What You Need to Know About Tenant Defenses to Eviction in Illinois
Eviction can be a scary concept to many individuals; luckily, tenants have legal recourse to protect themselves in the event of an eviction. Here is what you need to know about the various tenant defenses to eviction in Illinois.
What is Eviction?
In Illinois, all evictions are subject to regulation from the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, meaning landlords must follow specific rules and regulations in order to evict a tenant. Even though landlords own the property, they are still held accountable for the residency contract provided in their lease, so they are not able to evict tenants at will. This means that, generally, tenants may only be evicted if they fail to pay rent on time or if they violate the terms of the rental agreement. Even in these situations, landlords must follow specific rules and regulations pertaining to timing in order to evict a tenant successfully.
In the event a tenant does not pay rent on time habitually, a landlord must provide the tenant with a minimum of five days’ notice, during which time the tenant may pay the rent and prevent eviction.
In the event that the tenant violated the terms of the rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant a minimum of ten days’ notice in order for the tenant to move out of the unit.
For some individuals, it may not be in their best interests to try to prevent an eviction. These processes may prove costly and time-intensive, negatively impacting a tenant’s credit rating. In many cases, it may be preferable to work with a low-cost or free intermediary through the American Arbitration Association to negotiate with their landlord.
Common Eviction Defenses
Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants at will, meaning tenants must violate specific rules or procedures of their agreement with the landlord in order to be evicted. In addition, landlords must follow specific procedures, even if the terms were violated, in order to pursue an eviction. Depending on the nature of the eviction, there are a few common defenses a tenant may employ to protect themselves in the event of an eviction:
Landlord Employed Illegal Procedures
No landlord is permitted to evict a tenant without a court order. Landlords may attempt to force eviction of a tenant by shutting off utility access such as electricity or water, or changing the locks on the doors to the rental unit. If a landlord attempts to evict a tenant without a court order using any method, the tenant may be entitled to financial compensation from the landlord.
Landlord Did Not Follow Proper Eviction Procedures
All Illinois landlords must follow specific procedures in order to evict a tenant. Primarily, eviction notices via the courts can only be taken as a last resort measure following the period of time provided by the eviction process (five days for a monetary-related eviction, ten days for a lease violation eviction). Any tenant who has evidence that the landlord failed to follow procedures may submit that as a defense for the conviction. In the case a landlord fails to follow procedures, the landlord must start the eviction process from the beginning.
In any case, a defense cannot stop a justified eviction. However, a strong defense can provide the tenant more time, either to pull together money to pay for their unit or to find a new place to live and move out.
Landlord Is Evicting Tenant in Retaliation of Tenant’s Legal Actions
Once again, landlords must have specific legal reasoning to evict a tenant. This reasoning does not justify retaliatory eviction in response to legal complaints regarding the landlord’s unit. It is illegal for any landlord to evict a tenant due to a housing code or health code compliant. This means that if a tenant files a complaint regarding the unit and the landlord attempts to evict the tenant, the tenant may use retaliation as a defense to the eviction.
Landlord Has Discriminatory Basis for Evicting Tenant
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for any landlord to discriminate based on protected characteristics. Protected characteristics include but are not limited to:
- National origin
- Familial status
In addition, the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Any tenant who is evicted based on discriminatory causes may use discrimination as a defense against the eviction.