An Intern’s Experience in Eviction Court

Daniel Parrish

Ms. Wiles lived peacefully above her landlord in an owner-occupied building for over a year. During this time, she underwent training to become a foster parent, with the hope of adopting a child one day. To her surprise, she had the opportunity to adopt three siblings and keep a family together.

Unfortunately, Ms. Wiles’ landlord did not share her enthusiasm about the situation or like the idea of three children joining her in the upstairs apartment. The following month, the owner demanded an immediate rent increase of 47% and refused to accept the previously agreed upon rent listed in the lease. When Ms. Wiles was unable to pay the higher rent, the owner served her with a five-day notice to terminate the tenancy and then filed an eviction lawsuit.

Ms. Wiles came to LCBH seeking legal representation in eviction court where she was referred to the LCBH’s Attorney of the Day (AOD) eviction defense program. Ms. Wiles had a compelling defense based on discrimination against her due to her parental status, which is protected both in Chicago and Cook County. She also had a strong technical defense based on her landlord’s failure to provide her with proper notice.

Editor’s note: Daniel Parrish, a recent law school graduate working with LCBH as a Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) fellow sponsored by Brinks Gilson and Lione, has been working in the AOD program under the supervision of LCBH staff attorney Noah Magaram. Daniel shares his experiences working on Ms. Wiles’ case.

Talking with Ms. Wiles, I learned that she had a month-to-month lease. With this type of lease either the landlord or the tenant can terminate or renegotiate the lease at any time by giving the other party one full month’s notice. In other words, if the landlord wanted to raise the rent, the landlord would have had to inform the renter one full month ahead of time. Ms. Wiles’ owner/landlord attempted to raise the rent on the same day rent was due, not even close to the full month required by law. Doing my legal research, I found that a landlord cannot simultaneously refuse rent and evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent. This is exactly what the landlord did in this case when she refused to accept the correct (lower) amount of rent and then filed for eviction based on delinquent rent.

Having these defenses in my back pocket as I prepared this case for trial, I then attempted to settle the case with the landlord. However, the parties could not agree on a move-out date and Ms. Wiles and I went to trial. The court determined that Ms. Wiles had a month-to-month lease, and the landlord had improperly terminated the lease by giving zero days’ notice. Theses finding reinforced that the original rent payments were indeed the correct payments. Accordingly, the court found that the owner could not refuse to accept the correct amount of rent and then evict Ms. Wiles for nonpayment of rent.

This favorable outcome permitted Ms. Wiles to have extra time to search for a new home. The owner did not seek any back rent, and Ms. Wiles moved out a few weeks after the trial. Although the eviction process and the move were inconvenient, Ms. Wiles’ record does not include an eviction, and she is now happily living in a new home with her son and the newest members of her family, her three foster children.