Landlords in Illinois can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Illinois.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated January 12, 2022
In this article, we explain the basics of Illinois eviction laws and eviction protections for renters. You might find this article useful if you’re a renter in Illinois and your landlord is threatening eviction, if you’re behind on rent, or if your lease is about to expire.
What Is Eviction?
Eviction is the legal process that a landlord uses to remove tenants from a rental property. In Illinois, a landlord must sue the tenant and win the lawsuit to evict. Landlords must use this legal process no matter why they’re evicting the tenant. Removing a tenant without a court order is sometimes called a self-help eviction or an illegal lockout. Self-help evictions often look like changing the locks, using force to kick a tenant out, shutting off utilities, or doing something to make the living space uninhabitable.
Who Can Be Evicted in Illinois?
Renters often enter a rental agreement called a lease to establish their tenancy with a landlord. Anyone in a tenant-landlord relationship can be evicted. In most situations, other people living with the tenant who aren’t on the lease can be evicted if the tenant on the lease is lawfully evicted.
Upsolve User Experiences1,987+ Members Online
Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Illinois?
Generally, a tenant can be evicted if they’re behind on rent, if they’ve violated the lease, or if the lease has expired and the landlord refuses to renew it.
Late or Short on Rent
In Illinois, a landlord can evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent. But the landlord must first go through several steps before they can actually physically remove the tenant.
When a tenant is behind on rent payments, the landlord starts the eviction process by giving the tenant a five-day notice. The notice will include:
The date of the notice.
The address of the tenant’s home.
The amount of rent the tenant owes.
The date that the lease will end after the five days.
A statement that the tenant has the right to pay the full amount of rent owed within those five days.
If the tenant pays the full amount owed within the five days of the eviction notice, the landlord must accept the payment. But if the tenant doesn’t pay the full amount within the five days of the eviction notice, the landlord can sue the tenant for eviction in court.
Another reason a landlord can evict a tenant is for a lease violation. In this situation, the landlord must give the tenant a 10-day notice to vacate before filing the eviction. The 10-day notice must state:
The date of the notice.
The tenant’s address.
The date that the tenant must move out by.
What part of the lease the tenant violated.
If you’re not out of the property in time, the landlord can file an eviction in court. The court process is similar to the process for unpaid rent. If the lease violation stated by the landlord can be fixed by the tenant, the tenant should try to fix the violation and notify the landlord. The tenant should also document everything they did to fix the violation in case the landlord still takes the case to court.
If you’re on a month-to-month lease, your landlord can terminate your lease for no reason by giving you a 30-day notice to vacate. The notice must state:
The date of the notice.
The address of the property.
The date that the tenant must move out.
If you’re not out by that date, the landlord may file an eviction in court.
The Illinois Eviction Process
Landlords must follow certain steps in residential evictions. We’ll cover the process in this section.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
After a landlord provides the tenant with one of the notices above, the landlord may file an eviction case in court. If the tenant is being evicted for nonpayment of rent and they pay off the rent demanded in the notice, the landlord can’t file an eviction.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
Once the landlord files the eviction case, the tenant should receive a summons that tells the tenant when and where the first court date is. A sheriff or process server must serve the summons to the tenant by hand-delivering it. If the sheriff can’t hand the summons directly to the tenant, the landlord must fill out an affidavit explaining this and post the summons on the property or publish the summons in a local newspaper.
The summons should come with the document that the landlord filed in court, known as a petition or complaint. The petition should state the total amount of rent the landlord is suing for if they want to evict you for nonpayment of rent.
At the first court date, your case can either go to trial or be “continued” to a later date. It’s very important to know that the trial can happen the same day as the first court date. Sometimes tenants can’t attend the trial or other court dates. If you aren’t able to attend, contact the court to see if you can have the trial rescheduled. If you miss the court date the landlord can still ask the court for an eviction order and the court may grant the landlord a default judgment. This means they win the case by default since you didn’t show up.
If a tenant has defenses to the landlord’s eviction, the tenant should bring a written explanation of those defenses and any documentation that supports them to their first court date. Make sure that the court receives the documents and has them on file.
At trial, the judge will hear evidence from the landlord that you’re a tenant and that you're behind on rental payments. The judge may also hear your defenses and any evidence you have for them.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
The court can issue a judgment on the day of trial or some day after it. If the judge agrees with the landlord that you owe rent, the judge will sign an eviction order which states:
How much money you owe the landlord, and
How many days you have to move out before the landlord can evict you.
You can still try to negotiate with your landlord after the judge gives the eviction order. If you and the landlord can come to an agreement, you should file a statement notifying the court of the agreement. The court should then cancel the eviction order. Make sure that the court is aware of the agreement and that the eviction order gets canceled.
The Appeals Process
You can also appeal an eviction order if you disagree with it. You must file your appeal within 30 days of the eviction order. To do this, go to the court that ordered the eviction, find the court clerk, and request to file a notice of appeal. Make sure you have a copy of the eviction order with you. After filing the notice of appeal, file an emergency motion to stay the eviction pending the appeal. This is to ensure that the eviction doesn’t happen while the appeal is still being considered.
If the original judge denies this motion, you should file the same motion with the appeals court. Generally, to stop the eviction during the appeal, you’ll have to pay the amount of money awarded to the landlord in the eviction order. You’ll also have to continue to pay rent into the court as it becomes due.
For the eviction to finally go through, the landlord must request the local sheriff to come and perform the eviction. The landlord or a person working with the landlord must be present when the sheriff arrives. The sheriff removes the tenant being evicted but doesn’t remove their personal property.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
Generally, tenants can raise defenses and counterclaims in eviction cases. If you have a defense to the landlord’s reason for the eviction, you should raise it. For example, if the landlord is evicting you for allegedly breaching the lease, you can argue and show evidence that you didn’t violate the lease. Another example of a defense is that you may not actually owe the rent that the landlord claims.
If the property was in a poor condition, unsafe, or dangerous while you lived there, you can bring those conditions up at trial to argue that the rent should be reduced. Bring evidence of these conditions, like reports from local government inspectors, pictures, or receipts for repairs you had to pay for.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Illinois
If you receive a summons, your first step should be contacting an Illinois legal aid organization or lawyer. If you’re facing eviction because you can’t afford your rent, look into rental assistance programs. Also, if you’re comfortable doing so, you can reach out to your landlord before the first court date to try and work out an agreement that works for both of you.
Remember that communication is key. It’s almost always better to reach out to your landlord as soon as a problem comes up. If you’re behind on rent, be proactive and talk to your landlord about setting up an agreement to get caught up. You should also reach out to your landlord before your lease expires to talk about renewing the lease or moving out. Good communication with your landlord can often help you avoid an eviction lawsuit. The mere filing of an eviction can follow your rental history and restrict your opportunities for housing in the future.
Negotiation can often resolve the case without going to trial. If a landlord files an eviction against you, think about ways you can negotiate with your landlord or their attorney. For example, if you only owe a few months of rent, some landlords might be willing to dismiss the eviction if you pay additional money until you’ve paid the amount owed. Sometimes, landlords will drop the case if you agree to move out by a certain time. Make sure that any agreement you make with your landlord is in writing and is signed by both you and your landlord.
Tenant Resources in Illinois
Legal Aid Chicago has low-cost or free legal aid options for Illinois residents.
Illinois Rental Assistance Program from IllinoisRentalAssistance.org has resources to prevent homelessness and keep Illinois residents housed.
Illinois Housing Development Authority: IHDA has emergency rental assistance program information and options for renters and tenants still struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.