Lockouts – FAQ

Last updated: November 2, 2009 – 2:29 PM

NOTE: If your landlord lives in your building, see the “Exceptions” note on the right side of this page.

Lockouts from rental any unit are illegal in the City of Chicago.

What is a lock-out?
Its an attempt to force you out of your apartment by:

  • Changing or plugging the locks on any of your doors;
  • Blocking an entrance to your apartment;
  • Removing one of your apartment doors or windows;
  • Shutting off any of your utility services; or
  • Removing your personal property from the apartment.

Lock-outs are against the law, and your landlord can be arrested and fined for locking you out of your apartment.

Can I be locked-out if I don’t pay rent?
No. Your landlord can evict you for non-payment of rent, but he/she must first file a lawsuit against you, win this lawsuit, and then pay the Sheriff to evict you. Your landlord cannot just lock you out of your apartment. Please refer to Leases for more information.

Can I be locked-out for any reason?
Only if you have abandoned the apartment. Your landlord, however, cannot claim that you have abandoned your apartment unless:

  • You tell your landlord that you are leaving and not coming back;
  • Everyone in your household removes their personal belongings and leaves the apartment for at least 21 days, and no rent is paid for the period you are gone; or
  • Everyone in your household leaves the apartment for at least 32 days and no rent is paid for the period you are gone.

What should I do if my landlord locks me out?
Call the police. If they can find your landlord they will order him/her to let you back into your apartment. Make sure you have something to show the police to prove that you reside in the apartment (such as a rent receipt, utility bill, etc.). You should also call an attorney.

What if the police will not help me?
Remind them that Special Order #01-04-03 states that they must investigate and end lock-outs. If a police officer refuses to help you, get his badge number, call your local police station, and ask to speak with the Watch Commander. If you are still unsuccessful, call MTO with that information at 773-292-4988.

Can I sue my landlord if he/she locks me out?
Yes, but you should speak to an attorney first. You can sue your landlord for two months rent or twice your actual damages (whichever is greater), plus attorney’s fees.

What is retaliatory conduct?
It is any action your landlord takes (or threatens to take) to punish you for engaging in one of the “protected activities” described below.

  • Complaining to a government agency, community organization, or the news media about the condition of your apartment;
  • Asking your landlord to make necessary repairs;
  • Joining a tenants’ organization;
  • Testifying in any court or administrative proceeding about the condition of your apartment or building; or
  • Exercising any other right or remedy under law.

How might my landlord try to retaliate against me?
They might try to retaliate against you by:

  • Terminating or threatening to terminate your lease agreement;
  • Increasing your rent;
  • Refusing to provide you with a necessary service; or
  • Refusing to renew your lease agreement.

Please refer to Heat and Other Essential Services for more information. Please refer to Leases for more information.

How can I prove that my landlord’s conduct is retaliatory?
Keep a record of your “protected activities.” For instance, if you write a letter to your landlord asking him to make repairs, save the letter. Your landlord’s conduct is presumed to be retaliatory if it occurs within one year after you engaged in a “protected activity.” Your landlord may, of course, overcome this presumption by showing that he had a legitimate reason for terminating your lease, increasing your rent, etc.

Please Note: This information, published by the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and the Metropolitan Tenants Organization as a public service, gives you only a general idea of your rights and responsibilities under the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance and other relevant chapters of Chicago’s Municipal Code. It is meant to inform, but not to advise. Before enforcing your rights, you may want to seek the advice of an attorney who can analyze the facts of your case and apply the law to these facts.

Still can’t find the answer? Send us your questions. Please allow several days for a response.

All 19 Comments

    1. If you have been locked out please call our hotline at 773-292-4988. The police are the ones empowered by the law to enforce lockouts and arrest landlords if they do not end the lockout. Our experience is that the police do little and try to say that it is a civil matter. It is not.

  1. My landlord refuses to make me a set of replacement keys even though owner of building has instructed her to do so .My rent is up to date, what are the remedies for this situation that are at my disposal.

    1. I am not sure sure and cannot answer the question without better knowing what you mean by landlord and owner of the building. By landlord do mean manager?
      What happened to the original keys? What is the landlord saying as to why they are not going to provide you with the replacement keys.

      1. Just moved to a cha building for 55 and over, while in the process of trying to move my things in the keys where lost. i notified the office and getting the run around. Been locked out for 3 days. What can i do, my rent is paid.

      2. Have you been able to contact management? What is their response? If you lose a key you are responsible for the replacement cost. Call a locksmith but you will have to pay. Also are there any clauses in your lease that cover this situation.

  2. So a motion to extend the stay cant be done after the official date we are supposed to be gone?


  3. hello. I have two questions:

    1) We have a court order to move by August 8. We heard there is a way to get an eviction stay through court if we cant leave. If we go to court for that, does the landlord have to be there too? How would she find out about it if they let us stay?

    2) They have messed with our hot water but not turned our water off altogether. If they cut our hot water off and leave us with cold water after Aug 8 before the sheriff comes, is that illegal?


    1. You could file a motion to extend the stay. Notice of the hearing will have to be delivered to the landlord like any other notice of a hearing. As an FYI, in our experience most judges deny these motions. Filing the motion will provide you with a little time it will not be that much.

      Itis illegal for the landlord to shut off the hot water as a way to force you out. That is considered a lockout. The first step in a lockout is to report it to the police.

      1. So a motion to extend the stay canNOT be done after the official date we are supposed to be gone?


  4. Hello,

    My fiance and I have been evicted from our building. We agreed to leave in 30 days from July 11 so they don’t sue us ever. But we’re having a hard time finding a new place, and we don’t think we will be able to get a place by Saturday August 11.

    Our landlord lives in the building with us and has been getting police reports on us claiming we messed up property and threatened them. I want to know what we can do to maybe stay in the building longer till we find a place and what they can do legally. Can they turn off our water and stuff after August 11 if they dont have a sheriff in before?


    1. When you say that you have been evicted from the building what does that mean? Did you go to court and lose and were given 30 days to move or did you and your landlord just come to an agreement that you would leave?

      If it was a court eviction, then the landlord could go to the sheriff on August 11 and request the sheriff to evict you. When the sheriff makes it out to your unit is variable. Generally, the sheriff is quicker evicting people in the summer than during the winter. The sheriff’s office does not have to inform you when they will be out and many tenants have lost all their belongings. Only the sheriff can remove you and your belongings. The landlord cannot on their own. The landlord is not allowed to turn your utilities off to force you out before the sheriff comes. That would be called a lockout and you can call the police and the police are supposed to make the landlord turn the utilities back on.

      It is possible to go to court and request a stay. If you file the request close to the date it will give you a little extra time because the judge will have to hear your request. It generally takes at least 7 days to get a court hearing. The eviction date could get put off for a week.

      If you are not going to be able to find a place, you might want to look at other options such as moving your stuff into storage.

      1. Hello Richard,

        We went to court and made an agreement with the landlord’s lawyer, which was presented to the judge and we all signed an agreement that we would be gone by August 11.

        How would getting a stay work to stay longer? What would we have to do, and when would we have to do it by? What is the likelihood that the judge would grant us the stay? Do the landlords have to be present at the court hearing? We stopped paying rent about 4-5 months ago.

        Thank you for your help!

      2. And on average how many days does it take the sheriff to come remove people in the summer?


  5. I have a question. Two Fridays ago, My daughter and her roommate paid their Landlord rent in cash. The Landlords claim they never got it. They entered My daughter and roommates apartment later that evening intoxicated and irate.Calling the roommate dumb and stupid and cursing at them like they were animals. The girls were in shock because they didn’t see that coming. After that they told them that they had only 15 days to move. Which mean they want them out by Friday, July 27th. Is this legal? Also, the wife told my daughter that she wouldn’t be getting her security deposit back because her previous roommate moved out and she gave her back her deposit. So she will be using her deposit for the April rent her previous roommate didn’t pay. I feel bad for my daughter because these are my in-laws and I considered them family. What can we do. I have a 4 year old granddaughter there whose now frightened by them. HELP!

    1. First, did your daughter get a receipt for the rent. MTO recommends never giving a landlord any payment without getting a receipt.

      The landlord cannot just through your daughters stuff out if they have not moved within 15 days. The landlord must give your daughter a termination notice. If it is for not paying rent then the landlord has to give a 5 day pay or vacate notice. If payment is not received within that time then the landlord has to take the tenant to court. Only with a court order can a landlord legally force a tenant to move.

      As for the deposit, how much of a deposit did your daughter pay? The landlord cannot just keep a deposit for no reason.

  6. Hi I live in Dolton, Il. I lost my job of 24 yrs in July/2011. I started a new job in May/2012 and only ear $9/hr and can no longer afford the rent I was paying of $900/mth. My landlord has givin me an eviction notice to move by July 1, 2012. Me and family is going to be homeless if I dont find anywhere to live before July 1rst. My landlord has placed an “Apartment for Rent” sign on the building and in the yard partaining to my apartment. I was reading the tenants rights policy. Is it something in there saying that my landlord suppose to take me to court first? I’m going to need more time to look for another place to live. Please help.

    1. Unfortunately many tenants find themselves in this situation. In your letter you did not mention whether the eviction notice was for nonpayment of rent or a 30-day notice to get out. You are correct that the landlord has to to take you to court before you can be legally forced to vacate the unit. Have you spoken with the landlord about this and when you think that you would be able to leave and as to whether you will be able to pay rent during that period.

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