But there is no lease!

I was recently contacted by a property owner who inquired about removing a tenant who is renting a room in the property owner’s house.  I explained to the property owner that the procedures of the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act must be satisfied to remove the tenant.

The property owner then informed me that ‘there is no lease’ and that the tenant has to leave as ‘it is my house’.  Many landlords feel this way.

I sympathize.

However, whether there is a lease or not does not matter.  In fact, in most situations, there is a lease – it is just not a written lease.  However, whenever a property owner rents a room, a house, a condominium, or other residential structure, either by oral or written lease or merely by voluntarily granting possession to the premises, the occupant establishes a tenancy.  That tenancy can only be terminated by the occupant either (1) voluntarily turning over possession to the landlord or (2) by a Sheriff enforcing an order for possession obtained from a judge in a forcible entry and detainer (eviction) case.

In fact, the Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act was specifically designed to require that landlords comply with its procedures to take back property from a tenant who will not voluntarily yield possession as a way of keeping the peace.  Otherwise, people would handle evictions with baseball bats.  Illinois landlords gain no advantage by not having a written lease.


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11 Responses to But there is no lease!

  1. Margaret says:

    My relative has a situation that in sum can be stated as follows: she owns a three-flat and her son and his family have lived rent free for 14 years on the first floor. He is a hoarder and a bully. She does not have keys to his apartment, though he does to hers. He has been verbally abusive to her. There is a lot of junk in the hallways, the garage, and the basement; the porches need work; and the roof needs work–we don’t know what else. She can’t pay the property taxes without more rent, but she’s afraid he’s going to rip up any letter asking for any rent–he and his wife have already hemmed and hawed about paying her and she’s seen no money. What would her next step be? Where do we start? I’m in the process of convincing her to evict him, but again, she’s afraid of the building inspector fining her for whatever code violations she might have at this point. I really don’t know where to go. I have friends who are willing to help her move furniture, and change the locks, as well.

    THanks for any advice.

    • Richard Magnone says:

      Wow – there are lots of issues there. Far too many to give “legal advice” on a blog reply. Your relative’s situation is certainly serious. There are issues possibly related to a family member eviction, personal safety, financial problems, and security. Your relative needs to get some advice and fast. The next best step for your relative to to take is to consult with an eviction attorney to learn about her rights and to make a plan about how to proceed.

  2. Right says:

    Right. And landlords would be able to say out of no where, “hey, I dislike you, now you are a trespasser.” The tenancy needs to be terminated, whether there is a lease or not. No lease, then it is probably a month-to-month tenancy. Serve a 30-day notice, wait 30 days, then file to evict.

  3. Anna says:

    I have a tenant who owes me $5500 in rent. Last year they both were out of a job and I was nice enough to say “pay me the rent when you can”. That was last year. They now both work and they still owe me $5500. They keep promising that they will pay me the amount they owe, but now they are always late on the monthly rent or they just pay half and promise me the rest in 2 weeks. I need the rent money to pay the mortgage on this house they are living in. When they are late paying, I have to take out another loan just to pay the mortgage. They have never signed a lease, but I told them they are renting “month-to-month”. These people give me a lot of stress by not paying. I wonder why they can afford buying cigarettes, new furniture, lots of personal gadgets, and now 3 dogs – but they can’t afford to pay me the rent. I think they are taking advantage of my sweet disposition. Sometimes I feel like going into the house and throwing out all of their furniture and putting new locks on the doors — but I wonder if I could get in trouble for doing this. A friend of mine says take them to court, but I cannot afford all the fees. Can you advise?

    • Richard Magnone says:

      Well, you have not engaged our firm to represent you, so I can’t give legal advice upon which you can rely. We would be happy to discuss your case in more detail to see if we are a match for an engagement if you give us a call.

      I can speak generally though. When a tenant is behind in rent, a landlord can and in most cases, should, serve a notice to pay or quit (usually a five day notice) to force the issue. The tenant must then pay the rent within the required time or the landlord will have the right to evict. There are many practical problems to an eviction – tenant defenses, counter-claims, the possibility that a tenant is noncollectable, and the time and cost of the eviction. As a result, there is no one right answer.

      All landlords, however, are prohibited from “taking the law into their own hands”. A landlord who cuts off power, changes locks, or throws out property belonging to the tenant engages in what is called a wrongful eviction and can find that the law on this is unforgiving, subjecting the landlord to big time penalties.

  4. Donna says:

    I let a friend move in with me (with only a verbal agreement) when he lost his house. He works in the trades and I know that part of the workforce has been hit hard lately. The plan (or so I believed) was for him to move in, get on his feet, and move on.
    He has a lot of tools, building materials and other possessions so he asked if he could build shelves, drawers, etc. in my garage, basement and back porch area to store his items. I allowed it.
    Without going into all the details of why this tenancy is not working, I find it necessary to begin eviction procedures. He is current with his rent though he did live here for the first 12 weeks without paying anything.
    He insists that if I evict him he will place a lien on my property for the shelves, etc. he built because his labor has added value to my property. I did not request this work be done. He did it solely for his convenience and comfort in living here. Can he place the lien?

    • Richard Magnone says:

      I do not have a particular experience in handling mechanic’s lien claims, so I cannot advise you on this. Sorry.

  5. Ash says:

    Hi, I recently purchased a 2 flat building on the north side of Chicago and got in some trouble quick. My brother allowed a stranger convince him to take off the for rent sign by paying us one month rent and a security. That being said, there was never any lease laid out and it was all oral. He has been living with his family (2 kids youngest being about 15) for the past few months and hasn’t paid rent for May or June yet. Countless phone calls and texts and broken promises on his end thus far. HOW DO I GET HIM OUT? This has cause many arguments between me and my brother and so much stress. Please help a desperate first time building owner.

    • Richard Magnone says:

      It sounds to me like you need to start with a five day notice for nonpayment of rent and then bring an eviction case against the tenant.

  6. Amber J says:

    I need advice. I work for a large health care company. Last November my I lost my house and everything I owned in a tornado in Central Illinois. I had requested time off to find living arrangements and to take care of things. My employer called me back and offered to let my family and I to live rent free in one of the empty senior living apartments in the building that I work in. Obviously, this was a Godsend at the time. Because of the devastation of the tornado and that it hit at an awkward time of year, rebuilding is taking much longer than expected. Two months ago my employer decided that they wanted me to start paying $2,250 a month for the apartment. I don’t even make that much a month working here. There is no written agreement aside from me signing a paper saying that I had taken possession of one set of keys. I was served with a 5 day eviction notice that ended over the weekend. Now they are saying since we have no lease they can forcibly evict without going to court. I don’t think this is legal, but not sure since I was offered the place rent free. They are also saying that I won’t be able to continue working here if they evict me. I’m feeling very taken advantage of. And my house won’t be finished for several more weeks!

    • Richard Magnone says:

      This is a very serious matter. We do not represent tenants. You need to contact a tenant’s rights attorney right away.