Updated November 10, 2020:

Evicting a Commercial Tenant in Illinois

Evicting a commercial tenant in Illinois is often the last resort for a landlord when dealing with a tenant that has violated a term of the commercial lease. As unpleasant as the experience may be, sometimes even the best relationships may turn sour. Reasons for eviction could include a failure to pay rent, illegal activity taking place on the premises, or lack of required maintenance as detailed in the lease.

Regardless of the reason, evicting a commercial tenant should always be the last resort of a landlord because it can be a complicated process. However, a landlord needs to follow the proper steps to protect both their own and their tenant’s rights. Illinois landlord/tenant law is rather unique in that it provides landlords the opportunity to establish their own terms of eviction, so long as no other state, civil, or criminal laws are violated.

A standard commercial lease is often the starting point for most landlord/tenant agreements. In addition, landlords may not evict tenants without just cause.

Suggested Steps to Follow When Evicting a Tenant in Illinois

If a landlord/tenant relationship reaches a point where eviction is the only remedy available to the landlord, it’s important that the correct procedures, as provided for in the lease, are followed.

It is not unusual for tenants to negotiate lease terms, such as grace or cure periods, which, if not followed, could result in the landlord losing the ability to evict the tenant as desired or even collect unpaid rent. It is also important that the landlord ascertain that the tenant has not filed for bankruptcy, which reduces the actions a landlord can take to recover any debts.

  • Notify the tenant. The first step begins with the landlord providing the tenant with an Intent of Eviction that demands the tenant meets its obligations or face eviction. This notice should include the steps to be taken and a time frame for the tenant to take action. The landlord should receive written confirmation that the tenant has received this notice.
  • Wait for a response. If the tenant responds within the allotted time frame, the landlord should negotiate a fair settlement. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, the landlord should approach the local Illinois civil court and petition for the right to evict the tenant, often known as an “unlawful detainer” or “forcible entry and detainer” action. There are often fees required for filing this complaint with the court.
  • Have a copy of the complaint formally served upon the tenant. This can be performed either by local law enforcement, in most cases a sheriff, or a licensed Illinois process server.
  • Request a court hearing. In some cases, this occurs without the court waiting for an answer from the tenant, and if the tenant does not respond, the landlord can proceed immediately with the eviction.
  • Proceed to court. If the tenant responds to the court order, both sides will have their day in court. If the landlord has followed the correct procedure, the usual result is a judge’s decision ordering the tenant to pay the unpaid rent and any court costs incurred by the landlord. In addition, the judge has two options: issue a writ of possession for the premises, which grants the tenant time to move out voluntarily, or issue an Order of Eviction, which calls for the immediate evacuation of the property by the tenant.
  • Proceed with the eviction. If the tenant does not lawfully move from the commercial premises, a landlord has the right to have the Order of Eviction served upon the tenant by a member of the local sheriff’s department, and then hire a moving company to enter the premises and remove the tenant’s possessions from the property. Each jurisdiction in Illinois may have different laws requiring what landlords must do with storing or disposing of property abandoned by the tenant.

It is always important to remember that a commercial lease is a contract and, as is the case in any contract dispute, it is recommended that both parties seek experienced legal counsel to make sure their rights are protected.

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