In Step I, we discussed which Notice of Termination to use and the proper way to serve the Tenant with the notice. Now, we will discuss what to do when the Tenant has failed to comply with the request to either pay unpaid balance, cease and desist lease violations, or vacate the premises. In Step II, we discuss starting the eviction lawsuit and how to serve to the Tenant with the Summons to appear for trial and what to do if the Tenant is avoiding the Summons.
Step II(a): Serve Summons/Complaint on Tenant via Sheriff
Once the termination period of the Notice to Terminate Tenancy has expired, an Illinois Landlord may file a complaint in the appropriate Circuit Court. A court date may be scheduled within 4-6 weeks. Once a court date has been set, the Landlord must serve the Tenant(s) with a summons and copy of the complaint. A summons is an official notice of a lawsuit. It is given to a person or business so that they know they are being sued and are given the opportunity to defend themselves. This notification procedure is also called Service of Process. By constitutional right, everyone is entitled to Notice and an opportunity to be heard. Therefore, in order to ensure this constitutional right is protected, the Tenant’s summons must be properly served.
Once the summons is properly served on the Tenant, they must appear in court to present their case in person or by phone or video call. If the Tenant does not show up in court, the Landlord can automatically win their case. If the Landlord sues someone without giving the Tenant proper notice of the lawsuit the case can be continued to a further date or dismissed.
To properly serve a Tenant in Cook County, a Sheriff must always attempt to serve the Tenant with the summons and complaint. This is the most common way to serve a summons. A Landlord must get the Sheriff in their county to serve a summons after they filed their complaint.
Step II(b): Serve Summons/Compliant on Tenant via Special Process Server
Although service by the Sheriff is the most common way, it is not always guaranteed that the Tenant will be served, despite the Sheriff’s efforts. Unfortunately, the Tenant may make it difficult for the Sheriff to serve the summons, especially if they don’t answer the door or are never home.
In addition to the Sheriff, the Landlord may use a Special Process Server (anyone over the age of 18 who is not involved in the case). A Special Process Server may be more reliable in serving those Tenants, who are harder to find or avoid service by the Sheriff. The Special Process Server will serve the Tenant by handing the summons to the Tenant personally at their home or giving the summons to an individual who lives on the premises and is at least 13 years of age.
Some counties require the Landlord to file a motion to ask the judge for permission before using a Process Server. Once the Judge has approved the Process Server and Process Serve has successfully served the Tenant, service is complete!
Must a Landlord use a Landlord/Tenant Attorney?
Attorneys are helpful to Landlords because the procedures for filing for eviction cases can have several hurdles that may cause delay or dismissal of a case. This may cause the Landlord more money and time.
From serving the initial eviction notice through obtaining the order for possession, an experienced landlord/tenant law attorney can assist through all phases of the eviction process. While some landlords may want to pursue legal action on their own, few understand the nuances of document preparation and filing that is necessary to navigate the court system and see the trial through without delay or dismissal.
An experienced landlord/tenant attorney will be able to guide landlords through the varying logistics of their county and advise them of what to expect and how to prepare for their eviction lawsuit. If you are a Landlord and have an eviction issue, we can help. Contact Nowlin Scott Law Firm today at 312-715-8362 to request a case evaluation.