In most places, evictions operate on a much quicker timeline than other court cases. That makes the first decisions you make in an eviction situation that much more important.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of an eviction notice, the smartest and safest thing you can do is consult with a local eviction attorney. He or she will be able to examine the notice for legal issues, tell you what your options are, and the best course of action you can take. There are laws and rules that require eviction notices to contain certain information and language, as well as be served in a specific way to be enforceable. And believe it or not, many landlords do not follow such laws, usually because they’re not aware of them and they didn’t bother talking to an eviction attorney beforehand. Whatever the reason, it could help you get an eviction case thrown out so it’s always worth it to talk to an eviction attorney.
If you are unable to consult with an eviction attorney for some reason, then here is a basic primer on what you can do on your own.
1. Find out what the grounds for eviction are – aka why you’re being given the notice and DON’T Ignore the Notice.
Did you not pay your rent this month? Have you been violating a term of your lease (i.e. – have a dog or cat against the rules)? Are you renting without a current lease? The answer to these questions determine what options (if any) you have to “cure” the notice and prevent an eviction altogether. Ignoring the notice is the worst thing you can do, because they’re typically not issued for no reason, and ignoring it could find you evicted before you know it.
2. Once you know what the notice is for, see how much time you have to “cure” any breach
Every eviction notice must state both the reason for an eviction as well as a time period before the notice expires. This time period is crucial because it allows you an opportunity to stop an eviction before it happens. It’s also typically obvious on the face of the notice. If the notice is for not paying rent, which is the 5-Day Notice in Chicago, you have 5 days to pay the outstanding amount of rent. If the notice is for a lease violation, a 10-Day Notice in Chicago, you have 10 days to stop whatever the violation is. Failure to cure the breach during this time period will allow your landlord to file an eviction lawsuit against you, so take advantage of the opportunity if you can. If nothing else, it wouldn’t hurt to contact your landlord to see if there’s a way to work things out (i.e. – a payment plan for past due rent). Finally, keep in mind that there are other time periods in eviction notices not discussed here, underscoring the importance of consulting with a local eviction attorney if you can.
3. If you can’t cure the breach that lead to the notice and your landlord is unwilling to negotiate, talk to an eviction attorney such as the Chicago eviction attorney locals turn to.
If the time period on the eviction notice expires without you curing the breach, your landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. At that point, you can still avoid an eviction, but you’ll have to determine if the notice is defective in terms of its content or how it was served. To do that, you can try to look up your local ordinances or laws yourself and compare them to the notice you received, but it would be best if you spoke with a local eviction attorney. The rules are often complicated and difficult to interpret, and a lawyer is in the best position to examine the notice you received and figure out if you were served properly. If consulting with and hiring an attorney is not an option, look into legal aid organizations in your area.
Thanks to authors at William Mazur Law for their insight into Tenant & Landlord evictions.