What’s the deal with evictions in Illinois?
Since it’s illegal for a landlord to personally evict a tenant, the eviction process in Illinois can be lengthy and will always include the services of a Sheriff’s Office. In most cases, deputies vacate premises of humans, animals and their possessions. So, Cook County Sheriff’s deputies had a wild surprise at a scheduled Chatham eviction when they encountered a small alligator in the dining room.
Unreported pet ownership bites and—even with Illinois ranked pretty low, in the fifth spot, for pet ownership popularity, by state—the region’s landlords may want to take note of any undue signs of a Fido, Fluffy or even a little ‘Miss Allie Gator’ moving in.
You may never have to evict tenants with wild animals as roommates—at least, not in the literal sense—but every landlord may have to evict a tenant at some point in order to maintain both property value and safety. When you must evict, you’re far better off following Illinois’ specific legal procedures for evictions because penalties for failing to do so can be costly, with some fines totalling up to $500 per day which, as it happens, is about what a legal eviction will cost you in total.
What are some reasons I can evict a tenant?
Illinois eviction laws offer two main reasons for which you may evict a tenant, being failure to pay rent on time and Lease or Rental Agreement violations. Another reason for an eviction may be a tenant’s refusal to vacate following expiration of a lease. No cause is required for unwritten, month-to-month leases.
Are there situations in which I cannot evict a tenant?
When a written lease exists between landlord and tenant in Illinois, the landlord cannot evict a tenant without cause. It’s always best to avoid costly removals and vacancies whenever possible. Communicate with your tenants first and try to clear up any misunderstanding before starting an eviction in Illinois.
Never take it upon yourself to evict a tenant. Do not forcibly enter the unit, cut off access or utilities, or change the locks. If you’ve ever had the dubious pleasure of watching Michael Keaton’s devilish turn as the psychotic tenant-from-hell in Pacific Heights, you’ll easily understand that, just like in the movie, an Illinois landlord’s nightmare just may come true, too, if taking the law into their own hands, despite having first been wronged. Needless to say, let the authorities handle evictions to keep your assets safe.
What is the process normally like?
Whether for non-payment of rent or lease violations, every Illinois eviction must follow these steps and take care to list the tenant’s name, a brief description and address for the residence, the violation or reason for any notice and the date by which you expect the tenant to correct any violation.
- When a tenant falls behind in rental payments, you must issue a five-day notice to pay rent or quit the premises, stating that they must remit rent in full. Along with listing the tenant’s name, a brief description and address of the residence, state how much rent is past due and the date by which you expect the tenant to pay the overdue rent in full. Failure to pay the back rent moves your eviction process to step three.
- When a tenant is in violation of their lease for reasons other than past due rent—such as an unauthorized alligator, for instance—serve the tenant with a 10-day written notice to vacate, stating your intent and the reason for terminating the lease agreement, whether for unpaid rent, lease violations, or a combination of the above.
- When a tenant fails to pay back rent or to correct the violation of which you have previously notified them (as above), you may then file a forcible entry and detainer lawsuit at the courthouse in the County of the rental unit; the Sheriff’s Office will then issue a legal notice to the tenants.
- You must appear in court and convince a judge (or, potentially, a jury) that you issued the correct notice, properly terminated the lease, and have the legal right to possess the subject property, either by Deed or other legal contract.
- Prevailing in court gets you a written Order for Possession, which may also include a financial judgment for physical damages or outstanding rent, court costs and attorney’s fees. Typically, a Court-ordered eviction in Illinois allows the tenant adequate time to then pack up and move prior to the physical eviction.
- Eviction begins when you file your Order for Possession with the County Sheriff. The Sheriff’s Office will escort or forcibly remove tenants from your property, as necessary.
Where can I learn more?
If you have any questions, or think you may want to start the eviction process with a tenant in Illinois, please consult a lawyer.
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