Under the “common law”, it was lawful for a landlord “with force and arms” to retake possession of real estate and retain such possession by force from a tenant who failed to pay rent or breached a lease. “Self-help” such as this was prohibited by statute in the Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act.
The Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act, at 735 ILCS 5/9-101 provides:
Forcible entry prohibited. No person shall make an entry into lands or tenements except in cases where entry is allowed by law, and in such cases he or she shall not enter with force, but in a peaceable manner.
But, what exactly does this mean and what is a “forcible entry and detainer”?
A forcible entry is an act or action on the part of a party entitled to use real property to remove another party that is not in lawful possession of the real property. The forcible entry action can be actual (such as breaking down a door or changing locks) or constructive (such as cutting off heat, electricity, or water). A landlord engaging in “self help” is engaged in forcible entry. Section 735 ILCS 5/9-101 of the Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act expressly prohibits such acts.
Instead, the act provides a statutory basis that allows landlords the right to retake possession by peaceful means. In other words, landlords can no longer take the law into their own hands and, if a tenant will not voluntarily yield possession, a landlord must take a tenant to court. Only the County Sheriff, on the order of judge obtained in a forcible entry and detainer lawsuit, can forcibly retake possession for a landlord.