Can a Landlord Take Rent Money From a Tenant They Have an Eviction Judgment Against?

Can a Landlord Take Rent Money From a Tenant They Have an Eviction Judgment Against?

Last updated: February 2011

The following questions were submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette. This article was published on February 09, 2011.

Question:

I’m a landlord. Sometimes tenants offer to pay me after I’ve already taken them to court and gotten an eviction judgment against them. If they offer to catch up their rent after the judgment, do I have to let them? If they can only part of what they owe, can I take their money and still evict them?

Answer:

Landlords who already have eviction judgments against their tenant are in the driver’s seat. They pretty much call the shots. They can take money from tenants if they want to, but they don’t have to. In particular, they don’t have to let tenants catch up the rent and stay.

The basic parts of an eviction are: notice, and a court case. In an eviction for non-payment of rent, there’s just point in the process where the landlord must let the tenant pay and stay.

That’s when the tenant offers to pay what’s owed within 5 days of getting an eviction notice. That’s the whole point of a 5 day notice—to give the tenant a chance to avoid eviction by catching up.

The law is clear, though, that only full payment within 5 days stops the eviction. The landlord can’t refuse. If tenants offer less, and the landlord’s properly warned them, the landlord can take their money and still evict. The proper warning is set out in the law, and says (in part): “Only full payment of the rent demanded in this notice will waive the landlord’s right to terminate the lease.”

After those 5 days are up, but before a court case is filed, the landlord can probably take full payment and still evict. But that’s not perfectly clear, and the source of some disagreement.

Once the eviction case is filed, state law clearly says that accepting past due rent from the tenant “shall not invalidate the suit.” That should be just as true after you get an eviction judgment.

The judgment officially establishes your right to evict the tenant. You’re in control. You can take past due rent, and still evict. If you want to, you can let the tenant pay to stay, but you don’t have to, and they can’t make you. It’s your call.

Good landlords won’t mislead tenants into thinking that payments will stop the eviction, but still evict.

Smart tenants won’t let themselves be misled. If there’s already an eviction judgment, tenants shouldn’t pay a dime unless there’s a written agreement from the landlord that says payment stops the eviction. Unless, of course, they know they’ll be evicted anyway.

Eviction judgments are now good for 120 days. After that, they expire, and should not be enforced by the sheriff. Within 120 days, landlords can seek extensions, which require a specific notice to the tenant.

So, if you have an unexpired eviction judgment a tenant, you’re in control. The tenant is vulnerable, and has no leverage to make you do anything.

[Editor's note: Tenants and landlords may also be protected by local laws or ordinances. For example in Chicago, the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance gives more rights to landlords and tenants. You should always check if there are additional laws where you live.

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