How to kick out a tenant in Cook County Illinois

throwWarning, this is a “perspective” post for landlords!  A Chicago landlord and prospective client called me the other day and said he wanted to kick his tenant out.  Being the helpful landlord-tenant attorney I am, I began to discuss the Illinois eviction process.  I started to tell him about how he needs to serve a notice of termination of tenancy and the procedures to evict in the Circuit Court of Cook County.  He stopped me.  He said he wanted to kick the tenant out, literally.  Then, I had to stop him.

While I fully understand the sentiment, landlords have to remember that they cannot engage in self help!  Never!  Never ever! That means no changing locks.  That means no shutting off utilities.  That means no taking the hinges off the doors.  That means no threats to beat the tenants up.  None of it.  An Illinois landlord cannot literally “kick a tenant out”.

Why not?  The Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act prohibits it.  Section 735 ILCS 5/9-101 of the law prohibits landlords from making a “forcible entry” to lands when it says “No person shall make an entry into lands or tenements except in cases where entry is allowed by law, and in such cases he or she shall not enter with force, but in a peaceable manner.”

So, what is a peaceable manner?  The Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) Act determines the legal procedure for evictions.  Unless a tenant surrenders possession, obtaining an order for possession under the FED is the only legal way in all of Illinois to get a tenant out.  Once that order is obtained, the Sheriff has to enforce it.  Any action taken by a landlord to illegally dispossess a tenant of possession is a wrongful eviction and a landlord can be on the hook for damages.

Is this true even if the tenant is not paying rent?  Yes.  Even if the tenant’s lease is expired?  Yes!  Even if the tenant has breached the lease?  Yes. Yes. Yes!  The only way to kick out a tenant is to bring an eviction action.  It’s not fun.  Its not quick.  Yes, it costs money.  It is also the only legal way to evict and landlords would be smart to obtain the services of an Illinois eviction attorney.  We can help with that.