Prairie State Legal Services

Renter's Handbook


Notice and Proceedings
Lock-Out and Changing Locks
Liability for Rent
Seizure of Property
Retaliatory Eviction
Small Claims

EvictionBack to Top

Eviction is the way a landlord removes a tenant from the premises after the lease (oral or written) has been properly ended. The violation of any clause in a lease by a tenant may give a landlord a reason to evict a tenant. Examples are: If a tenant fails to pay rent within five days after it is due; if a tenant keeps a pet and there is a no-pet clause or agreement; if a tenant makes too much noise and there is a no-noise clause; etc.

Notice and ProceedingsBack to Top

The following are the steps which a landlord must take in order to legally evict you. YOU CAN ONLY BE EVICTED BY LEGAL MEANS as described directly below. If this procedure is not followed by the landlord, the eviction is illegal. If you are the victim of an illegal eviction, call an attorney - If the immediate safety of yourself or your property is threatened, call the police.

  • Your landlord must serve you with a written notice stating that he or she wants you out. The notice must state a definite date that you have to leave. It must be dated and it must be signed by the landlord. The notice does not have to be notarized or delivered by a sheriff. However, it must be delivered in person by someone. Generally, posting the notice on the door or leaving it inside the premises is not proper. It is possible if you have a written lease that you gave up your right to have a notice, so read your lease carefully. There are three different types of notices, depending on the reason or ending the lease:

    a. For nonpayment of rent -- the landlord must give the tenant at least five days' notice. The notice cannot be served until the day after rent is due. The tenant must pay the rent due within five days after the day he or she receives the notice. If you do not pay within those five days, the lease is ended.

    b. For any other breach of the lease, the landlord must give the tenant at least ten days' notice, stating why he wants you out.

    c. Oral lease only -- no reason - if you have an oral lease, the landlord may end the lease for no reason with at least one rental period notice. The notice must be given to the tenant on the last day or the first day of the rental period. For example, if you pay your rent monthly and rent is due on the 1st, your landlord may end your lease at any time by serving you with one month's notice on the day before rent is due or the 1st of the month. If you pay rent by the week, the landlord need only give you one week's notice.

  • In the case of a five-day notice for nonpayment of rent, if you pay all of the rent within the five days, your landlord can take no further action against you and you can stay. If you do not pay the rent within the five days, but offer it to your landlord after the five days, your landlord can take the money and evict you or refuse the money and evict you. If you are being evicted for some other breach of the lease, the landlord does not have to accept any promise or solution; he can evict you. If you have not left the premises by the time stated in the notice, the landlord must then take you to court. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE THE PREMISES UNTIL YOU HAVE BEEN IN COURT AND A JUDGE TELLS YOU TO LEAVE.
  • Your landlord now must file suit against you and you will be served with summons. The sheriff will give you the summons which will state the time and date that you will have to go to court for a hearing. By all means go to court. If you have moved out by the time of the court hearing, you should go to make sure the amount of money the landlord tells the judge you owe is correct. If you are still in the unit, you can ask for more time to move out. The judge does not have to give you more time, but he may.
  • At the court hearing, you will have an opportunity to tell your story2E You may show up with or without an attorney. The judge will then decide whether you must vacate the premises. If the judge decides in favor of the landlord, he can order you to be out that same day. UNDER ILLINOIS LAW, IT DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, IF YOU ARE PREGNANT, IF YOU ARE SICK, IF IT IS WINTER, OR IF YOU HAVE NO PLACE TO GO. THE JUDGE CAN ORDER YOU TO MOVE THE SAME DAY YOU GO TO COURT! If you fail to leave the premises, the sheriff can, and will, move you and your property out on the front lawn.

    It is also possible the judge will allow you to stay on the premises if you can convince him that you did not break the lease. Be prepared to have any receipts, documents or witnesses with you to help convince the judge2E This will not help you if you have an oral lease and you received one rental period notice because the landlord can evict you for no reason at all.

    Lock-outs and Changing LocksBack to Top

    Lock-outs, changing locks, utility shut offs and using force to remove you from the premises are always illegal. Your landlord must give you notice and take you to court in order to evict you. If he or she attempts some type of force to get you to leave, call an attorney or the police.

    Liability for Rent

    Just because the landlord is trying to evict you does not mean you do not have to pay rent. You are liable for rent for every day you are in the premises. Even after you move out you may be liable for your rental period until a new tenant moves in. Be aware of this.

    Seizure of PropertyBack to Top

    In general, your landlord cannot take any of your personal belongings as a means to get you to move out of the premises. However, if you owe your landlord rent, he can seize your property provided that he or she immediately files suit against you, listing all the property he or she has taken. In most cases, the landlord who seizes a tenant's property fails to file suit against the tenant. In this case, the seizure is illegal and the landlord may be liable to the tenant for damages. If you experience this problem, contact an attorney.

    Retaliatory Eviction

    Your landlord cannot evict you for contacting the housing or building officials or for your demands that the premises meet the housing codes. If you receive an eviction notice, seek legal help to be sure what your rights are.

    Small ClaimsBack to Top

    Small Claims Court is a courtroom at the county courthouse in which cases are brought that involve less than $2,500. The purpose of Small Claims Court is to give people an opportunity to sue someone or defend themselves without having to be represented by an attorney. Although you may use an attorney in Small Claims Court, you do not have to have one.

    Although a broad range of cases can be heard in small claims, some very common ones are suits brought by landlords against tenants for eviction and for back rent and suits by tenants against landlords for seizing the tenant's property or to make the landlord repair the premises.

    It is very easy for anyone, whether a tenant or a landlord, to bring a suit in small claims. The person bringing the suit is the plaintiff. The person being sued is the defendant. To file a suit, the plaintiff must go to the small claims office at the courthouse and ask for a complaint form.

    There are filing fees required to bring a Small Claims suit. If you have limited income and cannot afford to pay the filing fee, ask the Clerk of the Court to give you a Petition to Proceed As A Poor Person. You need to supply financial information on this petition. A Judge will then review it and enter an order which either allows or rejects your petition to file the case without paying filing fees.

    On the complaint form, the plaintiff must put her/his name and address, the name and address of the defendant, how much money he or she is suing for or the approximate value of any items he or she wants returned, and a brief description of why the plaintiff is suing. The plaintiff must then pay a filing fee (depends on how much the plaintiff is suing for) and a service fee (to have the sheriff give copies of the complaint to the defendant). The people at the small claims office then set a date and time for the judge to hear the case and send copies of the complaint to the sheriff. The sheriff then gives copies of the complaint to the defendant along with a summons, telling the defendant when he or she has to go to court.

    At the date and time to appear in court, both the plaintiff and the defendant should show up at the Small Claims Courtroom. If the defendant shows up but the plaintiff does not, the case is dismissed and the defendant does not have to pay anything. If the plaintiff shows up but the defendant does not, then the defendant loses (by default -- failure to shop up) and probably will have to pay whatever the plaintiff claims the defendant owes. If neither the plaintiff nor the defendant show up, the case is dismissed and the defendant does not have to pay anything.

    If both the plaintiff and defendant show up, the plaintiff must explain to the judge why he or she is suing the defendant. She/He must state exactly how much money is due her/him and must bring any documents or witnesses he or she has to support her/his story. After the plaintiff is done, the defendant can question the plaintiff or any of the witnesses the plaintiff has.

    The defendant then must explain to the judge why he or she does not owe the plaintiff what the plaintiff claims. The defendant must bring any documents or witnesses he or she has to support her/his story. After the defendant is done, the plaintiff can question the defendant or any of the witnesses the defendant has.

    After this, the judge then decides who wins and gives his decision. Usually, if the judge finds the defendant must pay, the defendant does not have to pay that day. In fact, if the defendant refuses to pay, the plaintiff must take her/him to court again at another time to get the defendant to pay.

    If the defendant is sued for eviction, the judge may order the defendant to move out the same day the case is in court. UNDER ILLINOIS LAW, IT DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, IF YOU ARE PREGNANT, IF YOU ARE SICK, IF IT IS WINTER OR IF YOU HAVE NO PLACE TO GO. THE JUDGE CAN ORDER YOU TO MOVE THE SAME DAY YOU GO TO COURT. Occasionally, the judge may give you a few days to move.

    If you have questions about Small Claims Court, contact the small claims office in your county courthouse. If the case is complicated or if you are unsure, see an attorney.

    PSLS Back to Top

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