Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can’t I just get rid of a tenant by changing the locks or cutting off their water, gas, and electric service?

A: No. Going through the entire eviction process in court (called a “forcible entry and detainer action”) is the only legal way of forcefully removing a tenant. You must obtain a court order called an “order of possession.” That order may only be enforced by the Sheriff. If you take any action yourself to exclude the tenant from the property, such as changing the locks or cutting off utilities, you may be subjected to serious criminal and civil penalties.

Q: Do I really need a lawyer to handle my eviction case?

A: In many cases, it is possible to represent yourself. However, like any other type of lawsuit, you must comply with very precise procedural rules in order to succeed. Even a minor error (such as not using the right words in your notices or complaint, or filing something at the wrong time) can delay your case by many weeks or months, costing you additional lost rent. A tenant may also demand a trial, which involves additional evidentiary and procedural rules. To get the best results, it is best to have an aggressive attorney on your side.

Also, if your property is owned by a business entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC), the judge will not allow you to go ahead with your case unless the company is represented by an attorney. This is true even if you are the only owner or member of the business. If I am retained to handle your case, I would enter an appearance as counsel for the company.

Q: What does it cost to file an eviction?

A: My flat fee for a basic eviction is a one-time fee, and covers as many court appearances as necessary to obtain an eviction order. In addition to this fee, you will need to pay court fees, process server fees, and the Sheriff’s fee for enforcing the order of possession. These fees vary depending on the court where the eviction is filed, and the amount of unpaid rent you are claiming.  In Cook County, you will be required to pay the following minimum costs:

Filing Fee

$287.25 paid to the Clerk of Court for “possession only.” This is for an action in which you are only seeking an order to remove the tenant. You will not be awarded a judgment for rent that is owed.

$379.25 paid to the Clerk of Court for a “joint action.”  This is for an action in which you are seeking an order to remove the tenant, plus a judgment for back rent.

Sheriff’s Service of Process:

$60 paid to the Sheriff of Cook County to serve a summons on each defendant.  In every eviction, you should name as a defendant every adult occupant, regardless of whether they signed a lease with you, or were allowed to occupy the property.

$60 to serve a summons on “unknown occupants.” We name “unknown occupants” in every eviction case, in addition to the other defendants. If “unknown occupants” are not named, and there are persons living in the property that you were not aware of, the Sheriff will not remove them.

Special Process Server:

$6.00 paid to the Clerk of Court per defendant to issue an “alias summons” for service by a special process server if the Sheriff fails to serve the summons.

$75 to hire a “special process server.” This is a licensed company that we hire to serve the alias summons, with permission of the court.

Enforcement Fees:

$12.00 paid to the Clerk of Court to certify the Eviction Order before giving to the Sheriff for enforcement.

$60.50 to pay the Sheriff to remove the tenants if they fail to obey the court’s Eviction Order.

Contact me and I can provide an estimate based on your specific situation.

Q: How long does an eviction take?

A: This depends on a number of factors, such as the schedule of the court where the eviction is filed, the backlog of cases handled by the Sheriff in your area, and any delays caused by the tenant in evading service or challenging the eviction in court. In Cook County, assuming everything goes exactly right, the process could be over in a few weeks, but could take much longer. Because of the length of time needed to complete an eviction case, it is extremely important that you take action to begin the process as soon as possible.  I will pursue your case aggressively to minimize delays.

Q: My tenant told me they filed for bankruptcy.  What do I do now?

A: You should immediately cease all efforts to collect past-due rent and stop all efforts to evict them (including giving them an eviction notice). You might get in serious legal trouble if you try to collect past-due rent or do anything to evict them because of laws that protect debtors after a bankruptcy case has been filed. Contact an attorney to find out what to do next. There may be actions that you can take to move forward with an eviction regardless of the bankruptcy, but you should do so only after consulting an attorney.