An Illinois landlord has to go to court to evict a tenant. Illinois Legal Aid says a do-it-yourself eviction, such as changing the locks or throwing possessions into the street, can result in $500 a day in fines.
Southern Illinois University's School of Law says a landlord who wants a tenant out must usually give advance notice. The time frame depends on different circumstances:
- The tenant is staying in the rental after the lease expires: no notice required.
- No written lease: 30 days notice.
- Renting by the month or less: 30 days.
- The tenant violated the lease: 10 days.
- The tenant hasn't paid the rent: five days.
If the tenant pays the late rent or fixes the lease violation, the landlord loses the right to evict.
The landlord can mail the notice, hand deliver it or leave it with another occupant of the rental who's at least 13 years old. SIU has copies of the notice forms online.
The landlord can't file an eviction lawsuit — forcible entry and detainer in legalspeak — until the notice period expires. If the tenant is still there when the five, 10 or 30 days are up, the landlord goes to the county courthouse to file the suit. The county must be the same one where the rental property is located.
The landlord asks the circuit clerk for an eviction complaint form, fills it out and files it along with paying the county filing fee. If the landlord wants a jury trial, she must say so when she files and pay a fee for that, too. She then pays the county sheriff to serve the complaint on the tenant. The tenant can submit a written answer to the complaint after he receives it. He can also just show up at the scheduled court hearing to make his case there.
Court costs for forcible entry and detainer routinely cost up to $400.
If either the tenant or landlord misses the hearing, the judge usually finds for the other party. If not, both sides present their cases to the judge or the jury.
The burden of proof is on the landlord. He has to show that he is the rightful landlord, that he has grounds for eviction, and that he's followed all the Illinois legal procedures. The tenant can defend herself by showing she's paid the rent in full, for example, or that she didn't pay rent because the landlord refused to make necessary repairs.
If the judge finds for the landlord, the court will issue an order of possession. This order gives the tenant a deadline to move. If she stays put, the landlord pays the sheriff to remove her. The sheriff's office will call the day before the eviction to notify the landlord or his representative to be there.