By Joseph Silverstein 
Evicting a tenant in Illinois requires a detailed legal process. Therefore, it is important for landlords to be patient and wait for the court to enter a formal eviction order providing possession of the unit versus taking voluntary possession. Indeed, there are consequences that landlords can face if they take matters into their own hands and attempt to remove their tenant before the formal eviction proceedings have concluded. Further, landlords with units located in the City of Chicago must be aware that Chicago has its own unique laws with regard to eviction.
Section 5-12-060 of the Chicago Municipal Code states that it is unlawful for any landlord or any agent to threaten or attempt to oust or dispose of a tenant without authority of law by, “plugging, charging, adding or removing any lock or latching device, or by blocking any entrance into said unit; or removing any door or window from said unit; or by interfering with services to said unit; including but not limited to electricity, gas, hot or cold water, plumbing, heat or telephone service; or by removing a tenant’s personal property from said unit; or by the removal or incapacitating of appliances or fixtures, except for the purpose of making necessary repairs; or by the use or threat of force, violence or injury to a tenant’s person or property; or by any act rendering a dwelling unit or any part thereof of any personal property located therein inaccessible or uninhabitable.” If a landlord violates Section 5-12-060 of the Chicago Municipal Code, the landlord can be fined up to $500.00 for every day that the offense occurs.
Illinois courts continue to show how important it is for a landlord to wait until given authority from the court to evict a tenant. Recently, the Illinois Appellate Court extended the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit for the unlawful entry onto a unit from two (2) years to five (5) years. In Mayle v. Urban Realty Works, LLC, the tenants filed a lawsuit in 2017 against the landlord. The lawsuit alleged that in 2013, the landlord violated Section 5-12-060 of the Chicago Municipal Code. The trial court dismissed the case pursuant to the 2-year statute of limitations. The Appellate Court, however, overturned the dismissal and ruled that the applicable statute of limitations is five (5) years. The Appellate Court rules that in order to determine if the statute of limitations for a city statute is two (2) or five (5) years, a court must determine if the statute is penal or remedial. The statute of limitations for a penal statute is two (2) years, while a remedial statute is five (5) years. A statute is penal if the statute subjects one to pay a sum of money to another without reference to any actual injury and without requiring him to allege or prove an actual injury. On the other hand, a statute is remedial when it imposes liability only when actual damage results from a violation and where liability is contingent upon damage being proven by the plaintiff. The Appellate Court determined that Section 5-12-060 of the Chicago Municipal Ordinance is a remedial statute, and therefore the statute of limitation to file a case for a violation of Section 5-12-060 of the Chicago Municipal Code is five (5) years, not two (2) years.
This case is an important reminder to all landlords that tenants have rights, and landlords must be very careful to follow the law when evicting a tenant. Because of this, it is important to hire legal counsel to assist you with all your evictions or carefully review the law.