To legally evict a tenant from a residential property in Illinois, a landlord needs to comply with the Illinois eviction process and the various steps involved.
A landlord who fails to abide by the appropriate procedures may have their eviction action dismissed by the court. If the landlord attempts any self-eviction measures, then he or she may have to pay damages to the tenant.
Self-eviction is illegal. This includes any conduct construed as forcing the tenant to quit the premises such as by turning off utilities, violating the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment, denying the tenant access to the property or threatening the tenant.
Any residential eviction in the Illinois eviction process begins with service of a written notice to the tenant. Depending on the reason for the eviction and the type and duration of the lease, there are different Illinois eviction notice periods.
Each notice must describe the leased property, the reason for the eviction and state that the lease will terminate after a certain number of days following service. The notice period begins on the day the tenant receives the notice with weekends excluded in counting the notice period. A landlord can use whatever time for compliance he or she wishes, so long as it is more than the statutory notice period.
For nonpayment of rent, a 5-day notice is required to be served. Should the tenant pay the entire rent within the 5 days, or if he or she pays the rent beyond the 5 days but before the landlord files a Summons and Complaint for Forcible Entry and Detainer, the eviction process cannot be continued.
In all situations other than nonpayment of rent, a 10-day Illinois eviction notice must be served. These situations include noncompliance with the rental agreement or damaging the premises. The tenant only has 10 days to cure the noncompliance or vacate the premises. A general description of the conduct that is in noncompliance is required in the notice.
A 30-day notice period to quit the premises is required if there is only an oral lease or if the lease is for less than 30-days.
If it is a month-to-month lease, the tenant must be given 30-days written notice but no reason need be given.
In cases where the tenant is holding over, or staying beyond the expiration of the lease and there is no automatic extension or agreement to extend it, the landlord may proceed directly to file a Forcible Entry and Detainer action in court without serving any notice.
Service of the Notice
Service of the Illinois eviction notice may be accomplished by personal service on the tenant, on a subtenant who is at least 13 years of age, or by certified or registered mail. A server may not post the notice on the door or by leaving it in a conspicuous place unless the tenant has abandoned the property and no one is living there.
A copy of the notice that was served and a notarized certificate of service is required to be filed with the court.
Summons and Complaint for Forcible Entry and Detainer
Once the notice period has expired and the tenant has not complied, the landlord must file and serve a Forcible Entry and Detainer action in a court where the property is located. Once the court has received a copy of the notice and a notarized certificate of service, the complaint can be filled out at the clerk’s office and filed.
If the landlord wants a jury trial, he or she must demand it when the complaint is filed, but most cases are heard before a judge only.
The tenant must be served by the sheriff or process server. The time, date and location of the hearing will be on the summons. If the tenant wants a jury trial, he or she can request it in the answer, although jury fees will have to be deposited, or on the hearing date.
If the tenant fails to appear at the hearing, a default judgment will be entered. If the tenant appears and is contesting the eviction, the judge will either hold the hearing that day or reschedule it for a different day.
The landlord has the burden of proving that the proper notice was served, that the tenant violated the lease and that the complaint was properly filed and served. The rules of evidence need to be followed so that hearsay or statements made by others outside of court or documents prepared by someone else may not be admissible unless that person is in court and testifies.
Defenses to Illinois Eviction
A tenant can contest an eviction by asserting an appropriate defense, such as the following:
- The rent was paid within the notice period or before the landlord filed the Forcible Entry and Detainer action.
- The landlord waived the eviction action by accepting partial payment of the rent.
- There was no noncompliance with the rental agreement.
- Compliance was achieved within the notice period.
- The notice was not properly served, if at all.
- The landlord breached the warranty of habitability or failed to correct a hazardous condition despite written notice.
- The eviction is in retaliation for the tenant complaining about the premises, organizing other tenants, or exercising a legal right.
- The eviction is based on the tenant’s marital or family status, national origin, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability.
A tenant can also allege self-repair measures were needed and that a reduction in the rent was made after giving notice to the landlord.
If the landlord is successful in court, the judge will issue a judgment ordering the tenant to vacate and, if applicable, stating the amount of rent owed. The court may or may not give the tenant several days to vacate and to find a new residence.
In nonpayment of rent cases, the judge may impose an order regarding a payment plan. Failure to comply with the payment plan can subject the tenant to penalties for contempt of court. A tenant should also consult an attorney regarding certain applicable exemptions in paying overdue rent in these situations for low income individuals.
If the tenant does not leave the premises, only the sheriff may forcibly evict the tenant. The sheriff will need a copy of the judgment before enforcing it.