To begin the eviction of a rental property tenant, a Landlord must serve a proper termination notice and, upon expiration of the notice, forward the matter to our office for legal proceedings. Under Illinois law, we must secure service of the Complaint and Summons on the tenant by either personal service or notice by posting. In order to assist us in getting the best results for each client’s particular needs, it is important that our Landlord clients are well-informed on the difference between these types of service.

Upon receipt of a new eviction matter, we immediately file the Complaint and Summons. The Complaint will outline the name of the tenants, address of the property, how much is owed, and then, demand possession of the property. The Summons simply sets the court date, at which time the tenants must appear to avoid default.

The Complaint and Summons, however, must be served on the tenants and, to properly place an eviction down the road, on “All Unknown Occupants.” Service can be accomplished by either personal service or through notice by posting. So what’s the difference? When do you employ each? And what will be your result depending on the route you take?

Personal service occurs when the Sheriff or a process server hands the Complaint and Summons directly to the tenants or to any other resident of the property over the age of 13. The latter is called substitute or abode service, and is just as good as personal service. And it’s also the only way to serve “All Unknown Occupants.” Although you cannot identify any unknown occupants by name, the law allows proper service on them via service on the tenants.

Most, if not all Chicagoland counties require an attempt at personal service on the initial summons, either through use of the Sheriff or special process server, but Cook County requires service by the Sheriff the first time around. Our office practices in fourteen Chicagoland counties, so we can advise you whether we will use the sheriff or a process server.

If the Sheriff is unable to get personal service but it appears that the tenants are still in the unit, most judges will order another attempt at personal service via alias summons before allowing notice by posting. However, this time, the judge should grant appointment of a special process server.

After two attempts at personal service, with the Sheriff and a process server, or if the original return of service shows that the unit is vacant, the Court will then allow service via notice by posting. With notice by posting, the Clerk will issue a certain forcible entry and detainer notice. Then, the Sheriff will mail one copy to the property address and post copies in the courthouse. This service stems from an archaic idea that every citizen will walk through the courthouse at least once per day. Obviously, this is a case where the law has not caught up with current society, but nonetheless, these remain the requirements of a notice by posting.

So once we’ve obtained service either through personal service or notice by posting, we appear on your behalf at the return date and request an order for possession and, possibly, a money judgment. And this is where the greatest difference between the two types of service lies. A notice by posting will only result in an order for possession of the property; you cannot get a money judgment against the tenants if you do not personally serve them with summons. Therefore, you will need to decide your priorities. Do you want to turn to notice by posting quickly and forego collecting the past due rent so you can get possession of the unit right away? Or do you need to collect the money and you’re willing to endure several continuances while you attempt to get personal service?

Or maybe, if you’ve done your homework and you’re represented by savvy experts, you can employ a combination of service methods to get your unit quickly and then, your money. These decisions are ultimately up to each Landlord but are critical to the outcome of each case, so it is imperative that our Landlord clients know which path best serves his or her interests. In every matter, we can advise of the pros and cons of each type of service; we are here to help.


Since 1983, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome associations. Additionally, we represent clients in real estate transactions, collectionslandlord/tenant issues, and property tax appeals. We represent thousands of clients and community associations throughout the US with offices in several states including Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

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