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Find out how to address repair issues with your landlord.

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Starting and ending the rental agreement; security deposits.

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Home » Apartment Conditions & Repair, Chicago-specific Guide, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Landlord & Tenant Rights

Apartment Conditions and Repairs – FAQ

last updated on April 24, 2010 – 3:46 PM92 comments

NOTE: If your landlord lives in your building, see the “Exceptions” note on the right side of this page.

What is my landlord responsible for?
Your landlord has a duty to keep your apartment in good shape and make all necessary repairs. If she fails to do this, you may be able to:

  • Make the repairs yourself and deduct their cost from your rent;
  • Withhold a portion of your rent;
  • Sue your landlord; or
  • Terminate your lease agreement. This pamphlet explains when and how you can do these things.

What must my landlord do to maintain the condition of my apartment?
Keep your toilet, bathtub, shower, and bathroom sink in good working order;

  • Keep your furnace and boiler in good working order;
  • Keep your windows weatherproof;
  • Keep your floors, walls and ceilings in good repair;
  • Keep your plumbing fixtures in good repair;
  • Keep your electrical outlets safe and operable;
  • Prevent the accumulation of stagnant water;
  • Keep all of the appliances he supplies in good working order;
  • Maintain the building is foundation, exterior walls, and roof in good and watertight condition;
  • Provide adequate hall and stairway lighting; Keep all stairways and porches in a safe and sound condition;
  • Provide trash containers;
  • Protect you against rodents and insects by exterminating; and
  • Comply with all other requirements of Chicago’s Municipal Code.

If my landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can I use my rent to pay for these repairs?

Yes, but only if the repair will not cost more than $500 or one-half of your rent (which ever is greater). Using your rent money to make necessary repairs is called “repairing and deducting.”

How do I “repair and deduct?”
First you must give your landlord a written notice stating that, unless she makes the necessary repairs within 14 days, you will make them yourself and deduct their cost from your rent. Keep a copy of the notice. If your landlord doesn’t make the necessary repairs within 14 days of receiving the notice, you can make the repairs or pay someone else to do it. After giving your landlord paid receipts to confirm the cost of repair, you can deduct this cost from your rent. See sample letter here.

What if I want to repair a problem in a common area, such as a stairway or hallway?
You must first give all of the other tenants written notice of your plan to make the repair.

If my landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can I withhold a portion of my rent?
Yes, but first give your landlord a written notice stating that, unless she makes the necessary repairs within 14 days, you will withhold a certain portion of your monthly rent payments. NOTE: You cannot withhold a portion of your rent and “repair and deduct” in the same month.

If I decide to withhold a portion of my rent, exactly how much should I withhold?
The amount you withhold must reasonably reflect the reduced value of your apartment. Be conservative. You cannot withhold all your rent unless your apartment is in such bad shape that you must move, and you can rarely withhold as much as 50%. If you withhold too much, your landlord may be able to evict you for nonpayment of rent. To be safe, consult with an attorney. See “rent reduction” sample letter here.

Can I terminate my lease because my landlord has failed to make necessary repairs?
Yes, but only in very serious cases. Consult with an attorney first.

How can I terminate my lease?
First, you must provide your landlord with written notice that you will terminate your lease in no less than 14 days unless he makes whatever repairs are necessary. If she does not correct the problem within 14 days of receiving this notice, you may terminate your lease agreement. If you terminate the lease, you must move within the next 30 days otherwise your lease will remain in effect. See sample letter here.

If my landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can I sue him/her?
Yes, but consult with an attorney first.

Can I make my landlord pay for the cost of repairing a problem I caused?

What if my landlord fails to provide me with an essential service (such as heat, electricity, or running water)?
See the page entitled Heat & Other Essential Services.

Does my landlord have to repaint my apartment?
Not unless the paint is cracking or peeling.

Can I sue my landlord if my property is damaged in her apartment?
Only if the property was damaged as a result of your landlord’s negligence.

Please Note: This information, published by the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and the Metropolitan Tenants Organization as a public service, gives you only a general idea of your rights and responsibilities under the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance and other relevant chapters of Chicago’s Municipal Code. It is meant to inform, but not to advise. Before enforcing your rights, you may want to seek the advice of an attorney who can analyze the facts of your case and apply the law to these facts.

Still can’t find the answer? Send us your questions. Please allow several days for a response.

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  • Peggy stenger says:

    We have had problems with the owner from the start, when we moved in there were window screens that were torn with open areas and some just pulling away from the frames, we aded it it to the list of problems. Was promised they would be repaired. They never were we just did it our selves. But what has made me hesitant to contact the landlord is the way that he handled the gas leak in my kitchen when we moved in, the gas company came to make an inspection before they would put the service in my name. At that time they turned gas off due to a leak and wrote a note for me to give to the landlord. I called to tell him about the problem and was yelled at on the phone about why did I call the gas company. He said he was busy and would get to it when he had the time. He did come to my apartment, but I do not know when as he never gives any notice of coming nor leaves any notice that he has been. He replaced the dryer hose that he had connected the gas to stove with, with another new dryer hose, which still leaked. I wrote to him numerous times about the leak and askd for it to be repaired. After about 3 months I wrote and said that if he he could not come and repair it I would call the gas company again. No reply from him, so two full weeks after my deadline to him about calling the gas company I did, and they came out and made the repair, and he allowed me to deduct it from the rent. We have since that time repaired things that were broken ourselves and not called him in. We replaced the faucet in the kitchen and then awhile later had no hot water pressure. He says he will deal with it when it gets around to it and has said we have to pay for the plumber and for another new faucet of his choice to be put in, because by the law only a plumber can work on the faucet. Is this true? I am guessing we were out of line installing the faucet without permission. When speaking with him he told me he does not like the way we have decorated the apartment, we got radiators covers and installed shelves in the kitchen. Then he brought up the fact that i cost him money to repair the gas leak. We wants us out and said our lease will not be renewed. He said if we wanted to leave sooner he would be happy. How can I get out of this lease early with our credit and deposit intact? Is there any kind of form letter that you have that I could have him to sign to agree to let us go with 30 days notice, time frame of our choosing, and with our deposit?
    Thank you

  • Gina says:

    I’m having a similar issue however this has gone on for 5 years and my property manager has provided me with $500 a year toward the outrageous ComEd bills we’ve paid. But after a reelection and overhaul of our property committee, board, managers, etc my condo board is giving me warning that guaranteed rent increase will come by August 1 this year. The only way we could afford to stay here was with the fixed rent price, because the electricity bills were almost 1/3 our rent so this increase they’re planning will literally force my boyfriend and I out of our home, and probably out of the city. Its a likely scenario that we’ll have to restart life far away from this one and commute to work with more stress and complications than we ever found acceptable…and the reason we must leave–ONLY DUE TO THE unpredictable and totally outrageous ComEd bills this unit receives ($300+ in January for 5 years straight, 1br, 800 sq feet)! Apparently, we have been using between 115% and 150% more electricity than our closest neighbor (there are 12 on this floor alone) every single month for years. What does this sound like?? Anyone…please help me out here. we have done everything possible from all lightbulb replacements to not using AC even when its 90 degrees outside, we have no washer and dryer, and the most concerning part of this all involves the heater in our unit “blowing out” last winter and then the brand new heater “blowing out” about 2 weeks later. I was able to live with all of this a few years ago since assistance was given from the first year when I inquired about the overpriced utility bill, but over the past 6 months we’ve grown increasingly upset and angry that something must be wrong however the maintenance crew is ignoring whatever that may be. So now our standard of living in such a perfectly-located, safe and secure place, having our good jobs within walking distance, and our nice home which we truly do love (livelihood) is just being eliminated and our life is being totally destroyed due to inflated or inaccurate energy costs and now a very unfair rent hike forcing us out…
    So before we just move and this destruction of our life here happens, I want some answers and if it turns out to be a negligent maintenance of services or faulty system I want my thousands of dollars back from ComEd! Who do I contact to get some help ASAP? Please give me the most direct contact, refer me to the people who actually help in this sort of case, and anyone with ideas please provide. Thank you!

    • It sounds like there is an additional load on your line. Has the landlord mentioned this? If not the landlord is in violation of the law. I would start by requesting in writing for the landlord to correct this problem. When you agreed to pay the utilities you only agreed to by what you use for your apartment. You want this problem fixed and you want to be fully compensated. Next you can also try to call ComEd and ask them to inspect your line for problems. Another way to try and find the problem is to turn off all the switches in your breaker box and see if any common area lights or otherwise go out. Good luck.

  • Jorgeren says:

    I have been living in an apartment in Cicero IL since July 2007. When I moved there a wall was not well painted ( it was half painted). 1 year and half ago I told the landlor that I wanted him to paint that wall and even if he could paint the hole apartment and he said he was goint to paint only that wall and to cover a few scratches but not to paint the alls walls. He have been telling me that he will paint it the beguining of the month or such date and he does nothing. He keeps lying to me and still he did not paint it at all. He, said because I did not paid a few months at time my rent ( I paid 5 or 10th of the month a few times because of I have to deposit it to his bank account) I do not have the right to ask for painting my apartment. I would like to what can I do , what are my rights and to know if I have the right to ask the landlord to paint my apartment.
    Thanks a lot

    • There is no law that requires a landlord to repaint the unit when a new tenant moves in nor are there any laws that say that the landlord has to repaint the unit every 5 years. If there are no health or safety issues with the paint that there is not much you can do.

      If the paint is chipping and you live in an older home that has lead based paint then this would be a health violation especially if you have children or if children visit your home. You could call the Cook Healthy Department and ask for inspection.

      If the landlord has agreed to paint the wall and you have that in writing then you may be able to use the Illinois state law. The argument is that once the landlord has agreed to perform the maintenance in writing then it becomes a part of the lease agreement. Here is the Illinois law.

      If a repairis required under a residential lease agreement orrequired under a law, administrative rule, or localordinance or regulation, and the reasonable cost ofthe repair does not exceed the lesser of $500 orone-half of the monthly rent, the tenant may notifythe landlord in writing by registered or certifiedmail or other restricted delivery service to theaddress of the landlord or an agent of the landlordas indicated on the lease agreement; if an addressis not listed, the tenant may send notice to thelandlord’s last known address of the tenant’sintention to have the repair made at the landlord’sexpense. If the landlord fails to make the repairwithin 14 days after being notified by the tenant asprovided above or more promptly as conditionsrequire in the case of an emergency, the tenant mayhave the repair made in a workmanlike manner and incompliance with the appropriate law, administrativerule, or local ordinance or regulation.

  • Ann says:

    I’ll try and make this short.
    A couple months ago, my sister’s apartment and the other apartments in the building started getting major infestations of roaches that a tenant who doesn’t live there anymore brought in. All the landlord did was give everyone Raid and a roach motel. My sister was buying insecticide on her own (even though she only has a part-time job) but it doesn’t seem to work. One day last month, the landlord told her that he was bringing in Orkin on Monday, so be home. But on Saturday, he let himself in to her apartment while she was there without letting her know. He looked at her apartment and he looked at her and said that she and the apartment were disgusting. She admits she let the place go, but has started to bring it back to what it was before. She asked him if he was going to kick her out, and he said not yet. She asked him if the Orkin man was coming and he said no, it’s too expensive. Then he wants her to move all her furniture out of the apartment and tear up the carpet (she had to remove part of the carpet due to some bad stains). And he wants her to move a TV and air conditioner that’s on the back porch. She said that she can’t because of her heart and he said to hire somebody, which is impossible. She said she’ll throw out what she can, but that’s all she can do. We don’t have anyone who could help us move anything (they either said they’re unavailable or won’t go into the apartment because of the roaches), and I’m 61 years old. He’s seeing her tomorrow for a walk-through. He asked her if she tore up the carpet yet, and she told him that her cardiologist told her she can’t do that. He said we’ll talk tomorrow. She’s barely taking anything with her. She can’t take the TV and her appliances, because they might be infested with roaches. What gets me really angry is that he doesn’t say anything about the other tenants who have things on the back porch or that one of the tenants is a hoarder. She knows she isn’t getting her deposit back. What are her rights?

    • I would start by getting her cardiologist to provide a written statement to the fact that she should not be doing that kind of work. I would give a copy to the landlord demanding some reasonable accommodation.

      If you sister is a senior citizen, you can try calling 311 to see if they have any services that could help move the stuff.

      Why is the landlord replacing the carpet?

      If the place is not upto code your sister can call 311 and request an inspection. If there are problems the City will cite the landlord and make the landlord fix the place. If there are roaches throughout the building, it is the landlord’s responsibility to exterminate them.

      • Ann says:

        My sister left a message with her doctor. Since we have the same doctor, I can e-mail her in case she doesn’t hear from her.

        My sister is 51 years old. She has a part-time job and lucky to make $18,000/year.

        When an apartment goes empty, the landlord has been removing the carpet and finishing the wood floors. It appears to be that he doesn’t want to do it, and is trying to make my sister do it for him. He didn’t request the other tenants to do that when they moved.

        The building really doesn’t belong technically to the landlord. It’s his father’s building and he lives out of state. His father would never allow anything like this to happen.

        She’s seeing him at 9:30 this morning for a walk-through. I’m concerned. After heart surgery, she began having atrial fibrillation and can stroke out at any time. With all this stress, I’m afraid it might happen. I don’t know why he’s singling her out. Even a couple of the other tenants have noticed and can’t understand why. If I hear any more, I’ll contact you.

        • One way to manage the stress may be to ask the landlord to communicate in writing and for your sister to do the same. Have you thought about contacting the owner? If the carpet is so bad that it needs to be replaced, your sister can call 311 and request an inspection.

  • Taylor Peterson says:


    I recently moved into a garden unit that needs a lot of repairs, many of which I knew about beforehand, as I was assured anything I put on a punch list would get done. Ans while I understand I am enjoying low rent because of the need for such repairs (many minor like needing new outlet covers), I cannot tolerate the condition of the carpet! Not only is is extremely dirty (I’ve vacuumed several times and steamed it already in one week – previous tenants or owner did not have apartment cleaned, as promised), but I am sure there is mold in some spots, such as one that is below a pipe leaking rusty water (and I was ensured the apartment was dry when it was shown to me).

    As usual, I informed the leasing agent – she seems to be the liaison between the tenants and the building owner because I cannot get a hold of anyone else – several times that the carpet needs to be replaced (verbally and via email). She finally responded that she “would forward” the information to “Kevin – he is the one who will determine and talk to the owner about the carpet – hopefully they can replace it for you.”

    I have been reading about this 14-day policy and I am wondering if I should start pushing for this? I have no proof of her sending this information along and I cannot get a hold of this “Kevin” (or the owners for that matter!) myself.

    I am starting to get frustrated and want to leave the emotion out of it, but I’m sure we all know how emotional these situations can be (hence my poor, garbled description of the situation). I have already gone above and beyond cleaning the place and making my own repairs and improvements (because nothing is getting done as requested), so I would love to get out of this place ASAP, but would stay if they just replaced the carpet – it’s definitely the bottom line. I am allergic to mold and mildew, and it’s also dangerous for my dog. I guess I just need to know what the next step is, and how to approach whomever I should approach so I get some results.

    Thank you so much! This website and community is wonderful!

    • Do you have any documentation regarding the new carpet? Mold and mildew are not code violations. It makes using the repair and deduct portions of the ordinance more difficult. Are you suffering allergies as a result of the carpet? Can you get a doctors statement about it.

      You might want to start by calling 311 and requesting an inspection. If there are code violations, the inspector will cite the problems and the landlord will have to fix what the inspectors cite.

  • Caitlin says:


    My roommates and I have been having problems with our bathtub/shower not draining for the past few months. Our landlord, who is not a plumber, tried to fix it twice. After each time, it drained for few showers and then would clog again. He then got our neighbor–who does some home repair but is not a plumber and told us that he does not have the right equipment to fix the problem–to try to fix it. Again, it worked for a few showers, and then clogs again.

    Now, the shower fills the entire bathtub within a few minutes and takes 3-4 days to drain completely. We’d like to do a repair and deduct, and I have a few questions: Given the history of this problem, do we have to wait a full 14 days. Is it also possible that being unable to shower and having standing water in our bathtub for days is a situation that warrants being fixed sooner than fourteen days, as detailed in the ordinance?

    Also, does email count as being in writing?


    • The law may be up to interpretation in this instance. The ordinance states Failure To Provide Essential Services. If there is material noncompliance by the landlord with the rental agreement or with Section 5-12-070, either of which constitutes an immediate danger to the health and safety of the tenant or if, contrary to the rental agreement or Section 5-12-070, the landlord fails to supply heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas or
      plumbing. In this case you need to give notice but can take more immediate action. In general plumbing can be interpreted to be when a major plumbing fixture is not working. You could make that argument about the shower. It may depend on whether there is another shower in the unit, how unusable the shower is, etc. In cases where there is some interpretation of the law it is best to consult with an attorney.

      As for does email count, once again the ordinance is silent on this matter. If the landlord responds to the email then you would have a good argument that the landlord was given written notice. If not then once again it is a matter of interpretation. The law was created before widespread use of email.

  • Jenny says:

    Hi John,

    I’m wondering about how to go about getting some electrical work done to my new apartment. I’m a little annoyed that the landlord took several weeks to do what I thought were the routine unit maintenance tasks and it turns out that he only fixed the floors and partially repaired the damage that was done to the bathroom by the previous tenant.

    Currently, there are no GFCI outlets in the bathroom, nor by the kitchen sink, just standard outlets. The living room is without a light fixture, and has only one outlet for the entire room which is not grounded. A bedroom switch is badly wired and sparks and buzzes. Several other outlets and light switches have been painted over and partially clogged with paint (who does that? How hard is it to tape off or remove a switch plate for crying out loud???), and the dining room switch wall opening is larger than the plate causing the plate to sink into the wall. (That switch is also single pole, and there’s a weird double-pole cover on it wide open.)

    Lastly, when we enter our apartment, there is no light (or outlets to plug in a lamp even) until we’ve stumbled through 2 rooms to reach a switch.

    What I’m wondering is aside form the general maintenance of the electrical, is my landlord required/responsible for installing additional outlets, switches, fixtures and GFCI outlets in the apartment? I know the general building code says an outlet every 6 feet in every room or something to that effect, but are older buildings exempt from this code? I’m hoping that’s what gives me a leg to stand on when I request the outlets in the living room.

    THanks for your input!

    • If you have already contacted the landlord, a next step can be calling 311 and requesting an electrical inspection of your unit. If the building is not up to code then the landlord can be cited and required to make the repairs. You can request the free inspection from the city by calling 311. Make sure that you get a tracking number from the operator so that you can find out the status of your complaint. You could also put your repair requests in writing to the landlord. In the written letter you can give the landlord 14 days from the time of receipt of notice to make the repairs if they are not done in the period then you could reduce the rent to reflect the diminished value of the unit. That may be a tricky assessment in this case. We have sample letters on our web page. http://www.tenants-rights.org/category/sampleletters/

  • Justin says:

    I have been living at a property for 3 years. It is a 4 bedroom 3 bathroom house with a garden unit below and a two flat coach house behind. The first year I had a formal lease paid the security deposit which was equal to one months rent @$2250. Upon termination of this lease, I secured 3 other roomates and the landloard renewed the lease; however only having myself and one other person sign the lease. She also told us that the security deposit was going to be converted into the last monhts rent, but paid no interest on the amount she had held for that year. During that year the other person on the lease and I stayed the whole time with a few people moving in and out but there was never a shortage on rent. There were several problems with the apartment ie, broken toilets which were fixed months later, and major leaks coming from the upstairs bathroom into our downstairs living room. The landlord, after much calling would eventually come and claim to have fixed it but the problem to this day still exists. Also, I requested that she change the locks on our front doors as I wasnt comfortable with previous tenants who may still have had keys to the property, she refused to do this and said if I wanted to that done I would have to pay for it. I have also asked her several times to address problems with the ventilation and heating systems which she refused to do and told me I would have to pay for them. These things were general maintenance things which she should have fixed, and that also made our gas and electricity bills extremely high. It has been over a year since our last lease expired and we have been paying month to month ever since. I provided the landlord with 60 days notice that we would be moving from the property on 8/31/2012. On July 5th one of the tenants who had been living there moved out with no notice and without paying July’s rent. I could not afford to pay this on this persons behalf nor did I feel obligated to pay it but I told her I would do what I could to get it from them. Which didnt happen. Now she is also claiming at sometime there was money from the “last months rent” that was used as payment for rent, but refuses to show evidence of this and could not give me an exact amount as to how much this totalled. Also she is stating we have to return the house to her in the condition which we rented it 3 years ago. There is no significant damage only wear and tear from 3 years, but she is claiming there to be issues with the porch which she never maintained as long as I lived there. In all of this, she is continually texting and calling me and claiming that I am the sole person responsible for all damages. I have paid my share of rent and in some months I have paid for rent well beyond my fair share to cover vacant rooms when someone has moved out. I have all cancelled checks from every month I lived there that shows payment of at least 50% to 100% of the $2250 rent. I told her that I would pay what I could if she could show me evidence of what she claims is owed, and she refused saying “she is the landlord” and I’ll pay what she tells me to pay. I no longer feel that I should have to pay her anything, and told her such. She now sent me a message saying she was going to show our unit every day for the next two weeks if I dont pay. I’m pretty sure she has already rented this unit out to someone else so these “showings” are definitly not necessary. She also claims to no longer have a key to our apartment which means I would have to be there to let her in. I’m tired of being harrased by her, and I do not feel I owe her anything. By code I believe that since she never paid us the interest owed on the deposit that she “converted” to last months rent after the 1st year. That I could even be awarded 2x the security deposit. Please advise me on how to proceed with this. I have done everything I can to amicably handle this but she is not cooperating and contiues to harrass me.

    • You are correct that the landlord owes interest and is now subject to penalties. You and the other person who signed the lease are responsible for the rent so you would owe that. You could try sending the owner a letter stating that in fact she is in violation of the law and could be held liable for damages of twice the deposit plus attorney fees. You could suggest that you can either come to a reasonable accommodation or you will pursue legal remedies. Or you can just involve and attorney at this point which may be the best.

  • Johny V says:

    I am worried my building may be a fire trap. The unit across the hall from mine had it’s furnace and hot water heater disconnected when a service tech from peoples gas was in the building he said the rusted, flex tubing connecting the hot water heater and furnace to the black pipe gas line was outlawed in the the late 1980s. Then when he was in the basement the carbon monoxide detector went off the charts because all the hot water heaters in the basement are hooked to one exhaust pipe, but at some point he removed one of heaters and did not cap off where it was connected to the exhaust so all 6 working hot water heaters are exhausting out of the uncapped connection instead of going outside. Peoples Gas notified my landlord for the violations and his reply was to be irate at me for letting them in and he reconnected the appliances using the illegal unsafe flex tubing, who can I report this too because it puts us at a greatly increased risk of fire. Also he locks the back gate of the alley between my building and the one next to it. The front 2 units can enter via a door off the street of by going into the alley and using a side door midway down the building this door goes to a stairwell that provides the front units w a back way out and the 3 rear units w a way in. Then at the back of the building there another door that allows the 3 rear units a back exit, however by locking the gate at rear of the alley should the front half of building catch on fire we would have no way out of the alley. This really worries me because the illegal unsafe gas connection is in the middle stairwell, making that the most likely place a fire would start. If the fire was burning in the center stairwell the front unit occupants would just have exit out the front of the building however the 3 rear unit occurrence would have to use the back stairs a d because the landlord padlocks the gate and no one but him has a key we would be trapped in a locked alley. Who can I report this to, I just want to live I. A safe building.

    • There are a couple of things that you can try.

      You can call 311 and request a building inspection. The inspector may cite all the issues that you have highlighted.

      You could call the utility back and let them know that the landlord just rehooked up the hot water heaters making the cited changes. They may then send someone back out and take further steps.

      You could ask the gas company if this is a code violation and if it is then you could send the landlord a letter stating that gas company said this was a code violation and if it is not corrected within 14 days the law allows the tenant hire someone to make the repair and then deduct the cost from the rent.

  • Brett says:

    I moved into a new apartment in Chicago last October, and the second day in I was out on my back deck and the landlords wife came down to introduce herself. She mentioned how nice my porch set was, and then mentioned that I might want to move the set to the side of the porch because their dog (the landlord and his wife live above me)”piddles” on out on their porch and that it trickles down on to my porch/porch set. I then noticed that there was dry dog urine on my porch furniture.

    I should also mention that my air conditioning condenser is out on the porch, so the dog is urinating on that as well when it’s not running.

    I’ve approached my landlord (the husband of the lady who said to move my patio furniture) he said he’ll fix the situation. Weeks went by and nothing, so I started a very nice email dialogue, which quickly turned into me threatening to call the city inspector ). He put up weird plastic gutter things before this past winter came, which solves the problem for now, but when it rains all the built-up stagnant urine comes, literally, raining down on our porch.

    I saw liquid on my porch this morning and it was obviously dog pee. They let their dog pee on the part of their porch where he didn’t put the gutter stuff up, so it came down onto my grill…. yes, my grill, where I prepare food.

    What are my options? I’m at the point where if I have to move, I want him to pay for the movers.

    • I am really not sure what to do about this one. It is pretty outrageous and irresponsible on the owners part. The owner has an obligation to maintain your area in a fit and habitable condition. As to what your options, they are a bit vague. You could potentially reduce the rent by giving the landlord a 14 day written notice to fix the problem and if it is not fixed than reduce the rent by an amount that reflects the diminished value of your unit. You could potentially terminate the lease by giving the landlord a 14 day notice to fix stating that the problem make your unit not reasonably fit and habitable. Or you could sue the landlord to get to get them to stop this practice. In any of the cases talking to an attorney will be your best bet as this situation is not exactly defined in the law.

  • Kathleen says:

    So when I moved in to my apartment, the landlady told us that the intercom/buzzer system was broken, and would be fixed shortly. Basically, guests can buzz at the door, and I will hear it, but I cannot communicate over the intercom or buzz them in. All tenants in the building have this problem.
    The issue was never fixed. I resigned my lease today (a year later), and asked the landlady (again) if she would fix the intercom. This time, her response, “No, the intercom is like that for a reason because it is a security risk to have the buzzer work. Tenants were buzzing people in that they didn’t know, and homeless people could sleep in the common area. In fact, the university [I live in a college town] has requested that we disable our buzzers.”
    Now, I know for a fact this is bullshit. Everyone I know who lives nearby has a functional buzzer. I told her that it was a security risk for me to have to leave my apartment to check who was buzzing, and that at the very least the intercom should be fixed so that I could check to see who was at the door. She gave a very half-hearted “okay we will look into it.”
    Basically, I’m wondering what can be done about this situation. Any help?

  • Corinne says:

    Two roommates and I moved into a 14-20 unit condo building on April 15th, and I am renting a unit from an individual condo owner who owns one other unit in the building. She does not live here.

    We have had a LOT of issues here, and out of 20ish repairs that need to be made only two have, mainly because we called the condo association repeatedly since we couldn’t use our shower for two weeks. The association made one repair, our landlord’s handy man made the other.

    We are about to start the lease termination process. I made her aware of the issues here since a few days after I moved in, but I didn’t put it in writing (text message) until 2 weeks ago. I listed some specific repairs in the texts, then referred to the other general repairs that I know she knows about. She responded to the texts so I know she got them. Is this sufficient, or do I really need a written letter? I want to get out ASAP since we haven’t even unpacked, I really don’t want to wait an extra 2 weeks plus 30 days to move out.

    For the last month of rent we would pay, we want to deduct due to repairs she hasn’t made. We haven’t been able to use our in-unit laundry since the dryer vents into our unit, not outside. Her handyman told us it put us at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning so we haven’t used it in a while.

    We had AT&T come over to install internet. They said our cable room is extremely dangerous and is a huge fire risk. In addition to that, the wiring in our unit is damaged so we get less than 1/6th of the service we should be getting, which means we basically have no internet access or phone.

    Can I deduct the lack of laundry/internet/phone from my rent? And if so, how do I determine that cost? We have already filled the rent-deduction template letter, we just don’t know how much to deduct.

    p.s. We already called 311 and we are waiting on an inspection. I know our unit and building are very out of code. We are terminating our lease based on not getting a RLTO sheet with our lease or a receipt for our deposit or her banking info for said deposit. We figured that would be the easiest way to get out of our lease, since proving the unit is uninhabitable might be a bit trickier (though it probably is).

    • If you did not receive a summary of the ordinance with the lease then you can terminate your lease immediately. You should write the landlord a letter stating that you are terminating the lease effective immediately and will be out within 30 days.

      As for the repair problems that you are dealing with and wanting to know how much to deduct. Only an attorney can legally advise you as to how much to deduct. One possible way of determining the amount is to look at similar size and quality apartments and how much difference there is in price between a unit with laundry facilities and without laundry facilities. The rent deduction is suppose to reflect the diminished value of the unit.

  • rachel says:

    I live in a four unit apartment building with an art gallery (which my landlord owns) on the first floor. The front door can only be unlocked from the inside with a key (in violation of the chicago building code). I lived here for ~2 years and was not worried about this issue previously. However, recently my key doesn’t work from the inside. I’ve notified the landlord repeatedly about the issue but he has been slow to act, and insists that the lock is working fine. He has also stated that I should just use the back stairwell except that it doesn’t have lights. I really want the front door fixed but I don’t want to fix it myself (or have someone else do it). What are my options

    • Does the landlord live on the premises? The laws are different. What is the problem with the lock? If the landlord does not live on the premises then you can give the landlord a written notice asking for the lock to be fixed within 14 days. If it is not fixed within 14 days of receiving the notice then you will hire a locksmith to fix the lock and deduct the cost from the rent.

  • Katherine says:

    I moved into an apartment 2 weeks ago. The building was built in 2006, so it’s fairly new. We’ve been trying to get Internet from Uverse, but when the technician came to install it, he discovered that, through either faulty wiring or a severed wire, none of the wires from my phone jacks connect the the IT room. Hence, none of the phone jacks work. They will not work for Internet or telephone service through any provider. Who is required to fix this problem? My landlord/owner of the building? Can I deduct monthly rent for the broken phone jacks?

    • There is no law that requires landlords to provide phone jacks or Internet service. Did the landlord advertise in anyway that the services were available. Secondly, I think that you could make an argument that because the jacks were installed in the unit that the landlord needs to be responsible for ensuring that they are in working order. Have you contacted the landlord? You may want to write a letter to the owner asking them to fix it and see how the owner responds.

  • Lott says:

    My unit had cracking and peeling paint on the ceiling and wall from inadequate heat and the temperatures would be 57 degrees in the unit in January/February/March. When the heat issue would finally be addressed some areas would start to sweat, incidents of sweating on 1/20/12 2:14 a.m and 2/7/12. I told the rental agency and they temperarilly addressed the issue. But now they want to charge me for painting and have said this is part of my rental fee. I have contested the painting charge which they have put under review since 2/23/12. But when I paid my correct monthly rent they said I did not and charged me a late fee and said I still owe rent. My money order clearly states 3/2012 rent only it did not include the scrape/painting repair that is under review. Now that it is warm the paint is still cracking and peeling again as of 3/15/2012. Can repairs be counted as my rent when i have paid my rent in a timely manner.

    • The painting of the unit should be the cost of the landlord. I would write a letter to the landlord stating that you did not cause the chipping and pealing of paint and therefore and not responsible for its repair. I would keep a copy. Did the landlord dry or wet scrape the paint? Do you have an children under 6? If so the landlord could have created a very dangerous situation for your child and you call the City immediately and ask for a lead inspection.

  • Chaylor says:

    I moved in my apartment on the 1st of March and the very next day I discovered that there are roaches. I spoke to management and that Saturday and they had maintenance come out to exterminate with a $6 can of roach spray that has the red straw attached, they sprayed two corners of the kitchen and a few other corners of the apartment, the roaches are still here, I bought a $30 gallon jug of the industrial concentrated pesticide and they are still here. So I decided to collect the roaches that I kill in a plastic bag and take them to the managements office, over the course of the weekend (Fri-Sun) there were approximately 10-15(one that had the egg sac attached) that I bagged and took to the management office to let them know that the problem still exists, I told them that I don’t want (these) as I showed them the roaches in the bag, and said that when the inspector came to my previous residence(to see how my living conditions were)they didn’t find roaches so I shouldn’t have to be subjected to living with them now. Although they are somewhat quick to respond to the issue it still hasn’t been rectified. Can I at this point terminate my lease because I find it uninhabitable or put my rent in an escrow account until the infestation is eliminated?

    • There is not an easy question to answer. The law states that if the roaches make the unit not reasonably fit and habitable then you can give the landlord a 14 day notice to remedy the situation and if it is not corrected then you can terminate the lease. There are two issues here. The first is does the roach infestation rise to the level of not reasonably fit and habitable. I cannot answer that question as do not know how bad the roaches and it is a bit of judgement call so it would depend on how a judge would rule or a jury would rule. If the infestation does rise to that level then a second point of concern is that the landlord did something to remedy the situation and the pests are back. It may be best to send in another written notice stating that you continue to have pests and if the problem is not resolved within 14 days you will terminate the lease because the unit is not reasonably fit and habitable.


      • Chaylor says:

        Ok I understand what you are saying, but if the problem persists after they exterminate and I purchase pest control or have a professional exterminator come out can I deduct that from the rent? The manager stated that she wouldn’t accept the rent with the deduction because they took measures to rectify the situation, she said that no other tenants have complained about this issue. I let her know that I’m not going outside collecting roaches they are physically here in my apartment and I didn’t bring them with me, my previous apartment didn’t have a roach, ant, spider or mice problem and I shouldn’t have to be subjected to living under these conditions here.

  • Melissa Gworek says:


    We moved into our apartment in July. At that point our bedroom wall and closet had significant mold/mildew and the paint was peeling. The landlord said they would repaint. They repainted (several months later – December) claiming the sky light in our hallway was the cause of the water damage and it had been repaired.

    Within weeks the mold/mildew and paint began to peel again. I notified them that this problem did not appear to be one of just painting. They claimed the sky light had not been repaired properly. Claimed to fix the roofing/skylight problem and then repainted again.

    Now 4-5 weeks later the wall is starting to mold/mildew once again. I have had to discard several items from damage. I do not want to move my stuff again just to have another paint job. Do I have any options besides notification, paint, and problem again?

    • You could try asking the landlord for some compensation. Is the landlord fixing it or is the landlord hiring someone. If the landlord is hiring someone then the contractor could possibly be liable. If the landlord is doing it, then you may have to go through it again. I would take pictures, document the repairs, the landlord may be required to have training in the proper handling of lead paint if paint is being disturbed, the landlord may need to have a permit it the job is big enough, you might want to call the City at 311 and ask for an inspection, the inspector may be able to determine what the problem is.

  • Cori says:

    I moved into the apartment on Feb. 11 (a little over a week) and now have active bed bugs biting me in evening. I did some research and found that this complex and specific unit has this problem in the bug problem in the past.

    My leasing company is paying for an exterminator, but I need to wash and clean all my clothes. Is this something I can have the leasing company pay for? Also, if I decide I want to break the lease, is this a platform that will allow this?

    • You can certainly ask them to do so and they may have some liability in this matter as you can demonstrate that the pests predated your arrival. You should keep any and all receipts, keep track of the time that you have spent, if you suffer any hardships and take photos of the problem, including any bites that you may have. If you have to go to the doctor you maintain records of that as well as recommendations the doctor makes and creams of salves that you have to buy. I would certainly start by writing a letter detailing the problem and let them know that you expect compensation.

  • Saundra says:

    I have lived in a rented house for 5 years. The house has been in need of many repairs and the landlord has constantly promised to make the repairs. He has often thanked me for being patient with the situation. Last year, there was a leak in the roof in the kitchen area which I brought to his attention. First he said he couldn’t make the repair because of the weather (it was winter). In the spring he had to wait for the rain to stop. I was living with a bucket in my kitchen to catch the water. In June he insisted that I not pay rent until he gets the house the way I want it, but he didn’t do any work on the house. In October he served me with a five day notice for non-payment of rent. We went to court, I paid the rent.

    During the process I learned that he should have been paying interest on my security deposit and that he should have notified me which bank was holding my deposit. Of course I brought this to his attention before going to court. He denied having a security deposit. I got showed him a copy of my check which indicates a security deposit was made and that my lease shows a security deposit. This information stopped his eviction proceedings and he agreed to accept the back rent.

    Now he has mailed me a check for the interest on the security deposit for the past five years. How should I handle that?

    Additionally, I’ve mailed him a list of the repairs along with a check for the current months rent and asked that they be completed within 14 days of receipt of the letter. I know he received the letter because he cashed the check. The list contained only 9 of 22 repairs needed. So far he has only completed one. What do I do next?

    I really need your advise. Please help.

    Thank You.

    • I think that it is best to discuss this matter with an attorney. There is a possibility that by accepting the check that you may waive your rights to pursue other options regarding the interest. There are other options to pursue in regards to getting repairs completed. You may want to call 311 and request an inspection. For the repair of small items you could give the landlord a written letter stating if such and such repair is not completed within 14 days that you will hire someone to make the repair and deduct the cost from the rent.


      • Saundra says:

        Thanks. With regard to the check, I didn’t actually accept it because he mailed it to me. I’ve never cashed it. With regards to the repairs, I can’t afford to take time off from work to be home with a repairman. The list is very extensive and will take several days. I have considered requesting an attorney about the security deposit. Will it matter if I didn’t cash the check?

        • It could matter. The landlord may try to say by accepting the check that you are waiving your rights to pursue penalties for the landlord’s failure to follow the law. In this case it is definitely best to consult with an attorney before proceeding.

  • Jacqueline says:

    I’d like to know if there is some kind of inspector who can come look at my apartment. There is so much interpretation that can be done with terms such as “good working order.” I don’t want to proceed with even contacting the landlord if I am being unreasonble. Different people have different standards of CLEAN, and my standard may fall outside of what’s reasonable or what might be considered “good working order.”

    So. I just want to know if there is someone I can contact who can come LOOK at my concerns and tell me whether I might be within the Ordinance to go through the “deduct and repair” process.

    Some examples:

    1) The kitchen sink is made from some kind of composite. It is permanently stained, and it was that way when I moved in. I figured I could clean it. However, I have never seen anything like this, and I have tried all kinds of chemicals, scrubbing, soaking, and everything else. It’s disgusting, and it won’t come clean. Not only that. This composite MELTED when I put a skillet in the sink. I’m sorry, but how does someone put a sink in a kitchen that won’t stand normal kitchen use?

    2) There is ceramic tile in the apartment that was never installed properly. The grout is GONE from many places, and I can never get up all of the gravel. The landlord thinks it’s fine, but has said that he will “fix” it — and then when it falls apart again (since it’s only a “fix” and not a standard tile installation), he’ll fix it again. How do you fix a substandard installation? Not only that, but the tiles are so cheap combined with the substandard installation, many of them have cracked and broken under normal wear. And they’re not sealed so when something drops or spills in the kitchen, the tile is permanently stained.

    3) The shower stall has basically fallen apart. The magnets to keep the door closed just fell out, AND there’s mold and rust that I get clean.

    4) The bathroom tiles just randomly come up for no apparent reason -and there’s dirt ground in to the grout – if it is grout.

    There’s so much more, but these are examples of more than a dozen “little” things — but they add up. Most importantly, I cannot clean most things that are stained, worn, or just in unacceptable condition. I’m so fed up.

    Who might I contact to come look at my apartment and tell me whether I’m being unreasonable and if “good working order” means clean?

    Thank you.

    • If you live in Chicago, the City of Chicago will inspect units to see if they are up to code. They are not really going to inspect for cosmetic issues such as stains. It is always best to document cosmetic issues so that a year or two from now the owner will not try to charge you for the stains. You can call 311 to request an inspection.

  • cara says:


    I have a problem with a sewage smell coming up from the heating vents when the heat is turned on. The landlord has been aware of the problem for a while and as of 2 months ago said they are working on the problem, but they are dragging their feet so nothing has changed and the problem still exists. Would this be an issue I can deduct an appropriate amount (after providing written notice) for what I believe is the reduced value of the apartment? The problem is intermittent, but when it is happening it is gross and embarrassing and maybe even a health risk. I work from home and notice the smell at least once a day for an hour and sometimes longer. If it is permissible to deduct rent for this, how would you suggest arriving at a monetary value for something like this?
    Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

  • Angela says:

    My apartment lease is up December 1st and I already have a new apartment lined up. I can actually move in as early as november 15th. My current apartment is infested with roaches and bugs and my shower/tub has not worked properly since I moved in. My landlord has treated for the roaches once, months ago. But after repeated attempts to get him to fix the shower (sometimes water is scalding hot, ice cold or just dribbles out. When I was able to use the tub it leaked into the apartments below and now I can’t even get the faucet to work) he has done absolutely nothing to repair it, not even look at it. Ive actually not been able to shower at my apartment for days at a time because it doesn’t have hardly any water come out. Can I give a 15 day notice to terminate my lease and give him half the rent for half the month?

    • The law concerning termination of leases for repairs states that the repairs have to make the unit not reasonably fit and habitable. You may be able to make that argument. Though if the landlord makes any of the repairs during the 14 period then that could void the letter. To be on the safe side you may want to give the landlord a 14 day letter to terminate as well as a 30 letter to terminate if you have not done so already.

  • Andrew says:

    My property manager is charging my entire floor for repairs. He has no proof that any tenant on my floor or in the entire building, for that matter, caused these damages. Is this allowed or even legal?

    • I have never heard of anything like this. How is the landlord charging everyone on your floor for the repairs? Did the owner send a bill or did the owner raise the rent on everyone? Did anyone complain to the City about the repairs. I might start by talking with your neighbors and to get everyone to send a joint letter asking for a meeting to discuss this. What happened to the floors? If you had nothing to do with the problem the you could write a letter that would deny that you had anything to do with the problem. Maybe it was just normal wear and tear.

      • Andrew says:


        Rent is higher the following month. As for the repairs, they involve the property next to where I reside, which the property manager also oversees. He charges my entire floor for any amount of litter that ends up on the neighboring roof. This is because the back patio on my floor is the only one higher than the roof in question. However, anyone in the building has access to the my floor’s patio. Moreover, the gate which allows public access to the property is broken. Thus, anyone has access to the stairs that lead up to the patio. I know it’s unlikely for passersby to come up and throw their refuse on our neighbor’s roof, but I hope I’ve conveyed my concern with the fairness of these charges.

  • Greta says:

    Hi John,

    Can I ask the landlord to reimburse me for spoiled groceries and meals? He does not live onsite and this a big courtyard building. I moved into the garden unit in June ’11 and the refrigerator became too warm later that month. He had a technician in that evening, but it wasn’t in working condition until after a second visit the next day. On October 5th, the fridge and freezer stopped working, resulting in the 2 spoilage of my groceries, and a total of 4 days of having to eat all meals from restaurants.

    He say’s he’s not responsible because he sent a technician right away, I say he is because this is the 2nd such incident and I can not afford to throw away groceries after just paying rent and utilities. He looked at the fridge and asked for an estimate, I told him $120 and he yelled at me. He said I was exaggerating, so I told him I didn’t include meals for two for 2 days, nor the last incident. What are my rights?

  • JMB says:

    We rent an apartment in Chicago. We had a written lease for a year and are now in a month-to-month lease situation.
    Our basement storage space has old pipes overhead that have old
    insulation that is crumbling and leaking a white crumbly powdery
    chalky stuff. The building dates from about 1922. Insulation has
    been removed from pipes in the main basement area but not in (our, at
    least) storage closet.
    The material is falling onto our stored possessions. I am worried it
    may contain asbestos.
    Does landlord have legal responsibility to remove the asbestos? What is the best way to proceed?

    • meg says:

      If there is asbestos, the landlord is required by the city of Chicago to maintain the asbestos containing material, meaning the owner must ensure that there is no flaking or crumbling material. Call 311 and request a building inspection to determine if the space contains asbestos. No asbestos abatement should be performed unless all persons performing such work are licensed and approved by the rules established by the State of IL, and should inform the city’s Dept of Buildings with notice by submitting the required forms at least 10 days prior to abatement.

  • SHARON says:


    • There are no laws governing how often carpet needs to be changed. If it is a danger or unsafe then the landlord would have to replace it. You might want to call a carpet installer and ask them about the landlord’s demand. Then you will be able to respond to the landlord’s response with the advice of an expert.

  • Erin says:

    I have lived in a 2 unit duplex for the past 7 years. (Owners do not live on site) For the most part we have not had any problems with the landlord taking care of any of our request but recently we have come upon some issues. (Usually we fix whatever the issue may be and take it out of our rent with no hassle from the landlord) Recently we came into a huge problem. Last year we got new downstairs tenants who either never changed the utilities into their name for a year or just didn’t pay their bills. Well the downstairs tenants got their gas shut off which shouldn’t be a problem for my unit but unfortunately we come to find out that we pay for their hot water heater so my unit has been without gas for 10 days. My landlords solution for this problem is not to fix the piping to restore the hot water in my unit but wait for the downstairs tenants to pay their gas bill. (as we go without hot water for our 3 kids and the downstairs still gets hot water) The story gets better 3 days later the downstairs tenants electricity gets shut off and half of our lights go out. Now we come to find out or electrical wiring is commingled throughout the building. Come to find for the past 7 years my unit has been paying the brunt of the buildings electrical cost. I’m not sure what my rights are as a tenant or how to approach the landlord about getting this problem fixed but as it is now we are at the mercy of the downstairs tenants and paying the brunt of it.

    • This sounds like a tricky problem. if you feel like you have paid more than your fair share of the utilities you should be entitled to some money from the landlord. If the landlord does offer a reasonable settlement then you may have to discuss this with an attorney.

      As for resolving the problem, it seems as if there could be three and maybe more solutions. 1. The landlord could pay to have the wires and gas piping separated according to meter in each unit. 2. The landlord could take over payment of the utilities and figure out a fair way to assess the cost of the utility to each tenant. 3. The landlord could take over payment of the utilities and just include the cost of the utilities in the rent. If the landlord does not then you could call 311 and request an inspection and they should cite the landlord if you do not have hot water or electricity and can document that you have paid your bill.

  • Kevin says:

    How does a tenant determine whether a window is “weatherproof” in order to demand repairs from the landlord? I recently moved into an apartment where at least three windowpanes are cracked and being held together with either packing tape or caulk.

    In addition to that, a recent visit from a handyman acquaintance revealed that all of the windows are in dire need of replacement. He also noted that the central heating unit is inadequate to distribute heat throughout the apartment.

    I don’t intend to spend a Chicago winter in the cold this year; I’d like some clarification in regard to “weatherproof” so that I may take the necessary steps to remedy this situation before winter arrives.

    • Not being a building inspector or with any expertise in the area of buildings, I cannot answer your question. My suggestion would be to call 311 and request an inspection of your unit by the City. An inspector will know. Another potential option is to have someone inspect your windows who has an expertise in the area and if the windows are code violations to ask them to document that in a written form.

  • Matty says:

    I have been living in a 3 unit (plus one commercial unit), non-owner occupied building for several years. My lease expired March 1, 2011, and I continued on a month-to-month basis until my landlord insisted in June that I sign a renewal. He did not disclose to me at that time that foreclosure proceedings had already been initiated against the property. I received notice that a receiver has been appointed a few weeks ago.

    There is also mold in my unit due to water damage in the walls and the basement floods with sewage when it rains heavily (filling the building with a very strong methane smell).

    I would like to terminate my lease as soon as I find somewhere else to live – will these circumstances be enough to allow that?

    • The Chicago Ordinance requires that the landlord inform the tenant if the building goes into foreclosure. If the landlord does not disclose then the tenant has the right to terminate the tenancy. You can do this by submitting in writing a termination notice to the landlord. You have to terminate the lease and be out within 30 days once you send the letter.

  • Bobby says:

    I am dealing with an issue with a landlord right now concerning black mold. We recently moved out of the building due to this issue. Our landlord let us out of the lease, but i am trying to figure out what he is/is not liable for under the RLTO

    We lived in a second story walkup in the gold coast. We have been excellent tenants. It is an older building and we have had some maintenance issues since we started living there in April 2010. The biggest issue was concerning a leaky roof that was not really repaired until june of this year. I would email him when a leak came about and his maintenance guys would come by and patch whatever hole existed with tar. In june he finally re-did the roof. Last September, black mold started to show up in the apartment. Namely in the bathrooms and around some windows in a loft section. When he was initially made aware of it, he bleached out the mold. That being said, we have continued to see mold appear all over the apartment. He has been made aware numerous times of it and did not do anything about it. It has gotten so bad that my girlfriend and I have had to go to the doctor for respiratory issues. I sent him an email earlier telling him that we will be terminating the lease at the end of this month. He agreed to do so.

    We moved on 8/20. My question is, is he responsible to pay for our medical bills and can we recover rent for the time between 8/20 and 8/31 (the date in which the lease terminates)? Also, is their a claim to recover rent for the time between the initial sighting of the mold and when we moved due to reduced value of the unit? This guy needs to be held accountable.

    • It sounds like you should consult with an attorney as the landlord may be negligent in his behavior by not fixing the problems. Some of the issues that arise are: Can you document that the landlord knew of the problem and when the landlord knew of the problem, the steps the landlord took to remedy the situation, did the landlord know that the actions were not working, can and will your doctor say that your respiratory illnesses were caused by the mold. These are all best answered in consultation with an attorney especially if your medical bills are high.

  • Kyle says:


    I live in a 2 bedroom garden apartment in Lincoln Park, Chicago. In late July my apartment flooded. The apartment had water 3 inches deep from wall to wall for several hours. Long story short, his insurance company says that all of the hardwood floors have to be replaced, in addition to the bottom 2 feet of drywall throughout the apartment.

    Our landlord said that in order to do the repairs, we need to move out for 30 days. He has provided a place for us to stay at no charge, but is demanding that we cover the moving costs.

    Are we responsible for covering out own moving costs, even though I am being forced to move out of the apartment? Also, do I have grounds to break my lease?


    • From your message I cannot tell if you are covered by Chicago’s Landlord and Tenants Ordinance. If the landlord does not live in the unit and the unit is not liveable then you can terminate the agreement if you have to move out in order for the repairs to be made. The following are the options outline in law: 1) immediately vacate the premises and notify the landlord in writing within 14 days thereafter of the tenant’s intention to terminate the rental agreement, in which case the rental agreement terminates as of the date of the fire or casualty; or

      (2) if continued occupancy is lawful, vacate any part of the dwelling unit rendered unusable by the fire or casualty, in which case the tenant’s liability for rent is reduced in proportion to the reduction in the fair rental value of the dwelling unit; or

      (3) if the tenant desires to continue the tenancy, and if the landlord has promised or begun work to repair the damage or destruction but fails to carry out the work to restore the dwelling unit or common area diligently and within a reasonable time, notify the landlord in writing within 14 days after the tenant becomes aware that the work is not being carried out diligently or within a reasonable time of the tenant’s intention to terminate the rental agreement, m which case the rental agreement terminates as of the date of the fire or casualty.

      As you can see the ordinance does not specifically cover your other issue moving costs. Have you tried negotiating with the landlord? Have you calculated all the costs associated with moving. I would also make sure that the utility costs do not end up on your bill while you are not living there.

  • Ronald says:

    I live in an apartment with 8 rooms,2-bathrooms, one in the front of flat, the other in the rear. I’ve lived in flat for 11 yrs. Alone. I infrequently have use the second bathroom, but recently have noticed a steady deterioration in 2nd bathroom from water leaks, dry walls soaked and the water not running very fast from bath tub.

    I made the landlord aware of problem by calling & showing him so it wasn’t that he didn’t understand problem. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t use the 2nd bathroom often, like once or twice a day when in kitchen (its in the rear also), so the months passed without anything being done. This year 2011 I’ve been really on him, his answer is ‘Okay’, but nothing. Finally, I put my foot down and told him NOW. I arranged for three contractors to look at bathroom and the 1st estimate was ~$3,000.00, the owner told me that he & I would split the cost. I was furious but didn’t reply because I KNEW I wasn’t going to pay him a cent but didn’t/don’t know what legal teeth I have to get him to understand this is His building & responsibility.

    So, What do I do?! Who do I talk to and where do I go for answers if not here?!

    • I think that you need to start by writing the owner a letter. There are several ways to deal with repairs including repair and deduct and rent with-holding. To begin either process a tenant needs to write a letter stating what the problem is and what action you intend to take. It is possible to break down the repair and deduct into smaller costs based on a per task basis. another approach would be to request that the City of Chicago inspect the unit. If they find code violations they will fine the owner and may force the owner to make repairs.

  • John says:

    My apartment got partially flooded around the entrance area during the heavy rains we got a few weeks ago, and the carpet around there got soaking wet and took days to dry. I believe mold and mildew has settled in, as my allergies and breathing have been affected, but I can’t prove it.

    I asked for the carpet to be replaced and was told they would be willing to replace it with the same (cheap) tile that’s in the kitchen and bathroom, and that at that point I could get a rug.

    Is the landlord allowed to replace the carpet, which to me was a selling point of the apartment, with tile? I can’t imagine them being able to advertise this unit for the same rent with that tile in place. I also really resent having to spend almost a month’s rent on a rug because of flooding that was no fault of my own, not to mention being financially responsible for the rug should the apartment flood again…

  • hannah says:

    Hi John.

    I moved into my apt. June 1st and from day 1 I noticed the windows don’t have locks on them and directly called her on the matter. She said “well at least you’re on the 2nd floor” I’ll have the maintence man come over. Never did. A month later she came to visit (she currently lives in California) and made a list of my requests–ALL regarding security. No locks on windows, no security light outside (I live in a coach house), and a minor toilet repair, and the fact that it took them over 2 weeks to repair my deadbolt on my front door. With many phone calls and texts she’s well aware for over 2 months now (its mid aug) I still do not have locks on my windows.
    With that being said, because I don’t feel safe is there enough arguement to break my lease? I feel since it’s a safety issure finding a subleaser shouldn’t be my problem. Or should it, am I wrong? I would give her over a months notice before I left (end of sept).
    Let me know what You think I should do. Thank you so much!!

    • The Chicago Ordinance states a tenant can terminate a lease if the repair makes the unit not reasonably fit and habitable. In that event you have to provide the landlord with a written notice giving the owner 14 days from the time of receipt of the notice to make the repair and then you can terminate the lease.

      There are 2 issues: Is a judge going to consider this problem something that makes the unit not reasonably fit and habitable. The second is in your previous written notifications did your threaten to terminate the lease if the repairs were not made. If not then you will have to start the process with a written letter.

      To determine if not having a lock on your window is not reasonably fit and habitable you may want to contact an attorney. I would think that it does but I am not an attorney.

      Finally your other option is give the landlord a the same 14-day notice and if the issue is not resolved to hire someone to install locks and deduct the cost off the rent. You can deduct the greater of 1/2 months rent or $500.

  • Naomie says:

    Hi, we’re having an issue with our landlord regarding our washer and dryer. We live in an apartment in Chicago covered by the RLTO and were provided free use of the washer and dryer in our lease. In April, a couple of weeks after getting into a verbal argument with our landlord regarding a certain issue, we informed him via letter that our washer no longer worked. A few days later, the washer was taken away, but so was our dryer, which was working perfectly fine. More than two months has passed and it’s become obvious that he is not returning either machine to us. He hasn’t explained there whereabouts at all or why they were removed. We feel that he did this in retaliation for us complaining about a previous issue to the MTO (which we informed him about a couple of weeks prior). What are our options here? Can this be considered retaliation? Can we terminate the lease if it is?

    • It sounds like retaliation. How does the landlord know that you called MTO? Do you have any documentation that the landlord know such as a written notice. I would probably talk with an attorney to go over the evidence that you have if you are planning to terminate the lease. Otherwise you might want to start with a letter detailing everything including contacting our agency. It would also be good to include that in your lease it states you have free access to a washer and dryer and that this is a violation of the lease and that it was done in retaliation for calling MTO and because you were asserting your rights.

  • Niya says:

    I have a very big issue that I was hoping to get advice on…
    I moved in my apartment 2 months ago now my landlord is telling me that he needs to close off with a solid wall half of the space because of insurance issues due to the fire escape being too far. The apartment is a duplex and the floor I live on has a staircase right in the middle from which there is an equal distance on both sides and the fire escape is located on one side.
    I really do not want to move, but I also do no want a smaller space. My landlord has agreed to reduce the rent, but does he really need to make the space smaller? Can he make alterations like that after we have signed a lease? Is he violating our lease agreement?
    The space is approximately 70 feet long with the staircase to the main hallway right in the middle.
    Please help I really do not want to be forced to move.

    • This is not an easy question to answer. Who is forcing the landlord to make the changes? If it is the City of Chicago, the landlord may have to make the changes or risk having the building closed in which case you and the other tenants may have to move. In general any changes to a lease need to be mutually agreed to. It does not sound as if this is the case. You can contact an attorney to see if you can prevent the landlord from entering your unit to make the changes. You can also ask for a larger reduction in rent.

  • Justin says:

    My wife and I just moved here from Boston. When we saw the unit it was very quiet and livable. When we moved in there was a loud buzzing/vibrating coming from the roof. We are on the 3rd and 4th floor and Subway Sandwich Shop is on the 1st and 2nd. The buzzing was vibrating the whole roof and resonating in our heads. We called the landlord, he had someone come look and it is the AC unit for Subway. We can not live like this and now we are finding other issues with the unit:
    -1st floor has front door and back door to fire escape, but, 2nd floor has no exit to outside, none of the windows open in the whole place. Is this legal?

    -listed as 3 bedroom on lease, but we found the building plan and it labels the 3rd “bedroom” as “storage”. This room has a cutout in the wall that looks down into the 1st floor living room, but no exterior windows, can it be considered a bedroom? (it has a small closet)

    - a couple of things were promised to be completed when we moved in: security cameras, intercom system… and neither has been completed.

    we want to break the lease now so we can move and settle in somewhere else. we are living out of boxes because we are afraid of unpacking and then having to repack to move again.

    We have already emailed the Landlord stating all of this. What are our options?


  • Ariel Byrd says:

    Hi, my name is ariel and my family (daughter, and fiance) moved into our apartment in Dec. The apartment was already equiped with appliances includin washer and dryer in which is shared with two other tenants in the building. Now we have an ice maker that has ben leaking since we moved in, we have told him numerous of times about and he knew about already. In Feb. He told all the tenants that he would get a new washer and dryer and that he fix/or get new appliances for the apartments. I have recently spoken to him a couple of days ago and now says that if there is something wrong with type refrigerator that we must come out of our own pocket and that he is not responsible for that because he didn’t buy it , it came from out the garage from when the last tenant needed one. So I asked him well if we buy one can we take it out the rent , he says no I can’t do that. I think he is only doing this because knows me and we r family but I have a lease with him and I deserve to be treated like a renter when I’m paying mt rent on time every month. Also he always brings up the other tenants buisness to me because they are not paying all, of their rent so he saying it as if everyone is at fault and he doesn’t have the money to do those things. I would like to know if I should and can u take legal action to resolve this problem because everytime I talk to him its always an excuse why he can’t do something.

  • Sarah says:

    I am having a roach infestation problem. So far, my landlord has been quick to respond to me, but the problem isn’t going away and I don’t know if I can handle living with this.

    Considering that he has tried to respond to the problem, but that it hasn’t been working and also the fact that I am not, at the moment, completely overrun with roaches (it’s more like I see 2-4 a day), can this be legally used as a reason to break my lease?

    I don’t know what the specifics are for this kind of thing or how bad it has to be. I don’t even know what to do about the fact that his efforts aren’t doing anything. Can I at least have him pay for a professional? I don’t know what to do.

    Please help!

  • Meron Kahssai says:

    Hi Torrence,

    If you’re covered under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance, there are a few remedies available to you. First, be sure that you are completely current on your rent and that you have proof of being so. You should also document the conditions in your apartment by taking pictures. You can also request a free building inspection by calling 311 — this is not required, but isn’t a bad idea either. If a city inspector cites any building code violations, you can request a report for further documentation of the disrepair and pest conditions in your unit. Once you have these things in order, you can take one of the following three remedies available to you under the RLTO (again, if you are covered). All of these remedies are to be preceded by a 14 day notice letter to your landlord requesting any number of repairs. If your landlord fails to comply with your requests within the 14 days, you may:

    1- Terminate your tenancy,
    2- Hire someone to make the repairs yourself, provided that the cost does not exceed half the cost of your rent. You must keep the receipts and you can withhold the costs from your next month’s rent. If you choose to make any repairs yourself, you cannot charge for your own labor.
    3- Reduce your rent to a percentage that accurately reflects the reduced value of your apartment until your landlord makes the repairs. The law requires you to pay at least half of your rent at all times though, even in the most egregious conditions. It is best to be conservative when reducing your rent. If you choose to go this route, I advise speaking to an attorney to determine how much you should reduce.

    Sample letters for all three of these remedies can be found on our website: http://www.tenants-rights.org/category/landlord-tenant-faq/
    Remember, you may only choose one remedy for any given month. Always keep copies of your letters and they should be mailed certified, with return receipt.

    I hope I have adequately answered your question. Good luck!

  • Torrence says:

    My wife and I moved into our new apt in Dec. The day we moved in we noticed that there was a leak in the ceiling and notified the landlord. He stopped by and stated that there was nothing that he could do at the time due to the weather. We understood its winter. In Feb. while on vacation my wifes uncle was watching our apt and the ceiling collaped, my landlord has been slow to fix it. Now we are having rodent problems and I have just about had it with this apt. What should we do?

  • Jack says:

    I have a few things that need to be fixed. If I choose to reduce rent (I’m assuming I can’t do both at the same time)can I sue later if repairs are still dragging out? Also, I live in a 6 unit building with no landlord living in the buiding. Am I protected under the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance?

    • Any time the owner does not live on the premises you are covered by the Chicago landlord and tenants ordinance. In the case of non owner occupied buildings, the size does not matter.

      I am not sure of the intent of your original question. Are you asking if you use the rent withholding provisions in the Chicago Ordinance and if the repairs are not made in a timely fashion, can you sue the landlord? For what would you be suing the landlord? It would be best to consult an attorney to see if the damages warrant further action.

      • Eunice says:

        What if it’s the property manager, and not the owner of the building, who lives on the premises at a 6-unit building (prop manager occupies what would be the 7th unit, which I’m not sure if that counts as a unit or not as it’s not a rental?)? Would the property manager serve as a proxy for landlord in legal ways, too? He collects the rent, does repairs and basically acts as the intermediary for landlord and tenants.

        Thank you for your response

        • It is the total number of units on the property. The unit the owner lives in would be considered one of the units. As I mentioned in a different post the property manager is not considered the owner.

  • melissa says:

    the oven in my apartment has been broken since we moved in (otober 1). we have contacted the landlord numerous times about fixing it. he has stopped by about 2 times: the first time he messed around with the stove and decided that a part needed to be replaced. the second time (like a month later or something), he stopped by with the replacement part and the oven still didn’t work. he said that he would have to ask his friend about it. we haven’t heard from him since, and have contacted him a few times.
    my question is: if we contact someone to repair the stove, what happens if the entire thing needs to be replaced?

    • If the landlord does live in your unit then the law allows tenants to send the landlord a letter stating what the problem is and that if the problem is not fixed within 14 days then you the tenant can hire someone to repair or replace the defective item. Once the 14 days passes and that is from the time the landlord received the notice then you can hire some to fix the stove. The law permits the tenant to spend the greater of $500 or 1/2 of the monthly rent on the repair. If the repair or replacement is greater than that then you cannot proceed. As for replacing the stove rather than repairing it you are required to deal with the problem in good faith and should take the least costly alternative. If the professional that you call in says that you need to replace the stove it may be good to get a second opinion and some estimates.

  • Nadia says:

    I had the landlord complete the agreed-upon repairs in my apartment that were discussed while signign my lease (mainly, that they would repair any major wall damages and repaint over these repairs). As they had not upon my moving in–in fact, until I gave them written notice of repair 24 days after move-in, they had taken no action in terms of painting–they had to work around the things I had in the apartment.

    The repairs were made the day after my letter submission, without any indication from the management company that they would be entering my premises. Basically, I wasn’t able to mvoe stuff for them to easily access areas needed to be painted. I have suffered some damages to belongings due to their negligence– it seems trivial, but they ruined an expensive shower curtain by not moving it when they painted (it has large lines of paint, 4-6 inches in length, on a good portion of the curtain.)

    Am I able to withold the cost to replace curtain with a similar style and priced one from my rent? I would obviously include the paper trail, pictures of damages, etc., in the letter I write to the landlord.


    • The Chicago landlord and Tenants Ordinance does not allow tenants to withhold rent for damage to their property. This does not mean that you are not entitled to compensation. You could start with a letter to the landlord stating that the law requires the owner to give 2 days notice before entering the unit. They did not follow this and as a result your property was damaged and you want them to fix it. If they do not then you will have to seek legal recourse which could mean that they can be held liable for penalties of one month’s rent or twice the damages plus attorney fees.

  • Kacianne says:

    After reading my lease, it indicates that the landlord is NOT RESPONSIBLE for personal property damages if caused by a malfunction in the apartment (ie. leaking radiator, ceiling leaks, floods, stove explosion, etc). Is this enforceable?

    Also, for damages/repairs, it’s advised to repair/deduct. How many times are we to use that option before you can finally terminate the lease. It would appear that if the landlord fails to repair damages, they are voiding the lease agreement. Please advise.

    • In answer to your first question it probably depends on whether you can show that the landlord was negligent. You will have to contact an attorney to describe the particular situation.

      The Chicago ordinance says that you can terminate the lease if the repairs are serious enough to make render the unit not reasonably fit and habitable. The law also allows other ways to terminate the lease.

  • Jenny says:

    When I signed the lease to for apartment, my property manager asked if I wanted the walls painted back to white (they were at the time blue and orange, painted by the previous tenant) and I said yes. I also asked if I was allowed to paint in the apartment and was told yes (no mention of restoring the paint color was mentioned at that time). When I signed the lease, I did not have a security deposit. About a week before I was to move out, slipped under my door was a list of things the tenant must do before moving out of the apartment. On the list, it said if the walls had been painted, they were to be restored to a neutral white color otherwise the tenant would be fined $250 (amount will be sent to a collections agency). I called the property manager and asked if I was required to paint, he said yes. I then asked if he could ask the next tenants moving in if they wanted the walls painted (like he did when I moved in). He said he would get back to me. The night before we were supposed to move out, he texted me the response that the new tenants would like the walls white.

    My question is whether the property manager has a right to require me to paint the walls, and if I fail to do so, does he have the right to fine me the $250? I read over my lease, and there is no mention of that requirement. I also do not have a security deposit. The letter describing the possible fees I could face was not in my lease, and I had not even known of it until at least a week before the move out date.

    I have until the 5th to figure out whether I need to spend the time and money to paint my apartment. Any help?

    • It would be best to consult an attorney. In general the tenant is required to return the unit to its original condition. So in that you could be held liable. You could potentially make an argument that you asked to paint the unit and they agreed so then you are not responsible. Verbal agreements are always hard to prove. It would have been much better if you had something in writing from them.

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