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Can You Evict a Tenant That Does Not Have A Written Rental Lease?

Book with title Landlord-Tenant Law and a gavel.

Written leases and rental agreements spell out the rights of landlords and tenants, including when and how landlords can evict tenants. What happens when there is no written lease? Can tenants simply stay on the property forever? Can they be evicted for no reason? Below, our seasoned Illinois residential and commercial real estate attorneys discuss how tenants without a written lease can be evicted in accordance with Illinois law.

Reasons for Eviction

To force a tenant to move out early, before the written or unwritten tenancy has ended, a landlord must have a legitimate cause. Landlords in Illinois can choose to evict a tenant for a number of reasons. Depending on the reason, the landlord may have to go through certain processes prior to eviction, including giving the tenant the chance to cure the problem. Reasons for eviction may include:

  • Nonpayment of rent. If a tenant fails to pay rent when it is due, the landlord can issue a five-day notice to the tenant to either pay the rent owed or vacate the premises. After five days with no payment, the landlord can commence eviction proceedings. The landlord must let the tenant stay if they do pay within the five-day period.
  • Material breach of the lease. If the tenant breaches the lease for reasons other than past-due rent, such as if they regularly violate loud noise rules in common areas or if they keep a dangerous animal as a pet, the landlord can serve the tenant with a ten-day notice to vacate. The landlord is not required to give the tenant a chance to cure the issue and may commence eviction proceedings if the tenant fails to vacate after 10 days.
  • Possession or sale of illegal drugs. If a landlord discovers that a tenant uses, possesses, or sells illegal controlled substances on the premises of a rental unit, the landlord can evict the tenant after issuing a five-day notice. The same applies for a tenant involved in other qualifying felonies, such as armed robbery or sexual assault.
  • Foreclosure. If the rental property is foreclosed upon and the tenancy will no longer be continued, the bank or receiver may end the tenancy and force the tenant to leave upon 90 days’ written notice. Eviction proceedings can commence after the 90 days have elapsed.
  • Monthly lease. If the tenant rents the property on a month-to-month basis, rather than pursuant to a yearly written lease, the landlord can end the tenancy even without cause so long as they give the tenant 30 days’ notice to move out. If the tenant refuses to move out at the end of 30 days, the landlord can seek to evict.

Evicting Without a Lease

Aside from eviction based on breach of the written lease, the reasons noted above apply regardless of whether there is a written lease in place. Tenants who commit illegal activity, fail to pay rent, or who are living in a property that has been foreclosed upon can be evicted upon proper notice whether or not there is a lease. Tenants who remain in a property after the expiration of a written lease or who live in a rental property without a lease (“at-will” tenants) are not guaranteed additional rights. They are, however, granted certain rights so long as they continue to pay rent to the landlord. Specifically, at-will tenants cannot be evicted without the landlord going through the proper notice and eviction procedure that applies to tenants subject to a lease.

If there is no written lease in place, the landlord can ask the tenant to leave without cause so long as they give proper notice. If the parties have a week-to-week agreement, the landlord can evict upon seven days’ notice. If the tenancy is based on other terms greater than a week but less than a year, the landlord can evict upon 30 days’ notice. In the case of an expired written year-to-year lease in Chicago/Evanston, the landlord must provide 60 days’ notice.

Landlords can also kick out an at-will tenant for cause. Landlords without a lease will have a more difficult time claiming something akin to a lease violation, however; because there is no written agreement, they likely cannot point to something like having a pet in violation of the rental agreement. They may be able to seek eviction of tenants who cause serious damage to the property, create health hazards, or otherwise cause severe disturbance to neighbors, as well as eviction based on illegal conduct or nonpayment of rent.

If you need legal assistance with an Illinois real estate matter, get professional and qualified legal help by contacting the Chicago residential and commercial real estate lawyers at MacDonald, Lee & Senechalle in Hoffman Estates at 847-310-0025 and in Des Plaines at 847-298-5030.

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