An eviction is the legal process in which a landlord reclaims a leased premises from a tenant. A landlord may move to evict a tenant for a variety of causes, some of the more common ones being things such as non-payment or chronically late payment of rent, lease violations, damaging the premises, or conducting illegal activities on the property. On the other side of the coin, a tenant may rightfully have to defend against an attempted eviction for a number of reasons, most of which tend to involve a landlord attempting to remove a tenant in violation of their lease contract because a better financial opportunity has presented itself or because of some personal reason. Either party may be the bad actor in an eviction action, and both parties have remedies available to redress the situation.
Eviction proceedings may seem to be fairly straightforward, but they involve very specific procedures, and if a landlord does not adhere to them correctly not only do they run the risk of losing the eviction proceeding on technical grounds, but the landlord can in many cases find themselves subject to fines or other penalties. This is especially true when a landlord succumbs to the temptation of resorting to “self-help” when trying to remove a tenant. It is illegal in the state of Illinois for a landlord to attempt to remove a tenant themselves: forcibly removing a tenant, changing the locks, or cutting off the utility services to the property may seem like a valid option to a landlord, but it is not and could result in the landlord owing money to the tenant for the landlord’s actions. A few hundred dollars in court costs and sheriff’s fees to do things correctly may seem like a lot of money, but it will quickly pale in comparison to what “self-help” can end up costing.
The process of an eviction has five steps:
- The landlord must serve the tenant with legally valid written notice of an intent to evict.
- After notice is served, if the tenant fails to correct valid issues presented by the landlord, the landlord must then file an eviction suit. It is important to note that notice of the suit must be legally served on the tenants: this is distinct from the notice of an intent to evict the tenant.
- Once the eviction suit is filed, there will be a court hearing at which both sides will present their case. The Court will decide at this point which party has the legal right to possession of the property in question.
- If the landlord is held to be in the right the court will grant an Order for Possession. Typically these orders will grant the tenant an amount of time to move out before the actual eviction, and in many cases will award the landlord past-due rents, attorney’s fees, and court costs.
- Finally, if the tenant has not vacated the property by the established date and time the local Sheriff will forcibly remove the tenants.
The attorneys of Cohen Dovitz Makowka, LLC are experienced in assisting clients involved in eviction proceedings. If you are a landlord who needs to remove a tenant, or a tenant facing an eviction by your landlord, contact a member of our legal team to learn about your options.