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Q: Mr. VanFleet, I own several rental properties in the area and I have two questions. First, can I change the locks on the doors and keep a tenant out for non-payment of rent? Second, can I keep the tenant’s property left behind and sell it to recoup my loss? [name withheld for confidentiality]
A: First of all, thank you for submitting your question. Your question was the first received on our new blawg, and as promised we are responding to the first three questions received regardless of the topic. Both of your questions involve Illinois statutes, but first and foremost an analysis of any dispute between a landlord and tenant must start with a thorough review of the lease. The lease agreement can prescribe terms that must be followed by the landlord prior to invoking remedies, such as notice and opportunity for the tenant to cure the problem. The lease should be written when possible, but it is not always necessary. In most instances, the Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act represents the only legal manner in which a landlord can evict a tenant. Some of its requirements can be altered by the lease agreement and some cannot. You did not specify whether your property at issue is residential or commercial, but this can be an important distinction as some of the requirements under the statute are different depending upon the type of property. Generally speaking, we typically recommend that a landlord file an eviction and obtain a Court Order for possession of the real estate prior to taking any steps to remove the tenant or prevent the tenant’s entry on to the premises. We have seen far too many tenants successfully sue their former landlords for improper evictions.
There are circumstances when a landlord can seize the tenant’s personal property and sell the items in order to recoup lost rent. The statute that prescribes these circumstances, and the steps that must be taken, is known as the Illinois Distress for Rent Act. Great care must be taken in attempting to use this remedy against a tenant. Any actions not specifically permitted under the Act can result in damages to the tenant and a viable claim brought against the landlord. Legal counsel should always be sought prior to any attempt to invoke remedies under the Distress for Rent statute.
Welcome to our new website & to our legal blawg Poetic Justis! Formerly known as Peoria Legal Blawg, we have re-launched our website to better focus on our new blawg and the artwork of Mr. VanFleet’s children, which will be featured and periodically rotated as the background theme of our entire website. Please join us each month to follow our legal based blawg posts and a special poem written by Mr. VanFleet himself!