If a residential tenant fails to pay rent or otherwise breaches a term of the lease, a landlord in Illinois may not engage in self-help but needs to follow the legal process in obtaining an eviction.
The landlord must first provide the tenant with written notice, which must describe the property, the reason for the eviction, and state the lease will terminate after a certain number of days. For nonpayment of rent, a five-day notice must be given. For other situations not involving the nonpayment of rent, a ten-day notice must be given.
The notice must be properly served, which includes personal service on the tenant, personal service on a subtenant who is at least thirteen-years-old, and by certified or registered mail. The notice may not be posted on the tenant’s door unless the tenant has abandoned the property and no one is living on the premises.
Once the notice period has expired and the tenant has failed to comply with the notice, the landlord may file a forcible entry and detainer action with the circuit court where the property is located. A copy of the notice that was served on the tenant as well as a notarized certificate of service must be filed with the court. Next, the tenant must be personally served with the complaint and the summons. Either party may request a jury trial; however, typically, these cases proceed in front of a judge only.
A trial date is scheduled. If the tenant fails to appear at the trial, a default judgment is entered in favor of the landlord. If the tenant appears and contests the eviction, then the judge hears the testimony and evidence. There are several defenses to evictions, including rent was paid either within the notice period or before the landlord filed the eviction proceeding, the landlord waived eviction by accepting partial payment, the rental contract was complied with, compliance occurred within the notice period, the notice was not properly served, 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 exercising a legal right, and the eviction is based on the tenant’s protected status (family, national origin, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, etc.).
If the landlord prevails, then the court enters a judgment of eviction, ordering the tenant to vacate the premises. The court may give the tenant a few or several days to vacate and find a new residence. The court may also grant a request by the landlord for a money judgment for nonpayment of rent.
Ultimately, if the tenant does not leave the premises, the sheriff may forcibly evict the tenant pursuant to the eviction order.
Landlords seeking to event a tenant, as well as tenants seeking to avoid an eviction, are wise to consult with an experienced attorney.