Having problems with your Chicago landlord?
In the city of Chicago, most leases for condos, houses and apartments are governed by the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”). At the White Law Group, LLC, our attorneys may be able to help you break your lease, recover your security deposit or otherwise recover damages caused by your landlord.
Contact us today for your free consultation.
The information provided below is not legal advice and should not be relied upon without first consulting a landlord tenant attorney like the ones at the White Law Group.
I. Am I covered by the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance?
The RLTO was enacted in 1986 to cover all dwelling units in the City of Chicago, subject to limited exceptions. All rental units, whether under a written or oral lease, are subject to the RLTO with the following exceptions:
- Owner occupied buildings with six (6) or fewer rental units;
- Units in hotels, motels and rooming houses, unless the unit is rented on a monthly basis and rented for more than 32 days;
- School dorms;
- Employee housing;
- Non-residential rental units; and
Mobile homes are subject to regulation under other Illinois laws. The Mobile Home Landlord and Tenants Rights Act, 765 ILCS 745/1, et seq., regulates and determines legal rights, remedies, and obligations of the parties to any lease of a mobile home or mobile home lot in a mobile home park containing five or more mobile homes within Illinois.
The RLTO only applies to units located within the City of Chicago. If you are located within Cook County or elsewhere but not within the city limits of Chicago, the RLTO does not apply to your lease.
The RLTO, Chicago Municipal Code §5-12-010, et seq., is available at www.chicityclerk.com/tenantsVRSlandlords.php
II. Common Landlord / Tenant Disputes Under the Chicago RLTO
At The White Law Group, LLC, our landlord tenant attorneys are prepared to assist tenants in a variety of disputes with their Chicago landlords.
Under the RLTO, Chicago landlords are required to maintain your security deposit in an account separate from the account where your rent money is deposited. Each year, your landlord is required to pay or credit you the interest accrued from that account.
When you move out of your unit, if you have followed the terms of your lease and do not owe your landlord for any other charges (such as unpaid bills for damages or for late fees), your landlord is required to return your security deposit to you within 45 days. Your landlord may be permitted to withhold part or all of the security deposit for repairs you caused to the apartment, but in such cases the landlord must provide you with a written account of the itemized damages allegedly caused by you within 30 days. Additionally, Illinois law states that the landlord may not charge you for “ordinary wear and tear” to the unit.
If you believe your Chicago landlord has violated these terms, contact the White Law Group for a free consultation. In some cases, you may be entitled to damages equal to two times your security deposit.
Breaking a Lease
Even in Chicago, where the RLTO provides greater protection to residential tenants, breaking a lease early can sometimes not be possible. Tenants should proceed carefully before attempting to do so. If you break a lease improperly, you may be held responsible for all of the remaining rent on the lease. We strongly encourage you to contact an attorney before taking any action.
There are however, still circumstances where Chicago tenants may terminate their lease before its expiration. If you are facing one of the situations below, contact the attorneys at the White Law Group today for a free consultation.
Your landlord has failed to maintain the building in a working condition
If a condition makes the unit not reasonably fit and habitable (as set forth by Section 5-12-070), you may be able to break your lease. The tenant may give written notice that a condition makes the unit not reasonably fit and habitable and that the landlord has 14 days to make the repairs. If the landlord does not do so, the lease will terminate and you will be required to move out within 30 days.
A tenant may not break a lease for a landlord’s failure to repair minor defects, which are defined by the RLTO as those where the cost of compliance is less than $500 or one-half of the monthly rent, whichever is greater. In such cases, the tenant may demand in writing that the landlord make the minor repairs within 14 days, after which time the tenant may have the work performed in a workmanlike manner. The tenant must then submit the bill to the landlord and may then deduct the cost of repairs from the monthly rent.
Your landlord has failed to deliver possession of the dwelling unit
If you and your landlord have entered into a residential rental agreement in Chicago but the landlord does not deliver possession of the unit to you, the RLTO gives you the ability to break your lease. Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-110(b) states that if a landlord fails to deliver possession of a Tenant may terminate the lease and demand return of all prepaid security deposit and prepaid rent money. Tenant may also demand performance of the rental agreement. In some cases, where the landlord’s failure to deliver possession is willful, you may be able to recover damages in an amount up to the equivalent of two months’ rent.
Your landlord has failed to provide essential services
Sometimes after moving into a residential unit, tenants have problems where the landlord is not providing essential services, such as heat, running water, electricity, gas or plumbing. If you are dealing with one of these issues, or if there is another issue with your unit that is an immediate danger to your health, there are a number of options available to you.
First, you must give written notice to your landlord of the problem. After giving that notice, you may do any of the following:
- Procure service to repair the problem, and, upon presentation to the landlord of paid receipts for service, you may deduct the amount from the monthly rent.
- Recover damages based on the reduction in the fair market value of the dwelling unit.
- Procure substitute housing for the period of time during which the landlord is failing to fix the problem. If you choose to find substitute housing, you are excused from paying rent to the landlord for the dwelling unit for that period of time. You may also recover the monthly cost of substitute housing up to the amount of your unit’s monthly rent.
- Withhold from the monthly rent an amount reflecting the reduced value of the dwelling unit, if the condition persists for more than 24 hours. However, if the failure is due to the inability of the service provider to provide services, you may NOT withhold rent.
- Terminate the lease if the failure to provide services persists for more than 72 hours. You must then move out of the unit within 30 days. However, if the failure is due to the inability of the service provider to provide services, you may NOT break the lease.
Your dwelling unit has suffered fire or casualty damage
Unfortunately, sometimes fires and other casualties can cause serious damage to your home. If you are not responsible for the damage, as a tenant in Chicago you have several choices to help you deal with the damage.
Your first choice is to move out immediately. If you do so, you must provide written notice to the landlord within 14 days after moving out. The rental agreement will be considered to have terminated as of the date the damage occurred. You landlord will be required to return your security deposit and any prepaid rent up to the date of the fire or casualty.
You may also choose to stay in the unit if it is legal and safe to do so. If you stay, you may pay reduced rent to reflect the reduction in the value of the unit.
Finally, if you stay and the landlord promises to make repairs but fails to do so, you may give written notice of your intent to terminate the lease within 14 days if such repairs are not made. After that period, if the repairs are not made, you may terminate the lease and move out within 30 days.
If you are unable to terminate your lease early, you may be able to sublease your unit in order to avoid paying the remainder of the rent.
Tenants have the right under the RLTO to sublease their dwelling unit so long as the proposed sublease is reasonable. Chicago landlords may not assess additional fees or charges when accepting a proposed sublease.
If you are not able to find a new tenant to sublease your unit but move out anyway, your landlord has a duty to make a good faith effort to re-rent the unit to a new tenant. The landlord must offer the unit at fair market value. If, however, the landlord does make a good faith effort, you will be responsible for the full amount of rent until a new tenant can be found. If the landlord has multiple units available for rent, it is not a violation of his good faith duty to fill another unit before yours.
Call us for more information
To speak with a Chicago landlord tenant attorney, please call The White Law Group at 312/238-9650.
For more information on The White Law Group visit http://www.wlgattorneys.com.