What You Should Do If You Are Being Evicted
If you are facing eviction, it is important to know your rights and what you should do in response to your landlord’s notice.
Know what you can be evicted for
You can be evicted for any violation of your lease agreement, including but not limited to: failing to pay rent, damaging the property, or disturbing your neighbors. Furthermore, without a written lease, you can be evicted for no reason, as long as you were given 30 days written notice.
Know your rights
Your landlord cannot make you move by turning off your utilities, changing the locks or removing your personal property from the rental unit. In order to evict you, he or she must give you a written notice. If the reason is for nonpayment of rent, your landlord must give you 5 days to pay. If the eviction is for violating your lease, your landlord must give you a 10-day notice. A 30-day notice is required if you do not have a written lease or if your lease period is one month or less.
If you remain in the rental unit after the eviction notice, your landlord can file a lawsuit to evict you. The Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act requires your landlord to serve you a complaint and a summons to appear in court.
The burden of proof in an eviction case is on your landlord. You have the right to:
- Have legal representation (at your cost)
- Have a trial by jury
- Present evidence
- Call your own witnesses
- Ask questions
File an answer to the complaint
In Illinois, you can file an answer to an eviction complaint by filing a written answer or by simply telling the judge your position at your hearing. However, it is often easier and more effective to present your eviction defense in written form.
Attend the first scheduled hearing
If you do not show up, the hearing will be held without you and most likely, you will be held in default, which means that you lose the case. The judge will sign an order to evict you and may award your landlord the money he or she is asking for in the complaint.
You have the right to appeal the decision within 30 days of the trial. If you do not move out, your landlord may ask the sheriff’s office to evict you. Remember, only a sheriff can physically evict you.
Know what defenses you can use
While not all defenses will prevent you from being evicted, giving the judge a reason for your actions may cause the judge to lower the amount of past due rent or damages you owe and, in some cases, may even delay the time for eviction. Keep in mind that you must be able to prove the defense you raise.
Some common defenses are:
- I had to pay for repairs out of my own pocket: In many places, you can withhold part or all of your rent to make repairs needed to make the property livable, as long as you notify the landlord first. See “The Residential Tenants’ Right to Repair Act” for more information.
- Conditions were unlivable: The property you were leasing did not have heat, electricity, water, or sewer, or was infested by pests.
- The landlord failed to honor the lease agreement: The landlord failed to fulfill an obligation or did something that the lease agreement said he could not do.
- No violation of the lease occurred: You have paid all of your rent and believe that you have not violated any provision in your lease.
- I corrected the problem in the notice: You have rectified the complaint raised in the landlord’s notice.
- I never received a written eviction notice: You did not receive any written notice or the notice you received was not the correct one.
- My landlord is retaliating because I filed a complaint against him: It is illegal for your landlord to retaliate against you for acting within your legal rights – for example, if you have complained to a building inspector, fire department, health inspector or other governmental agency about unsafe or illegal living conditions.
The eviction process can be complicated. If you find yourself overwhelmed or are unsure what defenses you may have, contact an attorney who can help.
Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page.
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