant building and must be registered within 30 days.
The presence of a guard or watchman does not mean a building is occupied.
For a construction site, if permitted construction operations have stopped, the
construction site must be registered as a vacant building within 30 days. If a building
is vacant due to a fire or other damage, the building is vacant and must be registered
until repairs begin with a proper building permit, even if you are waiting for an
I own a vacant building. What am I required to do?
If you own a vacant building in the City of Chicago, you are required to:
If the building is in poor condition, or you are unable to secure it, it may be
more cost effective for you to demolish the building. Demolition requires a wrecking
permit (obtained from the Department of Buildings), and must be done by a licensed
and bonded demolition contractor. A vacant lot still must be kept clean and free
of high weeds but does not need to be registered.
My building is in foreclosure. Do I still own it?
Yes. A foreclosure lawsuit does not automatically end your ownership of a building.
Your ownership does not end until a judge signs an “Order Approving Sale”—this usually
will be six-months to several years after the foreclosure lawsuit began. Until the
judge signs an “Order Approving Sale” and a “Judicial Sales Deed” is recorded with
the Cook County Recorder of Deeds you remain responsible for registering and maintaining
I filed bankruptcy. Am I still responsible for my building?
Yes. A bankruptcy proceeding does not transfer ownership of your property or relieve
you of responsibility under the ordinance. If a foreclosure proceeding was pending
when you filed bankruptcy, it may continue once the bankruptcy is complete. In order
to transfer ownership of property, a deed must be executed and recorded with the
Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Why is my initial registration fee $500?
The initial owner registration fee is $250 if registration is voluntary and timely.
Effective January 1, 2012, if an owner registers after the City has cited the property
for a violation of the vacant building requirements, the initial fee is doubled
($500), as are all subsequent renewal fees.
Why is my renewal fee more than my initial registration fee?
If at the end of a six-month registration period there are any open building code
violations on the building, the renewal fee for the subsequent six-month period
may be increased pursuant to ordinance to a maximum of $2,000. If you have been
cited for a violation of the building code at a vacant building, and you have performed
work to correct the violation, you should call the Department of Buildings at (312)
743-7200 and arrange an inspection to verify compliance before the time for renewal
to avoid being charged an increased renewal fee.
Am I required to designate an authorized agent?
If you are a natural person and do not register using an address in Cook County,
Illinois, where you live or maintain an office, you must designate another person
who lives or maintains an office in Cook County as your authorized agent. By designating
an authorized agent, you agree that the City can provide notice to you through that
person of any violations or legal or administrative proceedings. If there is a dangerous
situation at the property, the City may contact your authorized agent instead of
I am no longer the owner of a vacant building. Why am I receiving
email alerts about the building?
You are still receiving email alerts because you have not deregistered your building.
If the building is demolished, reoccupied, or sold, it must be deregistered within
20 days. You must deregister the property if you lose the property through a foreclosure,
but only after the judge signs an “Order Approving Sale.”
You can deregister your property through this website when logged in to your account.
Once the property is deregistered, you will stop receiving alerts about City services
to the property. Failure to deregister as required may result in additional fees
Can I be criminally liable if someone is injured at my vacant building?
Yes. If a person is seriously injured or dies in a vacant building you own because
you failed to keep the building secure as required or failed correct a dangerous
building code violation, you may be charged with a crime, and if convicted, face
up to 6 months in jail. (Municipal Code of Chicago, Section 13-12-147.)
Where can I get a copy of the ordinance requirements for mortgagees?
The requirements applicable to mortgagees are found in sections 13-12-126 to 13-12-128
of the Municipal
Code of Chicago.
When did the requirements for mortgagees go into effect?
The current requirements became effective November 19, 2011.
Do the mortgagee requirements apply to all types of buildings?
No. Only residential buildings can be “vacant” under the mortgagee requirements.
A residential building is a completed building containing one or more dwelling units
or an uncompleted structure on property zoned for residential development.
How do I know if a building is vacant?
Beginning when a mortgage has been in default for 45 days, a mortgagee must determine
on a monthly basis if the building(s) on the mortgaged property is/are occupied
or vacant. This determination may be made by communication with the borrower or
a visual inspection of the property. The exact definition of “vacant” under the
mortgagee requirements is found in Section 13-12-126(e)(5) of the Municipal Code
Is a vacant condominium unit subject to the registration requirement?
No. Vacant condominium units are not subject to the mortgagee requirements unless
the mortgage is on the entire building (such as a construction loan) and the entire
building is vacant.
Is a mortgagee required to designate an authorized agent?
If a mortgagee does not maintain an office in Cook County, Illinois, and provide
this Cook County address at the time of registration, it must designate either a
natural person or a business registered with the Illinois Secretary of State having
an office or residence in Cook County as its authorized agent for the purpose of
receiving notices and legal process.
When must a mortgagee deregister?
A mortgagee must deregister no more than 20 days after the loan is assigned (unless
the servicer will remain the same), a mortgage release is recorded, the building
is demolished, or the building is reoccupied. If a mortgagee takes title to the
property pursuant to a judicial sale (REO), it must deregister as mortgagee within
20 days and create a new owner registration within 30 days. All requirements applicable
to owners apply to the titleholder following approval of a judicial sale. Failure
to deregister as required may result in additional fees or penalties.
How does a mortgagee assert one of the defenses under the ordinance?
If a mortgagee is cited for a violation of the mortgagee registration and maintenance
requirements, but can assert one of the affirmative defenses included in the ordinance,
the mortgagee must appear in the proceeding and present evidence supporting its
defense to the city attorney, hearing officer, or judge. Failure to appear in a
proceeding may result in a default fine or judgment.