The Chicago Eviction Process
If you're thinking about evicting a residential tenant in Chicago, you may have no idea where to start. This guide covers the basic steps of the Chicago Eviction Process.
Step 1 - Issue the Proper Notice to Quit to Your Tenant
Under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO), there are very strict requirements on the type of notice required and what it must contain. If you plan to evict the tenant for not paying rent, you can issue a 5-day notice. If it is for violating a term in the lease, you can provide a 10-day notice. For all other reasons, if you wish to terminate the tenancy and be able to evict him/her if he/she does not leave, you can issue a 30-day notice. Keep in mind that the terms of your lease can legally bind you to longer notice requirements, but cannot make them shorter than what the RLTO allows. As previously written, the contents of the notice and the way you provide it to the tenant are highly technical and if not done properly, can be ineffective. If you are unsure of how to properly issue and serve a notice, you should hire a local landlord tenant attorney to handle it for you. An improperly prepared or served notice will not be accepted by a judge.
Step 2 - After Waiting the Appropriate Number of Notice Days, File the Forcible Entry and Detainer Action
When you can file the formal summons and complaint with the court depends on the type of notice you issued. For example, if you provided a 5-day notice for the non-payment of rent, then on the 6th day after you serve it, you can file the case (assuming the tenant has not paid the delinquent rent). Follow the same guidelines for the other two types of notice. When preparing to file, note that you can file for possession only, or a Joint Action for possession and unpaid rent (if applicable). The clerk will either assign a return date for the case or you can choose one yourself so long as it's between 14 and 40 days from the date of filing (and not a weekend or court holiday). This will be the first court date.
Step 3 - Serve the Tenant(s) With the Summons and Complaint
In Chicago, the first service attempt must be made by the Sheriff. Unfortunately, that attempt is often unsuccessful. If service has not been made by the time of the first court date, you can request permission to issue an Alias Summons and Complaint through a private process server. If granted, you can hire a private party to personally serve the tenant(s). The Alias Summons and Complaint will again require a new court date between 14 and 40 days from the date of filing. Keep in mind that the tenant needs to be served at least 5 days before the court date. If the sheriff was able to serve the tenant(s) during the first attempt, then skip to Step 4 (below).
Step 4 - Attend Court and Argue the Case for Eviction
Once you are able to properly serve the tenant(s), the next court date will be the trial unless the tenant requests and is allowed a continuance (often to hire an attorney). However, if the tenant does not show up, the judge will issue a default judgment against him/her. If the tenant does attend (with or without an attorney), then you will both be given the opportunity to state your case and the judge will decide one way or the other. Assuming you are successful in getting the Order of Possession, the judge will often "stay" the enforcement of the order for at least a few days to given the tenant(s) an opportunity to move out. If the tenants do not later move out, proceed to Step 5 (below).
Step 5 - Get 2 Copies of the Order of Possession Certified by the Clerk and Lodge them with the Sheriff
If the tenant has not moved out per the judge's order, after the stay of enforcement you can lodge the Order of Possession with the Sheriff to carry out the physical removal of the tenant(s). To do so, you need two Certified copies of the Order. The clerks in the filing room (6th Floor of Daley Center) can certify your copies for you for a fee (currently $9.00 per order). After getting the certified orders, take them to the Sheriff's office (7th Floor of the Daley Center) and pay the requisite fee to the Sheriff to carry out the eviction (currently $60.50). You will also need to complete an Eviction Disclosure form that you can get from the Sheriff. The Sheriff will give you a receipt that contains a number - this can later be used to check the status of the eviction online or over the phone to see whether it has been scheduled.
Step 6 - Wait for the Eviction to be Scheduled by the Sheriff and Attend the Removal
In Chicago, the Sheriff typically has a backlog of evictions to carry out, and as a result it can generally take anywhere from 4-6 weeks before it removes your delinquent tenant(s). You can usually view the next two days of the Sheriff's eviction schedule online and can see if your number is on the list. The Sheriff will also attempt to call you (or whoever you appoint) at least one day prior to the eviction to ensure that you or a representative is physically present when they remove the tenant(s). However, it is not a sure thing that you will get this phone call so it's important to constantly check the eviction schedule and make sure someone is available to be present when the Sheriff comes. If you are not present when the Sheriff arrives to remove the tenant(s), you will have to reschedule, possibly resulting in several more weeks of waiting.
Step 7 - Tips and General Advice
As you likely guessed after reading this basic guide, the eviction process in Chicago is highly technical and full of areas where it is easy to make a mistake. Doing so can be costly from a monetary and time standpoint. The best way to ensure a smooth eviction as quickly as possible is to hire an experienced landlord tenant attorney to handle it. Many (such as myself) will do so for a reasonable flat fee (plus court costs) and offer free consultations to make sure they are the right fit for what you need.