How To Evict a Tenant: The Ultimate Guide

65 Replies

@Scott Shelby

To be fair, the Constables have families as well and this is not an emergency.  You could easily have filed months ago and avoided the holidays

So, you needed to sell your property and move to Texas to handle a simple eviction in Texas?  There are services that would have handled this for <$500.  Why did you uproot your life for this ?

Great read, amazing article with a wealth of great info. Wish i had read this before i went thru evicting a tenant years ago. But i just read it and saved it. I will be referring back to this article no doubt!!!

Just got back from court for my first eviction in NC. Tenants dodged the Sheriff's officers until they finally just posted it on the door. Deputy said he could hear them inside but they wouldn't answer the door. In court they brought up all kinds of things not even true or relevant to the case. In the end judge ruled in my favor with two months back rent, eviction and court cost. Lesson learned: be prepared for some outlandish bs and document everything.

I have had to do 2 evictions in my short career as a landlord.

One (my first) was without an attorney. I used a property management company for this one and that did not help at all.  This took me over 6 months to evict the tenant.  This eviction was far more costly as the damages to my property by the tenant was more than I could afford to fix.

Two was with an attorney. The second was expensive but it took a fraction of the time and cost. Attorney's are worth it in that regard. But this also caused me a great deal of stress and financial loss such that I gave up on being a landlord and found rentals to non profitable.

20 years later, I have been rethinking this process and am considering getting back into it. Good tenant screening seems to be the answer and I thought I was doing it well before but clearly I was not.

Joshua Dorkin, thank you for taking the time to put this out! I've been a landlord for 15 years and did my first eviction last summer. Presently I'm doing two more... For anybody this will benefit I'll share the experience and lessons learned.

Over the previous 14 years I'd had tenants who paid late or missed payments. But I was always able to work things out with them; either a payment plan or they just agreed to move out (sort of "cash for keys" without the cash - just the lost rent). And that worked until I met... we'll call them "Loser 1 and Loser 2" (no bitterness here...). 

Aside from being horrible tenants; always late with the rent, combative in nature and mean to the other residents, they stopped paying rent altogether in spring of 2019. I went to the Madison County Courthouse (IL), who were (and are) very helpful in describing the process, much was as described in Joshua Dorkin's guide. First was a 5-Day Notice to Quit, which I taped to their door and photographed. After the five days I filed ($264.00) with the county and paid for the Sheriff's department to serve the summons. (Lesson learned/mistake #1). Madison County Sheriff's Dept. charges about $150.00 for this. They knock once. If it doesn't work they'll retry for another $150.00. The second time around I used a local process server ($60.00 for the first person, $30 for the second) and they got it done.

Going in to court, I was super anal-retentive. I wore a tie, called the judge "your honor", made copies of all of our texts, brought the lease, and a spreadsheet of all they owed. I made copies for the judge and for the defendants. The judge set a move out date and ordered a financial settlement (rent plus court costs but no late fees). I don't expect to see a cent of that. The defendants filed for an extension to the move out date, which the judge denied. 

At the move out date it took all my self discipline not to be sitting in the parking lot with a bowl of popcorn and a beer. (Did I mention bitter?) They acted like they didn't know it was coming - even answered the door in their jammies (you can't unsee some things). The deputy had to inform them "You don't live here any more. Right now you're trespassing." They drug it out for hours. Finally the deputy told them "At 3:30 I'm removing you in handcuffs." That warmed my heart...

When they were finally gone I entered the house with the deputy, and filmed everything while the deputy was there and watching. To be fair, since I criticized the Sheriff's department in the earlier reference the summons service, I must say they were AWESOME here: very patient, made sure the tenants left and protected me by making sure I did everything correctly. 

Eviction number 2 (In process).

This one hurts. Nice people. A family of four. But I did everything I could. I will say that now that I understand more about Fair Housing Laws and Illinois Landlord/Tenant law, I am far less inclined to "work with" anybody. If you treat one tenant differently from another, and they find out, you could be facing a lawsuit. After reading "Landlording on Autopilot" I've gotten healthily paranoid about this. 

From day one they were never on time with their rent. They were living in a 4br 3 ba house which was more expensive than most rentals around here. When if became apparent they would be struggling the whole time I offered to let them out of their lease, which they declined. I then tried cash for keys. They wanted to stay. I posted the 5 day notice but found out when I went to file that Illinois no longer allows landlords to post the notice on the door; it must me handed to the tenant directly. (They say this has always been the rule but allowed posting it on the door in the previous eviction). After that I used the process server to serve the summons. 

The main thing is I was able to maintain a line of communication with the tenants throughout this process, which was huge. I continuously begged them to, for their own good, find a new place, which they finally did. Presently we still have a court date for a settlement but there will be no eviction. I was not looking forward to the sheriff showing up. No popcorn and beer for this one...

The last one is still in progress. Almost identical to the second eviction described above except I'm still waiting on her move-out date (she says this week). But there were a couple idiosyncrasies in this case which might be beneficial to mention:

I found out she had been borrowing money from my (too good-natured and trusting) handyman to pay the rent. He can ill afford this and will never see a penny of payback. 

  1. Also , she tried to avoid the issue by not communicating or answering the door. This proved a challenge, given that the 5 day notice has to be served in person (or via registered mail, which she would've ignored). In Illinois it's required that a landlord give 24 hours notice before entering the premises. But it doesn't say you have to enter. So I gave her 24 hours notice. The next day I texted her again, giving her another 24 hours notice. I did this for several days (the boy who cried wolf). Finally,24 hours after the last notice, I texted her saying, "I'm coming in now. I'll knock first". I also asked a local police officer to join me, in case things got ugly and also to have a witness. She was home and I served the notice.

  2. 1. Be careful when trying to work with somebody who is struggling. It's easy to accidentally violate fair housing laws by giving someone a chance that you didn't give somebody else. Also you can be just prolonging the agony.
  3. 2. Document, document, document!!! I saved the texts as PDFs. Bring everything to court you might think is relevant.
  4. 3. Use a private process server for serving the summons. Not that expensive and they do a thorough job.
  5. 4. If you have what you think may be a contentious meeting with a tenant or would like a witness, ask the local police to come. They don't mind doing this and can even give helpful advice.
  6. 5. (Maybe should be 1). I obviously needed to improve my screening. Who gave them the keys??? I did. (Sigh) And each one of them had me squirming as we signed the lease. I now use an external screening service who simply gives me a "Recommended/Not Recommended" after they run the apps. So far they've done great and it takes that liability off of me.

If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in this situation please PM me. I'm far from being an expert but I'd be happy to share my experiences with you.

@Marvin Meng Thanks for sharing. I’ve represented clients in neighboring counties where the judge effectively required the 5 Day Notice be served by the Sheriff’s Department. Seriously. Goes to show how nuanced evictions can be, even within the same State!

Originally posted by @John Krasner :

Finding it really difficult to evict my tenant. Hoping this book helps.

What difficulties are you running into? (Specifically, I mean. I know the whole thing sucks!). Maybe somebody here will have some ideas...


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