Evictions – FAQ

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

What must my landlord do if he/she wants to have me evicted?
She must file a lawsuit against you. This lawsuit is called an “eviction action” or a “forcible action.” Your landlord cannot have you evicted unless he/she wins this lawsuit.

Does my landlord have to provide me with a written notice before filing an eviction action against me?
Yes. The kind of notice required depends on the landlord’s reason for terminating or refusing to renew your tenancy.

What if my landlord wants me to move when my written lease ends?
At least 30 days before your lease ends, your landlord must provide you with a written notice stating that he/she will not renew your tenancy. Then, if you don’t move he/she can file an eviction action against you.

If I have a written lease agreement, can my landlord have me evicted before it ends?
Only if you violate one of the lease provisions.

What if I’m behind in my rent?
Your landlord can give you a written demand for the rent. This demand is called a “5-day notice” because it states that your tenancy will end unless you pay all the rent owed within no less than 5 days. If you fail to comply with this demand, your landlord can file a lawsuit against you. (If you live in a CHA building, the notice must give you 14 days within which to pay the rent).

What should I do if I receive a 5-day notice?
Give your landlord all the rent you owe within the next 5 days. Bring a witness with you when you make your rent payment. That witness can then testify on your behalf, if your landlord later denies that you paid or tried to pay the amount owed. Always pay with a check or money order. You can then use the canceled check or money order receipt to prove you paid rent on a certain date.

What if the 5-day notice demands more rent than I owe?
Give your landlord just the amount you owe.

What if my landlord refuses to accept my rent within the 5-day period?
He/she gives up his/her right to file an eviction action against you. If he/she still files this action, call an attorney immediately.

If I don’t have all the money I owe, should I give my landlord a partial payment?
Only if he/she agrees, in writing, to (1) allow you to pay the rest of what you owe later, and (2) not evict you for failing to pay everything you owed within 5 days of receiving the termination notice.

What if I offer my landlord the rent after the 5-day period ends?
He/she does not have to accept it. But if he/she does accept it, and if your tenancy is governed by Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, he/she cannot evict you. (See the front cover of this pamphlet to find out whether the Ordinance governs your tenancy.)

What if I violate some other provision of my lease?
Your landlord can serve you with a notice describing the violation and stating that your tenancy will end in no less than 10 days. The notice must also advise you of your right to “cure” within this 10-day period, and thereby preserve your tenancy. If you fail to “cure” the violation in a timely manner, your landlord can file an eviction action against you.

How can I “secure” a lease violation?
By taking whatever action is necessary to correct the violation you committed. Assume, for example, that your lease prohibits you from keeping any pets. If your landlord serves you with a 10-day termination notice because you have a cat, you can cure your violation by getting rid of the cat within 10 days of receiving the notice.

What steps should I take to prove I cured the lease violation?
Within 10 days of receiving the termination notice, send your landlord a letter explaining what action you have taken to cure the violation. Send the letter by certified mail and keep a copy. If your landlord files an eviction action against you, bring the letter to court.

Does the termination notice always have to state a reason for the termination of my tenancy?
That depends on whether you have a written lease or an oral (unwritten) lease. If you have an oral lease, the notice does not have to state a reason for the termination of your tenancy. Instead, it may simply state that your tenancy will end in no less than 7 days (if you pay rent every week), or no less than 30 days (if you pay rent every month). Your landlord must give you this notice at least one day before your rent is due. If you don’t move at the end or this 7 or 30 day period, your landlord can file an eviction action against you.

How will I know whether my landlord has filed an eviction action against me?
You will receive a court document called a “summons,” which states where and when you must appear for trial.

Should I go to court?
Yes. Even if you lose your case, the judge will give you more time to move if you appear in court.

Can I have an attorney represent me in court?
Yes. In fact, you should contact an attorney as soon as you receive a termination notice.

What if I want an attorney but have not been able to contact one before I appear in court for the first time?
When your case is called, just approach the judge and say, “Your Honor, I would like a short continuance so I can get an attorney. I would also like to preserve my right to a jury trial.” If you do not want an attorney, the judge may conduct the trial immediately.

What should I bring with me when I go to court?
Bring the summons you received, as well as any evidence that supports your case (such as your lease agreement, rent receipts, pictures of your apartment, letters you wrote to or received from your landlord, etc.) . You should also bring any witnesses who are willing to testify on your behalf.

What happens at the trial?
Your landlord will present his/her case first. When he/she finishes, you will be allowed to tell your side of the story. Keep it brief. Write out what you are going to say beforehand so you do not forget anything.

What defenses can I assert at the trial?
There are many possible defenses, so you should discuss your case with an attorney before you go to court.

What happens if I lose my case?
The judge will order you to move. he/she may also order you to pay your landlord any rent you owe.

If I lose my case, how much time will I have to move?
In most cases, the judge will postpone your eviction for a period of 7 to 21 days. You cannot be evicted before this period ends.

What if I need more time to move?
You can file a motion for an extension of time. The day before you are scheduled to be evicted, go to the Advice Desk in the back of Room 602 of the Daley Center and ask the person sitting there to help you file this motion.

What if I was not in court when the judge ordered me to move?
You can file a motion to “vacate” the judges order. As soon as you learn that the judge ordered you to move, go to the Advice Desk in the back of Room 602 of the Daley Center and ask the person sitting there to help you file this motion.

If my landlord wins the eviction action, who can actually force me out of my apartment?
If you live in a CHA building, the CHA police can evict you. Otherwise, only the Sheriff of Cook County can evict you. Your landlord cannot evict you.

What should I do if my landlord tries to force me out of my apartment without following the proper legal procedure for having me evicted?
Call the police. (For more information, read the pamphlet entitled Lock-outs and Retaliation).

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.

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