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Vacant Buildings

Vacant Buildings Process Questions (FAQs)

For the General Public
For Building Owners
For Mortgagees and Mortgage Servicers

What can I do to help address the problem of vacant buildings in Chicago?

  • Call 311 or click here to report a vacant or troubled building.
  • Check this website regularly for information about vacant buildings with code violations.
  • Attend a hearing. Contact your block club or call the CAPS implementation office at (312) 745-5900 to find out about the court advocacy program.
  • Join a block club or start one by calling the CAPS office at (312) 745-5900.
  • Attend a police beat meeting. For more information on beat meetings, click here.
  • Contact your alderman for more information about programs and initiatives in your neighborhood. To find contact information for your alderman, click here.


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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.”


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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.


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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 and/or dangerous.


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.


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How do I make Freedom of Information (FOIA) request about a vacant building?

Vacant building registration information is maintained by the Department of Buildings. Click here for the Department of Buildings FOIA information page.


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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.


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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 insurance payment.


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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:

  • Secure all openings to prevent unlawful entry.
  • Insure the property. Proof of liability insurance with specified minimum coverage will be required at the time of registration.
  • Register the vacant building at http://ipiweb.cityofchicago.org/vbr. Payment of a registration fee ($250-500) is required at the time of registration. The fee will be higher if the City has found your property to be in violation of the vacant building requirements before you register. The website accepts payment using a credit card or checking account.
  • Post a sign in a prominent location on the building, visible from the nearest street, that includes the name, street address (not a P.O. Box), and phone number of the current owner(s) or owner’s agent, and the vacant building registration number assigned to the building during the registration process.
  • Maintain the property and visit regularly to make sure the property is clean and secure.
  • Renew the registration every six months. An additional fee will be required when you renew.
  • Deregister the building if the building is reoccupied or demolished or if you sell the property. You must deregister within 20 days of the qualifying event. If you fail to deregister as required, you may be liable for additional fees or penalties.


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.


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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 the building.


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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.


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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.


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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 email the Department of Buildings at vacantbuildingprogram@cityofchicago.org and arrange an inspection to verify compliance before the time for renewal to avoid being charged an increased renewal fee.


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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 contacting you.


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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 or penalties.


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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.)


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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.


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When did the requirements for mortgagees go into effect?

The current requirements became effective November 19, 2011.


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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.


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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 of Chicago.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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