Roommate, guest, and family member evictions in Illinois

What happens when good roommates go bad?  What happens when boyfriend and girlfriend break up?  What happens when a guest overstays its welcome?  What happens when children grow up to be jobless adults?  What happens when the people who live with these people or have control over the property they occupy want them to move out?  I regularly receive calls related to family, guest, and roommate evictions.  The people who call me are regularly surprised to find out that they do not have a right to just change the locks on the child or to call the police and have the roommate arrested for trespass. (Here’s a refresher on this article)

“But the roommate is my ex-girlfriend and she never signed a lease” a caller protests.  It doesn’t matter.  “I just let him in to get back on his feet and he said he would move out”.  It doesn’t matter.  “My daughter is an adult now, but she refuses to pay rent”.  It doesn’t matter.  The family member, guest, or roommate holds possession of the property by the prior agreement of the person having a claim of title (whether that is the landowner or the person named in a lease) and can only be removed by going through the Illinois eviction process.

Illinois law is well settled and clear on this issue.  Long ago, the common law provided that a property owner could forcibly eject people who were no longer welcome on the owner’s property.  This could (and did) lead to a disturbance of the peace and possibly the injury or death of the (former) tenant.  As a result, states enacted eviction laws.  The Illinois forcible entry and detainer act was established to provide a lawful and peaceful framework for the removal of people from real property.  The Illinois law puts it like this:

…no person has the right to take possession, by force, of premises occupied or possessed by another, even though such person may be justly entitled to such possession. The forcible entry and detainer statute provides the complete remedy at law for settling such disputes. Persons seeking possession must use this remedy rather than use force. Ross v. Youngman (1906), 125 Ill.App. 494, 496, citing Phelps v. Randolph (1893)

What about calling the cops and having the no-longer wanted tenant removed as a criminal trespasser?  More often than not, a call to the local police will not result in the expulsion of a guest, roommate, or a family member from a property.  The Forcible Entry and Detainer Act applies to the police as well as landlords and a police officer who removes a person who maintains possession upon the apparent agreement of some person with authority to grant access can be subject to claims of civil rights violations. As a result, a roommate, guest, or family member who can show that they were “allowed” possession of a property will likely not be removed as a criminal trespasser by the police.

So, what is a person to do to get a guest, roommate, or family member out?  They must terminate the right of possession of the unwanted guest, roommate, or family member.  Although factual situations can vary greatly (consult an attorney about yours!), this is usually done by way of a thirty day notice to terminate a tenancy.  After the thirty day notice expires, if the occupant is still in possession, an eviction lawsuit can be filed.

Does this process take a long time?  Can it be costly?  Is it a huge hassle?  Yes, yes, yes.  It is also the only option when it comes to evicting an unwanted occupant who had possession by either real or apparent permission.

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