Renting the Right Way: Part Three - The Eviction Process

Renting the Right Way: Part Three - The Eviction Process
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Last updated: July 2011

(The Eviction Process: Part Three of Renting the Right Way)

Forcible Entry & Detainer Actions (Evictions)
Step 1: The Notice
Step 2: The Lawsuit
Step 3: Go to Court
Step 4: The Order for Possession
Step 5: The Eviction

Forcible Entry & Detainer Actions (Evictions)

What Can You Do to Avoid an Eviction?

What can you do if your tenant is not keeping up his end of the bargain—if he has violated the lease?

First, try to talk to the tenant to see if you can reach an agreement. Sometimes a tenant has a reason for falling behind in the rent and simply needs a little more time to catch up. Or, a tenant may not understand that certain behavior is a violation. If you and your tenant can come to an understanding, you may be able to avoid an eviction and keep a tenant. However, make sure that any new agreement, whether temporary or permanent, is written down, dated and signed by both of you. Oral promises are useless—they cannot be enforced in court. Give your tenant a copy of the signed agreement and keep one for yourself.

If you cannot reach an agreement, send the tenant a letter. In the letter, you should advise the tenant that you expect either the lease (if you have one) or conditions you’ve set in a month-to-month tenancy, to be followed exactly. For example, if your lease forbids pets but you allowed your tenant to keep a dog, you cannot evict the tenant for keeping the dog unless you first send such a letter (a formal, written notice) telling the tenant you wish to enforce the lease and giving the tenant a chance to follow the terms.

If You Still Want to Evict

If, however, you still want to get rid of your tenant and find someone new, it does not hurt to try to negotiate your tenant out of the unit. For instance, you can offer your tenant an early move out date by promising not to sue for unpaid rent. Obviously, this requires that you and your tenant are both reasonable and can reach an agreement. If possible, this is the best way to go.

If an agreement is not possible, and you want the person out, you will have to go to court to get an “Order for Possession,” and then ask the Sheriff to enforce it.

Under no circumstances can you evict the tenant yourself. Illinois law forbids it. If you unlawfully change the locks, cut off utilities or take any steps to evict the tenant yourself, you can be fined up to $500 a day.

The eviction process is set by law. You must follow the law exactly or you will lose your case. This guide will explain and help you follow the eviction process step-by-step.

How Do You Evict a Tenant?

If you have a written lease, you cannot evict somebody just because you have changed your mind, and do not like them. They must have done something wrong, such as not paying rent or violating some rule or term in the lease.

If you have an oral (month-to-month) lease, you can evict your tenant for any reason, but only after you follow the process set out by law.

There are five basic steps to getting your unwanted tenant out. Each step is explained, in full, in this guide.

  1. Notice: You must serve the tenant with proper written notice of your intent to terminate the lease and why.
  2. Lawsuit: If the tenant fails to correct the violation, you must file a lawsuit and have the Sheriff give notice to the tenants.
  3. Court Hearing: You must go to court and prove to a judge or a jury that you have used the correct notice, that the lease has been properly terminated, and that you have a right to possession of the property.
  4. Order for Possession: If you win your case, you will get a written Order for Possession from the court. This Order may also include a judgment for past due rent, court costs, and attorney’s fees. The Order will almost always give the tenant some time to move before the actual eviction.
  5. Eviction: The actual eviction takes place when you place the Order for Possession with the Sheriff. The Sheriff will go out and forcibly remove the tenant from your property.

How Much Does it Cost?

Unfortunately, evictions cost money. Basic court costs for an eviction can run in excess of $400. You may be able to get some of the court costs waived if your income and assets fall below a certain level set by the court. Even so, no matter how low your income, some costs cannot be waived. For instance, the Sheriff’s $60.50 fee for forcibly removing a tenant is never waived.

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Step 1: The Notice

An eviction case begins by personally serving the tenant with a formal, written notice of your intention to terminate the rental. Any lease, whether written or oral, must be terminated before you can file a lawsuit and force the tenant to leave. The notice lets the tenant know why you want to evict and how the problem can be fixed to avoid the eviction.

Different types of violations require different types of notices. A notice is no good if it is not completed and served correctly. Samples of 5, 10, and 30 day notice forms can be found below. In addition, many stationery and office supply stores sell standard form notices.

What Kind of Notice Should I Use?

5-Day Notice: Failure to Pay Rent - Written or Oral Lease

Use a 5-Day Notice if your tenant is behind in rent. You must give your tenant five days to bring the rent up to date. The Notice must state the tenant’s name, a description of the rental unit, the amount of rent due, and the date by which the tenant must pay the back rent. The date stated in the Notice must be at least five days from the date the tenant is served with the notice. Even one day short and the notice is no good. For example, if you serve the tenant with the 5-Day Notice on July 5, the tenant must have at least through July 10 to pay you. The day that you serve the tenant with the notice does not count as one of the five days. You must be available to receive payment during the five days (for example if your office is closed on the weekends, those days do not count), so you should give your tenant a full five business days to pay their rent.

The notice must also state that if full payment is not received by the date specified, the lease is terminated. You may only demand rent that is actually due at the time of the notice.

You Must Accept Past Due Rent if Offered Within 5 Days.

If, within 5 days of giving the notice, the tenant tries to pay the entire amount of rent due, you must accept it. You will not be able to proceed with the eviction—even if you refuse the money.

What If Your Tenant Offers to Pay You Part of the Rent Due?

If you accept partial payment of the rent demanded in the 5-Day Notice, you could waive your right to terminate the lease. To protect yourself, make sure your notice clearly states that partial payment does not waive your right to terminate the lease. Please click on the title below to see a sample and a blank 5-Day notice.

5 Day Notice Form

10-Day Notice: Breach of Lease or Rental Agreement - Written or Oral Lease

Use a 10-Day Notice if your tenant violates the lease or rental agreement. For example, you can use the 10-Day Notice if your tenant gets a dog and the lease says no pets.

The notice must specify exactly what the tenant has done wrong and allow him ten days to correct it. If your tenant gets rid of the dog within 10 days, you cannot evict. However, if the tenant keeps the dog, you have the right to file a lawsuit and proceed with the eviction. Please click on the title below to see a sample and a blank 10-Day notice.

10 Day Notice Form

30-Day Notice: Terminate a Month-to-Month Oral Lease

Use a 30-day notice if you have no written lease, and the tenant is up-to-date on the rent. You do not need any particular reason to end a month-to-month tenancy, but you have to give the tenant notice that you will not renew the month-to-month lease.

You must give the tenant at least 30 days notice that you are ending the month-to-month lease. In addition, the notice must be served by the last day of the month before you want the tenant to move out. An oral lease always ends on the day of the month that rent is due. For instance, if you collect rent on the 1st and you want the tenant to move out by July 31, you must serve the notice no later than June 30. If you collect rent on the 15th, you should serve the notice no later than June 14.

Pay very careful attention to the date you serve the notice. You must give the tenant a full 30 days. If your tenant does not move out after the lease terminates, you can proceed with the lawsuit. Please click on the title below to see a sample and a blank 30-Day notice.

30 Day Notice Form

Is Notice Required if a Lease Expires?

A written lease expires automatically when the lease says it does, usually after one year. However, if the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) applies to your rental unit, you must give the tenant notice, in writing, 30 days before the end of the lease, that you will not renew the lease. If you do not, the tenant can stay an additional 60 days past the expiration of the lease. After 60 days, you can file an eviction lawsuit, without giving a 5, 10, or 30-day notice.

Rent Payments After Expired Lease

If you accept rent after the end of the lease, you will create a new month-to-month lease with your tenant. This new tenancy will have the same rules and terms as the lease you were using. If you want to end the lease at some point in the future, you will have to give a 30-Day Notice as described above.

How Do I give the 5-, 10-, or 30-Day Notice to the Tenant?

The best way to serve a Notice to Terminate is by personally handing it to the tenant. You can also hand it to someone who lives in the household, as long as that person is 13 years or older. You cannot leave it with a tenant’s guest or visitor.

If you cannot leave the notice with someone, you can mail it by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested. If the tenant has abandoned the apartment, you can simply post a copy of the notice on the apartment door. If the Notice is just posted however, you will not be able to get money (for back rent or damages) if notice is simply posted, unless the tenant actually shows up in court.

Always prepare 2 copies of your 5, 10, or 30-day notice. Serve one copy on the tenant and keep a copy - you will need to give this to the court. After you serve the notice, complete the Certificate of Service on your copy of the Notice by explaining how and when you served the tenant. Cross out the sections that do not apply to your situation. Finally, have your signature notarized by signing the Certificate of Service in the presence of a Notary Public. Notary services are available, for a small fee, at most banks and Currency Exchanges. You must present this notarized copy to the judge if and when you go to court for the eviction. The court will not accept the Notice if it is not completed correctly or not notarized.

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Step 2: The Lawsuit

What, Where & When Should I File?

If you have properly served the correct notice, and if your tenant has not corrected the violation and if your tenant has not already moved out, it is time to file a lawsuit.

Your lawsuit is officially known as a “Forcible Entry and Detainer Action.” If your tenant owes you back rent or for damage done to the apartment, you have the right to sue for money damages in addition to possession. When you sue for both, the case is called a joint action. If you sue only for possession, it is called a single action, or suit for possession only.

You might seek only possession when there is no rent due, or if you do not think the tenant can pay. If at first you file for possession only, you can file a separate lawsuit later for back rent or money damages.

If your apartment is in Chicago, your case will be filed and heard in the Richard J. Daley Center at Clark and Washington Streets, in Chicago’s Loop. If your apartment is in the suburbs, you may have to file in one of the suburban branch courts.

This guide assumes your unit is in Chicago. To file, you will need a copy of your completed 5, 10, or 30-day notice as well as a Complaint and Summons.

Prepare the Complaint and Summons

Start in Room 601 of the Daley Center. Head to the sign that says “Court Forms” to get a form Complaint and a form Summons. You will need to complete 3 copies of each. Please click on the titles below to see a sample and a blank copy of the Complaint and Summons.

Complaint Form
Summons Form

The Complaint

Tell the clerk if you are filing a single or a joint action because there is a different Complaint form for each.

You are the Plaintiff—the person bringing the lawsuit. The Defendant is the tenant and any other adults residing in the apartment. Make sure to list everyone over the age of 18 who is occupying the apartment because you can only evict the adults who are actually named in the lawsuit. If the original tenant has allowed other adults to move in and you are unsure of their names, include “Unknown Tenants” as defendants.

The Complaint has a blank space for a "Return Date." This is the first court date when you and the tenant must appear before a judge. The Return Date is usually two weeks after the date you file the case. When you get to the Daley Center look at the chalkboard in Room 601 or 602 for the proper return date, and put that date in your Complaint. If you cannot find the chalkboard, ask a clerk for help.

Check off the appropriate reason for the eviction. Cross out paragraphs that do not fit your situation. If your tenant breached the lease, specify the breach. For instance, the form states “the tenant breached the terms of the lease by . . .” If the tenant breached the lease by keeping a dog, you would write, “by keeping a dog.”

If you are filing a joint action, include the amount of rent or money damages in the appropriate space. You can only ask for the amount of back rent that is owed at the time you file your case. You cannot ask for missed payments you think might happen in the future. However, you may be able to get a judgment for rent that becomes due after you file.

Make sure you sign the Complaint and include an address where you can receive notices of the court action.

The Summons

Again, use the appropriate form Summons—Possession Only or Joint Action. Also, use the same Return Date that you used in the Complaint. The Plaintiff and Defendants (including “Unknown Defendants”) are the same as in the Complaint. You must name the tenant and other adults residing in the apartment as defendants.

File Your Case

How much does it cost?

Filing fees depend on whether you are filing for possession only or a joint action. If it is a joint action, the fee also depends on the amount of money you are seeking.

Eviction filing fees are as follows:
$234.00 for possession only and for joint actions up to $15,000.00
$429.00 for rent claims or joint actions in excess of $15,000.00.

What if I cannot afford the filing fee?

If you cannot afford the filing fee, you may be able to get it waived. The court looks to see if your household income is less than 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Before you complete the Complaint and Summons, ask the clerk for an “Application to Sue or Defend as an Indigent Person.” Complete this form before you fill out your Summons and Complaint, take it to Courtroom 1301, and give it to the clerk. The clerk will take it to the judge for approval. If the judge approves it, you will not have to pay a filing fee. Show the order to the filing clerk, who will stamp “Rule 298” on the Complaint and copies. If it is not approved, you will have to pay the fee in order to file your Complaint. If your fees are waived, take all of your papers back to 602 to file the case. Please click on the title below to learn more about how to waive these fees.

How to Waive Your Court Costs

File the Complaint

Take all of your copies of the Complaint and Summons to the clerk in Room 602 (under the “Filing” sign). Pay the filing fee, and the clerk will stamp each Complaint copy with the date and time. The clerk will keep one copy and hand the others back to you. The clerk will also put a special stamp on one Summons, date and sign the others, and hand them all back to you.

Once you have your papers back, go upstairs to Room 701, the Sheriff’s Department, to arrange for service of the Complaint and Summons.

Place Your Case With the Sheriff for Service

Your tenant must be “served” (handed the Complaint and Summons) by the Sheriff of Cook County. You cannot do it.

In Room 701, hand all of your papers to the clerk at the counter right inside the room. The clerk will take what their office needs and give you back the extra copies. She will also note how much service will cost and send you to the cashier farther along inside the room.

The Sheriff charges $60.00 to serve a Summons. If your fee was waived you must still go to the cashier. The cashier will stamp the papers and give you a receipt—either for your fee or for $0. Keep a copy of the receipt because it includes the sheriff’s writ number—the number they use to track service.

Once it receives your paperwork, the Sheriff’s office will go to the apartment and try to give the papers to your tenant. The tenant must be served at least 7 days before the Return Date (the date you must both show up in court). “Unknown Tenants” are automatically served whenever any tenant is served by the Sheriff or one of the other methods listed below.

What if I do not know the names of some of the people living in the apartment?

If your tenant has let other people move into the apartment, you should include “Unknown Tenants” as a defendant in your Complaint and Summons.

What if the apartment appears abandoned?

If the apartment appears abandoned, and you had to post the 5, 10, or 30-day Notice, you will have to serve the Complaint and Summons by Posting. You can do this as a first step if you know the apartment is abandoned or if you have “unknown tenants.” Otherwise, you must place a Summons with the Sheriff first. If the Sheriff fails, then you can post. You cannot try posting first just because you know the tenant will not answer the door for the Sheriff. Please click on the title below to see a sample and a blank Affidavit for Service by Publication or Posting.

Affidavit for Service by Publication or Posting

What if my tenant wants to pay up?

If your tenant tries to pay past-due rent after you file a failure-to-pay rent eviction case, you can go ahead and take it without losing the right to evict. However, if you take current rent payments from your tenant, you may lose your right to evict and the judge may dismiss your lawsuit.

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Step 3: Go to Court

Your First Court Date (Also Known as the Return Date)

Checking In and Getting Your Line Number

Your first court date is the Return Date you chose when you filed the Complaint. Bring your copy of the 5, 10, or 30-Day Notice with the Certificate of Service completed and notarized, as well as your copy of the Complaint and Summons. You should also bring your copy of the lease, if there is one, records of payments, and any other evidence that you might need to show the judge, such as pictures or letters to and from the tenant.

Be on time. You may want to be several minutes early because you will have to pass through security. If you arrive after court is in session, you will not be able to check in with the clerk until the judge finishes with all of the other cases and you may end up waiting several hours before your case is called.

Before you enter the courtroom, check the computer printout posted on a bulletin board outside the courtroom. This is a list of all the cases that are to be heard that day. If your case is listed, note the number beside it. This is your line number, and the order in which the cases will be called.

If your case is not listed, make sure you are there on the right day. If you are, talk to the clerk. Do not just leave. Your case is probably not listed because the Sheriff was unable to serve the tenant. The clerk will be able to confirm this for you.

After you have checked the bulletin board, go into the courtroom and check in with the clerk. She will be sitting to the side of the judge. The clerk is usually behind a computer and if you arrive on time, there will be a line of people. If the judge is on the bench, take a seat and wait for a recess or break. You cannot approach the clerk while the judge is hearing cases. Once you get to the clerk, tell her your line number, if you found it, and identify yourself—you are the plaintiff. The clerk will note that you are there, and tell you to have a seat.

What if the Sheriff did not serve the tenant?

You will not find out if the Sheriff served your tenant until the first Return Date (first court date). If the Sheriff did not serve the tenant, the judge’s clerk will tell you that when you check in. The case will be taken off of the judge’s call for the day and you will be sent back to Room 602. At this point, you can give your Complaint and Summons to the Sheriff to try to serve again, either in person, or by posting, or you can have a special process server appointed.

Alias Summons

No matter how you choose to try to have your tenant served again, you will need to get another Summons issued. This is called an “Alias Summons.” Get a new Summons form from the clerk in 602 and fill it out as before, but put the word “Alias” before the word “Summons” at the top. Check the chalkboard for another Return Date. Add it on the form. Take three copies of this Alias Summons to the clerk, who will, again, stamp them. This costs $5.00 unless your fees have been waived.

Having the Sheriff Try to Serve the Tenant Again

If your tenant was just not home when the Sheriff came, but is not trying to avoid service, you can have the Sheriff try to serve the tenant again. Go back to Room 701 and follow the process for placing a Summons with the Sheriff.

Having a Special Process Server Serve the Tenant

If you think that your tenant will not open the door for the Sheriff, you can use a special process server instead. You must choose someone who is not involved in the case and is at least 18 years old. You can use a professional process server, or you can use someone you know. You must know the name, address and occupation of the person who has agreed to serve the tenant for you.

However, the process is slightly more complicated than having the Sheriff try again. You must first get a Court Order appointing the person as a special process server.

Go to Room 601. Ask for a form Motion and Order for Special Process Server. Then go to room 602 to the counter with the sign “Eviction” above it and tell the clerk that you need to get a special process server appointed. They will tell you when the Sheriff last attempted service. Complete the form Motion and Order, then ask the clerk to send your court file and your Motion to the courtroom so the judge can sign the Order. Go to the courtroom and tell the clerk that you have requested the file to be sent to the courtroom for appointment of the special process server. Please click on the title below to see a sample and a blank copy of the Motion and Order for a Special Process Server.

Motion and Order for a Special Process Server

You will not have to appear before the judge for this motion. The clerk will have the judge sign your Order, then the clerk will date, stamp and initial your copies. Make sure you take your copies with you.

Then give your special process server two copies of the Order, along with the original, one copy of the Alias Summons, and one copy of the Complaint. Have your special process server go to the apartment, and hand one copy of all the papers either to the tenant or to someone who lives in the house who is at least 13 years old.

When the special process server has been successful, have the server complete an Affidavit of Service. The Affidavit of Service sets out the details of the service, including the date, time, location of service and the age, gender, race, height, and weight of the person served. This Affidavit will have to be signed by the special process server and the signature must be notarized. Please click on the title below to see a sample and a blank copy of the Affidavit of Special Process Server.

Affidavit of Special Process Server

Bring the original and at least one copy of the completed Affidavit of Service when you appear in court on your new Return Date. You may also bring the process server personally to testify.

Sometimes the judge will not appoint a special process server on the Return Date. You will have to request a motion to appoint a special process server on a future date. You have to send notice of the motion to the tenant and come back to court on that future date. To do this, you will have to complete a Notice of Motion form. Take the completed motion and notice of motion to the clerk at the “Motion” counter in Room 601. The clerk will give you a hearing date to put in the notice of motion and will file the motion. Mail a copy of the motion and the notice of motion to your tenant at least 7 calendar days before the court date. Go to court on the day of your motion and explain to the judge that the Sheriff was unable to serve the tenant and that you would like to appoint a Special Process Server. Again, make sure you get several copies of the Order before you leave the courtroom.  Please click on the titles below to see a sample and a blank copy of the Motion and Order for Special Process Server and the Notice of Motion.

Motion and Order for Special Process Server
Notice of Motion

Service by Posting

If the Sheriff was not able to serve your tenant, your apartment is abandoned, or if you do not know the names of everyone living in the apartment, you will have to serve by posting.

You will need An Affidavit for Service by Publication and Notice Requiring Appearance in Pending Action. Get them from the “Court Forms” counter in 601. Please click on the titles below to see a sample and a blank copy of the Affidavit for Service by Publication or Posting and the Notice Requiring Appearance in Pending Action.

Affidavit for Service by Publication or Posting
Notice Requiring Appearance in Pending Action

Complete them and take them with your Complaint to the cashier in room 602. The cashier will file stamp them. Next, go to the Sheriff’s Department in room 701 and say you need service by posting. Give the clerk a copy of the Affidavit and Notice as well as a copy of the Complaint. The Notice and Complaint will be sent to the tenant’s last known address and will be posted at City Hall, the County Building, and in Room 701 of the Daley Center. As in other cases, the Return Date is 14 days after filing.

The problem with Service by Posting is that if the tenant does not appear at the Return Date, you will not be able to get a money judgment, only a Possession Order. But if the tenant appears in person or files an appearance, you can ask the judge to award you money damages.

Posting fees

Service is free if fees have been waived. Otherwise, it costs $50.00 for each tenant, payable at the time the Complaint is placed for posting.

The Hearing

Hopefully, your tenant will have been served so you can proceed to hearing on your first Return Date. Be ready to prove your case the first time you go to court. Bring any witnesses that you believe will be helpful, along with any other documents that will help you prove your case. Judges do not like it when people come to court unprepared.

Once you have checked in, have a seat. Listen carefully, especially if your name is hard to pronounce. The clerk calls out the case names quickly, often garbles names, and the room is noisy. When you hear (or think you hear) your case called, stand up, respond “here,” and approach the judge at the bench. Do not worry if you respond to the wrong case. It is better to be wrong, than to miss your case when it is called.

What If My Tenant Does Not Come to Court?

If the tenant does not come to court and there is proof of service by the Sheriff or posting, the case will still proceed. First, the judge will ask to see your 5, 10, or 30-Day Notice. Then, the judge will ask questions to find out if you served the tenant with the Notice and if the tenant did not pay the rent demanded in the 5-Day Notice (or did not cure the violation stated in a 10-Day Notice).

If you also asked for a money judgment, you will have to testify as to the amount of money you are owed (which is limited to what you asked for in your Complaint). The judge will enter the Order for Possession and, where relevant, include a judgment for damages plus court costs. In most cases, the judge will allow the tenant some time to move—usually seven or fourteen days. In that case, the Order will include language “staying” it for that amount of time. That means that you will not be able to place the Order with the Sheriff to evict until that time is up.

Before you leave, make sure you complete an Order for Possession. See the instructions below.

If Your Tenant Appears: Settlement, Mediation, Continuances, Jury Demands, and Proving Your Case

Settlement

If your tenant appears in court, it is not too late to talk to your tenant and settle the matter. It is usually better to reach a settlement with the tenant, than to go to trial. If you reach an agreement, you no longer have the pressure or burden of proving your case.

If your tenant is there, ask to step out into the hall to talk. Calmly explain your position and ask if they might be willing to settle. Often, tenants only want time to find another apartment and move. Occasionally, the tenant will agree to pay you the rent that is owed. If you are able to resolve your differences—do not leave and do not let your tenant leave. When your case is called, step up and tell the judge about the settlement. The judge or clerk will then direct you to complete an Order for Possession, or other appropriate Order.

If You Cannot Settle

If you cannot settle with your tenant, wait for your case to be called. When your case is called, respond “here” and approach the bench. Stand on the side of the bench that is marked “plaintiff,” so that the judge knows immediately who is the landlord and who is the tenant. Once you introduce yourselves, and the judge asks a few questions, you will either be sent to mediation or your case will proceed.

Mediation

If you are unable to settle the case by yourselves, the judge might want you to try again, and may send both of you to mediation. Mediation is held with volunteer, private mediators in rooms in or near the courtroom. Although mediation is voluntary, if the judge wants you to do it, do not say no. Just go to the mediation and try to participate. You will not be forced to come to an agreement. However, if the mediator is successful in helping you and the tenant reach an agreement, you will not risk losing your case at trial. If you reach an agreement in mediation, the mediator will help you complete the proper Order. When your case is called, present the Order to the judge and explain that you have an agreement.

What if the Tenant Wants a Continuance or Asks for a Jury?

The tenant may request a continuance on the first court date. The court normally grants one request for a continuance. The judge will usually give the tenant seven days to find an attorney. The case will then proceed to trial on the next court date. You and the tenant will both have to return to the same courtroom, at the same time, seven days later.

If the tenant files a Jury Demand, the case will be automatically continued for one week and reassigned to courtroom 1404. You will hear this referred to as a “Transfer Order.” There is no way to prevent this transfer. You will have to appear in courtroom 1404 at 9:30 a.m., exactly one week after the first court date. This is a status date—the case will not proceed to trial at that time. The judge will set discovery dates and allow the tenant to file an answer to your Complaint. The case will either be set for a hearing or for another status. If your tenant files a Jury Demand, it’s a good time to contact Chicago Volunteer Legal Services or try to find your own attorney. A Jury Demand can complicate the case.

Proving Your Case

If it is impossible to reach an agreement, you will have to prove:

  • That the tenant did not pay rent or that he violated the lease;
  • That you gave a proper 5, 10, or 30-day notice;
  • That the tenant did not offer the full rent in 5 days or otherwise correct the violation, and;
  • That the tenant remains in the apartment.

If the tenant shows up on the first court date and is ready for trial, the case will proceed. As landlord and plaintiff, you tell your side of the story first. Often, the judge will take the lead and ask you simple questions so that he can determine the legal issues quickly. When you are finished, the tenant will be given an opportunity to ask questions of you and any witnesses you called to testify. The tenant may testify on his own behalf and offer proof of any defense. For example, the tenant may have receipts showing that the rent was paid. The tenant may claim that he offered you the rent due within the 5-day period allowed by the notice, but that you refused. Many tenants simply admit failing to pay rent and just want time to move out. The judge will listen to both sides, may ask some questions, and then will make a decision. If you win, the judge will enter an Order for Possession as discussed below. If you lose, your case will be denied and the judge will enter an Order to that effect.

What if My Tenant Shows Up with a Lawyer?

Your tenant may appear in court with a lawyer. Lawyers that defend evictions regularly have practice defeating a claim for eviction. They may defend the tenant by claiming your apartment was dirty, unsafe or not up to building codes. They may claim that you failed to provide essential services, breached your duties, or violated the lease in some way. They may also claim that you did not serve the tenant with a proper notice or that your notice was defective in some other way.

Lawyers often file discovery requests. Discovery is a process, before the trial, when you and your tenant exchange documents and information in your possession. Every tenant has the right to ask you for information and documents in your possession. This discovery process can be confusing and take time.

Finally, lawyers often file Jury Demands. This means that your case may be heard by a jury instead of a judge. The case will be transferred to Room 1404 as discussed above.

All of these things will make a simple eviction complicated. You should seek an attorney to help. If you cannot afford one, you can ask the judge for a list of free legal services. However, unlike a defendant in a criminal case, you do not have the right to an attorney. Nobody is guaranteed an attorney in an eviction case, whether you are the landlord or tenant.

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Step 4: The Order for Possession

After the judge has heard from both parties’, the judge will make a ruling. If the judge finds in your favor, you will be granted an Order for Possession and money damages, if appropriate. Fill out the form Order for Possession and have the judge’s clerk stamp it before you leave the courtroom. Form Orders are in the courtroom, either on a table or on a shelf. Each courtroom is different, so ask the clerk if you cannot find them. Please click on the title below to see a sample Order for Possession form. But remember, you must get a blank form from the courtroom.

Order for Possession

Do not leave the courtroom before completing several copies of the Order of Possession, having the clerk stamp them, and getting your stamped copies back. This fill-in-the-blank form includes language necessary for the Sheriff’s department to forcibly evict the tenant if they do not move out. If applicable, include the amount of money damages you were awarded in paragraph 2 of the form Order. The Sheriff will only evict people specifically named in the Complaint and Order, so make sure you include “Unknown Tenants” if there are any.

Paragraph 3 of the form Order for Possession provides for a court-ordered stay of the Judgment. If the tenant appears and asks for time to move, the court will usually grant between 7 and 21 days. The Sheriff will not evict a tenant during this time.

Once you have your stamped copies of the Order for Possession in your hand, you can go home. You will have to return to the Daley Center if your tenant does not move by the date the judge stated.

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Step 5: The Eviction

Your tenant should move out according to the time given on the Order of Possession. If the tenant still refuses to leave after entry of an Order for Possession and the end of the time the judge gave the tenant to move, the Sheriff can physically remove the tenant from the apartment. This is the actual eviction.

Go back to Room 602 of the Daley Center to get your Order for Possession certified. There is no charge for this. Make sure you have several copies. There are photocopy machines located on the 6th and 7th floors.

Take all of your copies of the Order to Room 701. Go to the counter that says “Evictions.” Give your certified Order to the clerk. They will process the paperwork and give you a receipt, along with instructions on how to call back and check when the eviction is scheduled.

The Sheriff charges a $60.50 fee for an eviction. This fee is not waived, even if all of your other fees have been.

Once you pay the fee and get your receipt, you are free to go home. Your eviction is placed on a waiting list. Someone from the Sheriff’s office will call you the day before the eviction is scheduled to let you know they are coming. You or a representative must be present on the day of the eviction.

What if the judge also awarded me money?

A money judgment is enforced separately from an Order for Possession. The Sheriff’s Office will evict someone—it will not collect money at the same time. Supplemental proceedings for enforcement of a money judgment are heard in courtroom 1501. Enforcement tools include the Citation to Discover Assets, Wage Garnishment, and Non-Wage Garnishment proceedings. Although this subject is beyond the scope of this manual, forms are available on the 6th floor of the Daley Center or you may wish to consult an attorney.

Time limit for evictions

The statute forbids the Sheriff from enforcing a judgment for possession that is more than 120 days old, unless the landlord gets an extension from the court. Therefore, do not delay in taking your Judgment to the Sheriff and paying the eviction fee. If 120 days pass and you have not placed the Order with the Sheriff, you will have to petition the court for an extension.

A non-refundable $30.00 re-scheduling fee will be charged for evictions called-off at the eviction site or if you fail to appear. You may have a representative appear for you.

Remember: You are still required to return any portion of the tenant’s Security Deposit that has not been applied toward unpaid rent or damages.

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