Written by attorney Zedrick Thomas Braden III

The Basics of a Forcible Detainer Complaint In Illinois

Owning income property can be challenging. At times it is necessary to file a lawsuit in order to evict a non paying tenant. In Illinois this starts with serving the tenant with a five days notice. If the tenant fails to pay rent within five days, then the landlord has a right to file a forcible detainer complaint. The complaint must specifically name all tenants as defendants and must include "unknown" occupants as defendants. Each tenant must be served by the County Sheriff with a summons and a copy of the forcible complaint. The summons notifies the known tenants and "unknown" occupants of their right to file an appearance, retain an attorney, and the time and location of the initial court hearing, in addition to the case number. A separate summons must be served at the defendant's residence for "unknown" occupants. Failure to serve "unknown" occupants may result in the judge dismissing the landlord's forcible complaint which will require the landlord to refile the forcible complaint in addition to having known defendants served again along with the "unknown" occupants. If the County Sheriff is unable to serve anyone at the landlord's property, Illinois law allows the landlord to publish to the general public the fact that a forcible complaint has been filed against the known tenants and "unknown" occupants. This publication is usually published in a law bulletin and on a board at the county building for that particular county. Posting is considered "constructive service and notice" upon the known tenants and "unknown" occupants. It is smart for the landlord to have a lawyer for representation. On the day of court the landlord should bring a copy of the five days notice that he or she served upon the tenant which should specify, under oath, the date and time that the five days notice was served. In some cases the tenant will not appear for court and the judge will enter an order for possession in favor of the landlord. In most cases the judge will stay execution of the order for possession for 14 days to allow the tenant and unknown occupants time to move out. Judges, especially in Cook County, are very strict when it comes to proof that all "unknown" occupants have been served with the forcible complaint and summons. Of course there is a clerk of court filing fee and service of summons fee in these matters. A lawyer will usually know what these costs are in advance which is another great reason for hiring a lawyer in these proceedings. One Important note: The landlord should maintain the tenant's security deposit in a separate interest bearing account from his personal funds. Failure to do so in Chicago will subject the landlord to a stiff fine pursuant to the city's municipal code.

Additional resources provided by the author

Cook County Bar Association American Bar Association Black Women's Law Association Chicago Municipal Code

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