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Home » Chicago-specific Guide, Heat, Utilities & Other Essential Services, Landlord & Tenant FAQ

Heat & Other Essential Services – FAQ

last updated on November 2, 2009 – 1:55 PM69 comments

thermostat

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

What are essential services?
Heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas,and plumbing.

Who is responsible for paying for these services?
That depends upon the terms of your lease agreement.

What if I’m responsible for the cost of heating my apartment?
Your landlord must give you a written statement setting forth the projected average monthly cost of heating your unit. (Your landlord must do this even if your tenancy is not governed by Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance).

What if I get a shut-off notice because my landlord didn’t pay a utility bill?
After giving your landlord written notice of this problem, you can

  • pay the utility company to keep the service on, and
  • deduct from your rent the amount you pay the utility company.

What is the first thing I should do if an essential service that my landlord is supposed to supply is shut off?
You must first give your landlord written notice of this problem. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. After providing such notice, you have several options. These options are set forth in the answers to the next five written questions.

Can I pay the utility company to restore the service?
Yes, and you can deduct this payment from your rent. Make sure you get a receipt from the utility company so you can prove how much you paid.

Can I buy something (such as a space heater) that can supply the essential service?
Yes, and you can deduct from your rent the cost of what you’ve bought. Make sure you get a receipt for your purchase so you can prove how much you paid for it. Do not use a gas stove to heat the apartment!

Can I sue my landlord?
Yes, but contact an attorney first. He/she can help you sue your landlord for an amount that reflects the reduced value of your apartment plus attorney’s fees.

Can I move out of my apartment and stay in a motel until the essential service is restored?
Yes, and you do not have to pay rent for the period you’re in the motel or other temporary housing. Furthermore, you may deduct from your future rent payments the cost of this temporary housing (as long as it does not exceed your monthly rent).

If my landlord doesn’t restore the essential service, can I terminate my lease?
Yes, but only if your landlord doesn’t restore the service within 72 hours of receiving your written notice. If that happens, you can send your landlord another written notice stating that you are terminating the lease agreement.
NOTE: You may not terminate your lease agreement for lack of an essential service if the utility company is unable to provide the service). If you terminate the lease, you must move within the next 30 days. Otherwise, your lease will remain in effect.

What if a member of my family, a guest, or myself are responsible for the lack of service?
In that case, you may not use any of the remedies set forth above.

Am I entitled to notice if the building’s utilities are going to be disconnected?
Yes. Your landlord must provide you with written notice of any proposed shut-off. This notice must:

  • Identify the service that will be terminated;
  • State the intended date of termination; and
  • State whether the proposed termination will affect your apartment.

What if my landlord fails to provide me with this notice?
You can notify him/her, in writing, that you will terminate the lease agreement in no less than 14 days if he/she does not provide you with the required information. If you terminate the lease, you must move within the next 30 days. Otherwise, your lease will remain in effect.

How warm should my apartment be?
The Chicago Municipal Code states that, from September 15 of each year to June 1 of the following year, the temperature in your apartment must be at least:

  • 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • 66 degrees for all other times.

*This is true even if your tenancy is not governed by Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.*

What if my apartment is too cold?
Record the temperature in your apartment three times a day for a week. If these recordings show that your apartment is too cold, send your landlord a letter stating that he/she is violating the Chicago Municipal Code and must increase the temperature in your apartment. If he/she doesn’t comply with this demand, call the City’s Heat Hotline at 312/744-5000.

What if my landlord shuts off my utility service in an attempt to force me out of the apartment?
Call the police and an attorney. (For more information, see “Lock-outs and Retaliation“).

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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69 Comments »

  • Jaclyn says:

    My apartment is freezing but I am little unsure of what to do about it. We have heat but it doesn’t travel far enough to heat the entire place. I am not too familiar with the types of heating systems, but it seems to be electric(we have to plug it in and light the pilot). Basically, there is a tall heating unit in our kitchen and one in our living room. We control it with a thermostat and the heat comes out of the unit, but that is it. My bedroom does not have any heat source. No ducts, radiators, nothing. I don’t know if this is what you would call zonal heating and the hope is that the heat travels far enough to reach the bedrooms, etc. It’s not a big place by any means, but the heat definitely doesn’t go out far enough. I have a mini heater in my room and it showed the temperature as 55 degrees this morning. My question is, is the heat just not going out far enough and this is our problem or does the heating system need to be updated? Do I mention this to my landlord? I am not sure they can do much about it. And is it too late in the season for it to matter? We almost didn’t resign our lease this year because the place is so cold. Any thoughts or comments are appreciated. thanks!

    • It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the heater can heat the entire unit to 68 in the day and 66 at night. If there is a problem, then the landlord needs to know about it. A written letter will help with documentation. The city of Chicago also inspects unit to make sure the law is being followed. You can call 311 to request an inspection.

  • Brittany B says:

    Hello,

    For the past month my apt is not able to go above 58-59 degrees. We are suppose to be able to control the heat we have a thermostat that won’t allow us to set the temp above 62 degrees (it is broken and the landord has been called multiple times.) Regardless the heat won’t even reach the 62 degree mark. At the same time this is happening the heat never shuts off and just runs and runs and our electric bill (we have electric heat) is over $400.

    We are keeping a heat journal and have done so for almost a week. With photos and a video of how the thermostat doesn’t work.

    My question is once I send the landlord the letter, is there a certain code they are violating I looked on the cities website and couldn’t find the exact code. Also how long to the have to rectify this situation and are they responsible for any of our heating cost due to the furnace not working properly?

    • The code is a part of the building code. To be on the safe side it would 14 days if there is heat and it is the thermostat that is malfunctioning. You could argue the landlord has 3 days as heat is an essential service.

  • MeganMarie says:

    Hello,

    I need clarification regarding essential services and what is deemed “not reasonably fit and habitable”

    I have many issues with my landlord and apt. to name a few: I am not able to receive mail, harassment (she has accused me of lying, changing the locks, having a dog, and drug use), harassment of my friends when they come over, and plumbing/water.

    For nearly 2 weeks I have not been able to shower at my apartment nor do dishes, however there is water, just not very much. (I tried taking a shower on a day when it seemed that the water was back to normal and I ended up freezing waiting for cups to fill up so that I could use them to rinse off).

    Due to this and the harassment I want to get away from this ASAP!

    Is this grounds for the 72 hour terminate letter?
    Do I pay a prorated rent regarding the remaining days I spend at the apartment before moving a new place?

    Thank you for these resources.

    -MM

    • Not reasonably fit and habitable is open to interpretation. I am not an attorney so I am cannot interpret that phrase for you. The situation you describe sounds very problematic, not up to code. Have you requested an inspection from the city by calling 311. Have you spoken with your landlord about this topic and the issues and about terminating the lease. Does the landlord live on the premises? If not did the landlord provide you with a summary of the landlord and tenants ordinance. If not then you can terminate the lease for that reason.

  • Edyta says:

    Hi
    I live on the first floor with a an empty space under and my hardwood floor is old and cold gets through. The two radiators are by the windows and even when they work, is is not really warm, and my kitchen and bathroom are cold. I complained and landlord brought this “special device” to measure the temperature telling me that the one I used was probably from Target and not good enough. He put it high in the living room when mine was located in the middle of the apartment on the table because it is where I sit. When I measure the temperature, it is always below the limit, the kitchen and bathroom much colder, but he said that his measures were within limits, so he was not going to turn on the heat at night between certain hours or take steps to help and I should look for an apartment where I control the heat. I should mention that the heat during the night was not turned on between the hours of 10:30 pm and 5:00 am. What can I do? I cannot move. I use space heater, but it is not really enough and now the pipe froze in the bathroom because it is cold and I cannot use the bathtub and they do nothing. I understand this weather is tough, but when the mainanance guy came, he simply made a mess in my apartment and yelled at me. I took photos of the mess and also photos of the temperature, but I do not want to aggrevate the situation, but solve it, so I can live peacefully. What can I do in this situation? Thank you.

    • Well the landlord should not be taking the temperature at the ceiling but in a more neutral position. The City of Chicago has heat inspectors. You can request an inspection by calling 311. Are the pipes still frozen in the bathtub or is there another problem. Once again the city inspectors can look at that issue also. It would be good to start putting your issues in writing and sending them to the landlord. You can use our app http://www.squaredawaychicago.com to take and store photos and compose letters to the landlord. You can also begin a heat diary and start taking the temperature in different areas of your house at different times of the day in an effort to further the document. The heat should be 66 at night and 68 during the day. Not a lot you can do about the vacant unit below and it will likely stay vacant as the pipes are probably frozen there.

  • Carolyn Baumgarten says:

    I live in the second story unit of a two-flat apartment, and my landlady lives below us. Our unit controls its own heating, however I have never received a cost estimate for the cost of heating. The cost to heat the unit has steadily (significantly) risen each year, about 20%. Over the summer, I asked our landlady to have an insulation inspection done, as we suspected air leakage that was increasing both our heating and air conditioning costs. She never had an inspection done. Our landlady told us she would “weatherproof the windows” and she duct-taped around the edges of them. As of now, our gas costs nearly $200/month and we keep the apartment at only 62 degrees. There is ice/snow on the corners of all of the windows where the tape is (especially at the rear of the apartment that has older windows), and there is a noticeable gap in the closure of our sliding glass door to the porch. There was even an icicle that grew inside one kitchen window (that had been “weatherproofed”) and leaked all over the floor.

    What remedy do we have for this situation? Thanks in advance for your help!

    • This has been a very bad year for heating expenses. I have several responses to your comment. First, unfortunately the City of Chicago does not have any energy efficiency codes for existing properties. For instance there is no rule that requires a landlord to have the attic insulated. Next a landlord does not have to provide renters with an estimate of heating costs after the first year. It is assumed that the tenant will have an idea as to the costs. No one can predict the exceedingly cold weather we have had to endure. Finally I believe there are some programs that would help your landlord pay to insulate the attic. According to friends CNTEnergy insulating the attic is one of the most cost effective weatherizing steps a landlord can take. My suggestion would be to contact CNTEnergy http://www.cntenergy.org/ to see what programs they would have to weatherize your apartment.

  • Kay says:

    Quick question–do the current record low temps constitute a special circumstance that would enable a landlord to circumvent the 68/66 degree rule? My boyfriend’s apartment was 57 degrees this morning, but has been consistently warm prior to this weekend. He wrote his landlord an email about the heat, but has not received a response. My boyfriend is shrugging this off, assuming that the temperature in the apartment will be warmer later this week after the polar vortex moves on, but I worry about the rest of the winter. Thanks in advance for your advice!

    • The laws do apply. Though many heaters including the furnace in my home are unable to keep up the once in 20 year cold snap. Some of it may be due to poor insulation and the strong winds. I am not sure how to answer your question. How long has your boyfriend lived in the unit? Has the heat been a problem in the past? If your boyfriend has not lived in the apartment for that long what about other tenants. Some of them may have insights as to whether the this is an aberration or a sign of troubles.

  • Chelsea says:

    Hello,

    I tried to read as many of the previous comments as possible but couldn’t get to everything, so I apologize if this question has already been answered.

    I live in an apartment in Chicago where we pay our own utilities, including heat, so my problem is not with a shut-off. And we have a thermostat in our kitchen that is supposed to give us control of the temperature in our unit. However, it has been broken for at least 3 days. (We were out of town for almost a week before that, and it worked before we left, so we’re not sure what happened in the interim.) We have double and triple-checked the manual for our thermostat to ensure that we are not in error, and besides, we were perfectly capable of using it for the last few months, so we don’t believe this is our mistake. We have called our landlord’s maintenance line (which is voicemail-based, so we have never had a conversation with an actual person about this) twice to request that it be fixed, with no response (even though we were told they would respond to all maintenance issues within 48 hours).

    So based on that situation, here are my questions.

    1. Does a broken thermostat that is not promptly fixed constitute a breach of the landlord’s obligations in the same way as a landlord-caused heat shutoff or failure to maintain proper temperature? So would we be covered by this law, or is this situation too different for it to be applicable?

    2. If the law does apply to our situation, what are our immediate options? I am seriously considering seeking alternative housing for the next 2 nights because we are about to have potentially record low temperatures in Chicago and I have no idea how cold it is going to get in our apartment. It has vacillated around the 50s and 60s for the last several days but I am afraid of it getting lower than that soon. If we do choose to stay at a motel, will we be able to deduct the cost from our rent provided I give my landlord written documentation of the problem today? Or is there a minimum amount of time after written documentation is provided before I can start financially penalizing the landlord? Does it matter that today is a Sunday and so not a normal workday? The only address we have for our landlord is the office where we drop off our rent checks, and we believe it will be closed today, so nobody is likely to see our written notice until tomorrow; could we still charge the landlord for tonight’s motel stay if we choose to go that route?

    Sorry for the short notice. Any help is appreciated.

    • Several things.
      Before doing anything, does the thermostat use a battery? If so is the battery functioning or does it need to be replaced. This something that the landlord should have informed you about but it would be the first thing to look at.

      The landlord needs to provide you with adequate heat meaning 68 during the day and 66 at night. It does not matter whether the reason for the insufficient heat is the furnace is not working or the thermostat is not working. In the end the landlord is responsible. A heat journal is a good way to document the temperature. All you need to do is take the temperature at different times of the day. Note the time and the temperature at the time.

      I am not an attorney so as for going to a hotel to stay when the temperature is in the 50s or 60s, I am not sure how a judge would rule in that situation. The law says that you can be excused from paying rent during the period and that you may recover costs of substitute housing. The law does not state that you can deduct the cost of a hotel from the rent. The safest thing to do would be to sue the landlord for the costs. Deducting them from the rent could lead to an eviction.

      Yes you need to deliver the letter to the office address the landlord provided you with.

      Can you replace the thermostat or can you hire someone to do so? That may be the easiest and safest step to take under the law. You will still need to write the letter to the landlord. Good luck

  • Zachary says:

    This is a loaded question. I live in a two bedroom flat appartment in a three story building in Chicago, and I am responsible for the utilities in my appartment. Our unit has central heating, however there is no heating duct to our main bedroom. Our landlord is in violation of Chicago Municiple code 13-196-400 and we have documentation of this. We have written a certified letter to him and his response to us was that he was going to provide us with a space heater for the bedroom. Does this work under the ordinance or do heating units have to be permanently-affixed? Thanks

  • Priyanka Desai says:

    My roommate (landlord’s daughter) told me that the heat usage needed to be restricted. She indicated certain temperatures at each period of the day. I told her my room is colder because I am by the windows so I may increase it by a temperature or two on cold days ( i do wear layers and use two blankets). Can she tell me to restrict temperatures within the house? Shouldn’t I be at a comfortable temperature…and my right as a tenant to be comfortable in an environment? This was not mentioned in the lease or mentioned prior.

  • [...] have questions?   Check out this great FAQ from the Metropolitan Tenants Organization on heat and other essential [...]

  • Nancy J says:

    I am subletting a room from a friend of mine, who is renting a unit in a condo, from the condo owner. It is an older building with radiator heat. It’s getting chilly so I asked my friend when the heat gets turned on and she said…oh not for a long time, probably end of November. Since the furnace covers everyone this is probably a condo association decision. Is there still protection? Who would I go to? It’s going down to the 30′s at night this week in mid-October, but for certain we will have cold weather before the end of November.

    • Your relationship is with the owner of the condo. The Chicago Building code requires heat from September 15 to June 1. The heat must be a minimum of 68 degrees in the day time and 66 degrees at night. It is up to the owner to communicate with the condo association. You can call and request an inspection from 311.

  • Alicia M says:

    What if my landlord never provided a written statement of the monthly cost of heating? I’m currently having exhorbitant heating bills and he’s blaming it on me. I’ve been renting a long time and never paid heating bills like this.

    • A landlord is required to provide you with an estimate of the costs of heating if you live in Chicago and are covered by Chicago’s ordinance. The gas company should have provided the information. A few potential reasons why the heating the bills could be so high are: something is wrong with the furnace, the house or unit is poorly insulated, you are also paying to heat another person’s unit, the meter could be faulty, there could be a leak, etc. You might want to start by calling the gas company to see why the gas and ask them to come inspect.

  • Alysia says:

    Is the landlord also responsible for keeping the hallways heated along with the basement area where we do laundry? We have to dress like “nanook of the north” to go into the hallways and downstairs to do your laundry or open the front door.

  • Irene Munoz says:

    A family member is renting an apartment in a building with two units. They are renting the second floor and they are responsible for their utilities. They reported that not too long ago they realized that they are paying for gas and light for the basement also. She reported someone lives there but they are not sure if is a legal renting unit. She reported that the meters are inside the basement apartment, so she is not able to get it inspected by the company. Is there anything she can do?

    • The tenant should have access to the fuse box according to the building code. Your family member could call 311 and request an electrical inspection from the City of Chicago. The tenant can also write a letter to the landlord requesting access to the fuse box. I would also complain to Comed and demand that they inspect because the utility laws also only make you responsible for the electricity the consumer uses.

  • Samantha says:

    When I moved into my south Chicago apartment the gas was turned off. I specifically ask the landlord before we moved in if all utilities were on and only need to be transfered. He informed me that they were infact on. It wasn’t until the day we moved in that I realized the gas was off and called the landlord. He took 5 days to call me back and an additional 6 days for the gas company to come out and contect the gas. I am being charged a $35 connection fee on my bill and want to know if I can deduct the connection fee from my rent? I also never signed a lease.

    • This sounds frustrating, though I am not sure that you have many worthwhile remedies. You can call an attorney and ask them. I am not an attorney. Who charged the connection fee? If it is the gas company, then you will probably have to pay that cost unless the landlord was at fault.

  • Pinky Blackwell says:

    This is in regards to plumbing. We are in Chicago living in a 3-flat built in 1923. The 3 of us signed a new lease July 1, 2012. Landlord pays water. The Ad stated NEW plumbing. We have been having problems with the toilet, shower & kitchen sink backing up. The owner came out, flushed the toilet twice, said there was no problem. The next day we spent hours trying to plunge the shower, toilet, and the kitchen sink was backed up while washing dishes. Today was the worst, when we called the landlord, he said Everything was in fine working order when we moved in, that he’s ‘f-ing getting tired of you people already,’ said it’s the City of Chicago’s fault because everyone is using their water at the same time (it was around 2:30pm!), there were never any problems before we moved in (the last tenants were 19-year-olds who told us he was a slumlord and probably didn’t even know they had rights), then admitted the plumbing was over 2 years old, and said he’s not coming out or sending anyone to fix it because it’s too far and takes too long. Our last place was much older-built in 1886 in the Lakeview neighborhood-and it was a simple matter of snaking the bathtub. But this guys is yelling and arguing with us! I see this as an emergency–Do we have to send a certified letter and give him 14 days? That’s too long. Does a formal request via email hold any weight? And in this particular situation, is there an alternate time frame to demand this be fixed, like 72 hours? Time is of the essence here. The nearest toilet is at the Dominicks 6 blocks away. Help!

    • If the plumbing is not working and you are unable to use a toilet then you may fall under the essential services provision of the law. In this case the time line is shortened to 3 days for terminating the lease and 24 hours for reducing the rent or using the rent to pay for repairs. I cannot say for sure that your situation falls under this part of the law.

      As for using email to contact the landlord. There has not been any specific modification to the ordinance to recognize email The law began before email became a norm. If the landlord responds to your email then you will have a good argument that the landlord received written notice.

  • tracy says:

    Hello:

    Great forum for questions. My issue is similar to marina …however let me explain further. We (my aging parents and I)moved into a 25 yr old townhome that had been vacant for over 18 months. We are paying premium rent plus utilities in order to have a main floor bedroom bath for my parents. When I moved in May 2011 the AC was not functioning properly–turns out the filters in house had not been replaced for years and were filthy. We have been good tenants but heat and ac have been issue. Owner is not very responsive and when heat went out this past November we went 5 days with no heat, using fireplace, space heaters and gas stove to heat home. AC is now HUGE issue and homeowners have voted not to allow window AC unites–we, as good tenants asked about them as nothing in covenant. Owner not responsive an on Friday told me that we could break lease and move as we are problem tenants because she has had to had furnace and water softner replaces since we arrived. She admits AC unit is old–we have told her vents on basement and first floor closed, am using 4 fans upstairs were temps averages over 85-94 degrees with the AC running. What can we do? My parents are old, I just had surgery and have rooms upstairs, and it is nuts!

    Thanks

    • It seems like there are several issues.

      1. The home owner association voted not to allow window air conditioners. I do not what the covenants are but the board may be able to do that and you as a tenant would have to follow that rule unless it violates a city, state or federal law which I cannot think of any that it does.

      2. The air conditioner is not working up to par. There are no laws that state an air-conditioner has to be able to cool an apartment to any certain temperature. It makes it harder to use a repair and deduct.

      3. There are some portable air-conditioners that do not hang outside the window and would probably not violate the window air-conditioner ban. Maybe the owner would be okay with paying for that.

      4. If you do decide to move, make sure that you everything in writing including what happens with the security deposit.

  • Jack G. says:

    We currently have no hot water. About a month ago, when, at the request of the landlord, the maintainence guy was laying tile in the basement, the hot water went off. Then, after a day it was scalding hot. When I went down to adjust the water temperature on the hot water heater, the hit water went out completely. We were told then that the dust from laying the tile triggered the sensor and caused the hot water heater to go off. The maintenance guy has been over a few times to jiggle “this” or press “that”, but the heater doesn’t stay on more than a day.

    We’ve been going back and forth now between the property manager and the maintainence guy. They had a plumber come out about a month ago who ordered the part. The part never came. Or at least no one has come to put it in.

    Now the property manager is saying that “the dryer lint is being sucked up into the vent of the hot water heater causing the sensor to cut off. The plumber says the water heater is in good working order.” This is in an email to me.

    We have lived out our first lease here (April 2010 – March 2011), but the property manager didn’t ask us if we were going to resign until April 2012. At first we said yes, but we are moving on June 30th. So, currently we do not have a lease.

    • The law regarding hot water is that the landlord has to fix the problem. Once the landlord receives a letter to the owner asking that he the hot water be fixed, the landlord has 3 days to make the repair. If it is not made within that time then the tenant has the right to terminate the lease or the tenant can reduce the rent to reflect the diminished value of the unit. The owner may argue that it was fixed when the repair person came out and it went on temporarily. In that case you may want to write another letter to the owner, stating the same thing.

  • Marina A says:

    Hi, I live in a condo building (and there are some rented units in the building). I actually do not care that much about heat during spring and fall and instead want to have AC. However, because of the heat ordinance we have heat on even when it is 80F. If I open the windows the train noise makes it impossible to get any sleep. With windows shut, it gets so hot and stuffy, my blood pressure goes up. We are not allowed to have window AC units.

    Does heat ordinance apply to all condo buildings? Is there any way to get an exception from the rule for our building?

    • There are no laws that require an owner to provide air-conditioning. There are laws that require landlords to provide heat (if it is needed) from September 15 to June 1. The temperature in the day must be at least 68 degrees. As for AC units, the condo association can limit their use. As a suggestion, they now make portable air-conditioners that do not stick out the window, you might want to check to see if that would be okay.

  • April Harkness says:

    Hi,
    I don’t know if I am covered at all. So far, my landlord says the heating laws don’t apply to her.

    Here is the situation.

    I am renting out a room in a condo that is owner -occupied. She lives in one room and rents out the extra room to me. (As of right now I can’t afford a studio or apt on my own. But maybe I should have paid extra money to have had more rights)

    She has absolutely no heat on most of the time. I complained and she finally said she would give me my “indulgence.” (I pay half the utilities so it’s not like she’s doing me a favor. ) She finally is putting the heat on but turns it off when I leave for work, and turns it on at the bare minimum when I get home.

    The house is chilly. She keeps the thermostat at 60 when I am home, never higher.

    She has also given me instructions taped to numerous doors to remind me to shut the heat off before I leave for work.

    I have a 6 yr old son that visits me every other weekend and this is not just hard for me, but for him as well.

    I know I should be grateful to have a roof over my head and someone that allows this divorcee to have my son over every other weekend but it’s so uncomfortable.

    Since the unit itself is owner occupied, she says the heating ordinance does not apply to her and she doesn’t have to put the heat on at all.

    Am getting so depressed over this…Please tell me if I have any rights at all?

    • You are not covered by the landlord and tenants ordinance. Though you may be covered by the building code which regulates the unit’s temperature. the problem with the building code is that an inspector will have to come to the unit and if the landlord is there she may just refuse the inspector entrance in which case nothing will happen. I am not sure what you want to do but one decision is figure out if you want to continue to live there.

  • George Hamilton says:

    I am renting an apartment. Since October my heat has gone out 7 times, leaving my kids and I to wake up to cold temperatures. The first three times they re-lit the pilot. The fourth time they changed the coupling. And the last 3 times they just re-lit the pilot. My question is how many times can this happen before they have to replace the unit?? What rights do I have if this happens again?? What can i do??

    • That is a good question and I am not sure there is any exact answer. Do you have any idea what the problem is? I think that you need to document the problem in writing. You can call the city and request an inspection but nothing will probably happen unless the heat happens to be out when you call. You could suggest to the landlord that you be provided with some sore of compensation for the troubles.

  • Kinga S says:

    When we signed our lease for the house that we are renting the leasing agent told us that water, and lawn care was included in the rent. For the first couple of months we didn’t pay any additional money for water, and nobody ever came to take care of the lawn. We had a friend come and cut the grass, and fix up the front yard out of good will.
    After a couple of months the landlord told us that we have to pay $40/month for water, there are four of us on the lease so I thought that he is trying to basically charge $10/person/month. I also wrote him a letter stating my concern for this sudden charge, and for the lack of lawn care service, and he wrote me a letter back stating that we must pay for the water, he also charged us $40/month for the first few months that we lived there, and didn’t have any knowledge of a water bill. Is he allowed to charge us this after we were told at the lease signing that it was included in the rent? Is he allowed to charge us for those first few months when we didn’t have any knowledge of a water bill, as it is not directly stated in our lease?
    He is turning out to be a “slumlord” who doesn’t want to fix anything! and also told my mom on the phone yesterday that he is sick of us bothering him with things to fix, he also told her that if “we don’t like it, we can move.”
    What should we do? How should we approach this person?

    • You said that you signed a lease. What does the lease say about water or other utilities for that matter? Do you have any written documentation that the water was included in the rent. A landlord is not allowed to change the terms of the lease until the lease ends. I would start putting all your requests in writing so that you can document what is happening. If things get ugly and you end up going to court, the more documentation (letters to the landlord, pictures, complaints to the City, etc) the better off you will be. Another option could be to ask the landlord to buy you out of your lease.

  • Jorge Ortiz says:

    Hi, i have a question about turning on utilities after a foreclosure. Say someone will become a “tenant” in an abandoned/foreclosed home in which the previous owner had a balance of, say $500 with the city of chicago water depatment…

    How can one go about getting water turned on…I called the water dept., and they said the owner has to pay…but the previous owner is long gone…

    It’s stated above that one can call the utility company and pay the bill…are there other options? Can one get the service under one’s name even though one is not purchasing this foreclosed home and sort of “becomes’ a tenant?

    Thank You.

    Jorge

  • e.lopez says:

    I live in my landlord’s rented out condo (which is really a slightly rehabbed older Chicago walkup with the label “condo” slapped on it). The heat for the apartment is included in the rent. Last year our boiler blew out and we had to survive part of that Chicago blizzard without heat.. my space heater was not cutting it. They eventually got it fixed and the radiator heat was working. In order to make up the money he lost fixing the heat, my landlord raised my rent, which is understandable. Now my issue is that the heat is barely turned on. Its on for maybe an hour during the mornings when I’m off at work, but when its lower 30s outside during the night its not on. The apartment itself isn’t insulated so the heat doesn’t stay inside. Ive already gotten sick, my fiancée is getting sick, and even my dog is getting sick (from laying on the frigid floor since we dont have carpeting – but that’s partly his fault because he’s never in his bed).

    I don’t know if I should contact our landlord or the condo association (hesitant to go because they never actually help me). I feel that I should go to the association and request they turn on the heat more often or at least review the current timers they have on it. But will I be ignored because I don’t actually own my dwelling? Or should I go talk to my landlord? Since he pays for the heat in my apartment, I’m worried he’ll object to my wanting to be warm.

    • In answer to your question, I think that you need to start with your landlord. The landlord is who you have the rental agreement with. The law states that the unit needs to be 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees in the evening. You might want to get a thermometer so that you can document the temperature.

  • Faith Phoenix says:

    I rent a room in a house belonging to a family (husband, wife & two children). They live there, too, along with two other adult renters. The homeowner only turns the heat on in the winter a few times a day (for 30-45 minutes), but not at all during the night. He does this to save money to fatten his wallet. Everyone in the house had gotten sick, including his two children. This all happened the past winter, and he’s doing it again. I just figured it’s his house and he can do what he wants. But *I* believe that as long as we pay him money for rent, we are tenants and have rights. If this is true, I fear he might raise the rent (again) in retaliation if I file a complaint. I cannot afford to move out, nor do I have friends/family to move in with.
    We just want to be warm and comfortable!

    • I am not sure what the law is going to say on this matter considering that the owner actually lives in the unit that you occupy. There is a minimum heat requirement for residential housing. The minimum heat at night is 66 degrees and 68 degrees during the day. You could call the City and request an inspection though if the owner is home and refuses access, I am not sure how the inspectors will handle that. You are not covered by the landlord and tenants ordinance so your rights are limited. Have you had a conversation with owner? What about a space heater?

      • Faith Phoenix says:

        When I turn my space heater on at the time my fellow housemate has his on (in the bedroom next to mine), my circuit-breaker blows and I have to go to the basement and click it back on, providing the jerk who rents the basement lets me in. (I’m on 2nd floor of townhouse.)
        The best thing for me to do is MOVE OUT, but as I stated before, I can’t afford it. I shall call the City and see what they say.
        Thank you.

  • Shanie says:

    Hi,

    I have a section 8 voucher and my landlord is heating the unit during the day only some days. How can I prove that? I would really like to terminate my lease, but if I do I will have to be out of the unit in 30 days, how can a person with a section 8 voucher remedy this situation? People with section 8 have to wait a minimum of 2 weeks before getting moving papers, not to mention the length time it takes to get a unit inspected. I sent the landlord a letter after being in the unit less than 30 days with a number of issues requesting repairs. I was also told that section 8 will no longer do emergency inspections. I really need to know how to deal with this issue.

  • Ivey says:

    We rent a house in the western suburbs. The landlord lives out of state and has been notified that the furnace does not function. This was discovered on the first cold night when we attempted to turn on the heat. We will be responsible for paying for heat, if we ever get any. More than 72 hours had passed since we first notified him and have done so on at least one occasion since. What are our options for remedy?

    • Some suburban cities have different laws regarding options you may have. Some cities may have inspectors that will come out if you complain and enforce the area’s building code. You might want to start by calling municipal officials. Under state law a tenant may use a repair and deduct for the rent remedy if the repair does not exceed the lesser of $500 or 1/2 month’s rent. Here is a link to the law and how to use that http://www.scribd.com/doc/38690515/Residential-Tenants-Right-to-Repair-Act. If you need a new furnace, you should see what your lease says about options such as termination, etc. Calling an attorney would also be a good idea.

  • Amy says:

    Hello everyone I have a question I live in a 7 unit building and we had a flood the other night from the rain storm. Now no one has hot water because the hot water boiler got damaged, what can I do? My landlord has not even made a effort to let us know when this problem is going to get fixed.

    • Hot water is considered an essential service and under the Chicago Landlord and Tenants Ordinance a tenant can write a letter to the landlord. Here are potential actions to take.

      (1) procure reasonable amounts of heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas or plumbing service, as the case may be and upon presentation to the landlord of paid receipts deduct their cost from the rent; or

      (2) recover damages based on the reduction in the fair rental value of the dwelling unit; or

      (3) procure substitute housing, in which case the tenant is excused from paying rent for the period of the landlord’s noncompliance. The tenant may recover the cost of the reasonable value of the substitute housing up to an amount equal to the monthly rent for each month or portion thereof of noncompliance as prorated.

      In addition to the remedies set forth in Section 5-12-110 (1) (1) — (3), the tenant may:

      (4) withhold from the monthly rent an amount that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the premises due to the material noncompliance or failure if the landlord fails to correct the condition within 24 hours after being notified by the tenant; provided, however, that no rent shall be withheld if the failure is due to the inability of the utility provider to provide service; or

      (5) terminate the rental agreement by written notice to the landlord if the material noncompliance or failure persists for more than 72 hours after the tenant has notified the landlord of the material noncompliance or failure; provided, however, that no termination shall be allowed if the failure is due to the inability of the utility provider to provide service. If the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord shall return all prepaid rent, security deposits and interest thereon in accordance with Section 5-12-080 and tenant shall deliver possession of the dwelling unit to the landlord within 30 days after the expiration of the 72 hour time period specified in the notice. If possession shall not be so delivered, then the tenant’s notice shall be deemed withdrawn and the lease shall remain in full force and effect.

  • Tim Wicks says:

    hi there.. good blog, fascinating posts, wonderful layout, great content management. i really like this blog Metropolitan Tenants Organization » Heat & Other Essential Services – FAQ. exactly what plugins do you use for your blog. do you use wordpress or something else. i would like to know. i’ve a blog which does not appear very good at all and its a trouble to work with it. are you on facebook or twitter? i would like to get to know you as well as learn from you. Please reply.

  • Austin says:

    My Chicago apartment has been without heat since Monday January 17th. Our Boiler broke (radiator Heat) and has recently been fixed. However, my unit along with a few others are still without heat. I have sent a physical letter to the Management Company, 3 email requests to fix the issue (no response) and have spoke to the property manager 2 times and he assured me they are fixing it. I have also filed 2 complaints with the city and have had no response. It is going on the 7th day now and for the past 7 nights I have had to make other living arrangements for both me and my dog. (I haven’t slept at my place in over a week.) I feel like I am running out of options here and Also, do not have the means to pick up and move in the middle of the winter. What recourse do I have in regards to not paying my flat rate monthly utility bill for heat and my rent?

    • According to the Chicago Law a renter can once you have provided the owner with written notification regarding the failure to provide heat or other essential service the tenant can

      procure substitute housing, in which case the tenant is excused from paying rent for the period of the landlord’s noncompliance. The tenant may recover the cost of the reasonable value of the substitute housing up to an amount equal to the monthly rent for each month or portion thereof of noncompliance as prorated.

      The law also states the tenant may: withhold from the monthly rent an amount that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the premises due to the material noncompliance or failure if the landlord fails to correct the condition within 24 hours after being notified by the tenant; provided, however, that no rent shall be withheld if the failure is due to the inability of the utility provider to provide service; or

      If you have not been able to sleep at the unit then you should inform the landlord of this and highlight what the law states about this. I am not sure what you mean by flat utility rate. Is this a subsidized unit.

  • Michelle T says:

    My problem is a bit similar to the ones above. I live in Skokie so I am not sure if the same laws apply to me. We rent a 2 bedroom apartment, we pay our own heat. The rooms are all heated well except my daughter’s bedroom is definitely below 60 degrees. We have not been able to use the room much at all since we have moved in. In the summer it was too hot to be in there and now it is so cold that when I get my daughter’s clothes from her drawer in the room I have to heat them up before she can put them on and to go get her clothes I have to throw on slippers and a sweater. My daughter has been sleeping in our room every night and she can’t play in her room. Basically, we are paying for a 2 bedroom apartment and we are only able to use 1. When I spoke to my landlord about this problem it took him a while to send maintenance to come take a look and when he did, he just said he would adjust the vents so more heat goes in there. This has not helped at all. The landlord suggested we close all the other vents so all the heat goes into that one room and buy a space heater and he would reimburse us for it if we gave him the receipt.
    My problems with this is we, like most people now, try to keep the heat off whenever possible so we don’t have a huge electricity/gas bill. I don’t want to leave the heater + space heater on all day just to heat up one room. I feel like I shouldn’t have to.
    Is my only option to accept his offer? Can I push him to actually spend the money to correct this problem instead of sticking a band-aid on it?

    • Because you live in Skokie you are not covered by Chicago’s Landlord and Tenants Ordinance. I would start by creating a heat diary of the temperature in your daughters room. You may want to document the temperature in your daughter’s room as compared with the temperature in other rooms. With this information you can then contact the landlord and see if you can negotiate a reduction in rent in order to compensate you for keeping the space heater on. You can also try calling Interfaith Housing of the Northern Suburbs 847-501-4352 or you can call the City of Skokie and ask for a heat inspection.

  • Barry says:

    I just rented an apartment where I’m responsible for paying my own heat. I have a three bedroom apartment with only one central heating unit. There is nothing in any of the bedrooms or bathroom beside this unit located in the kitchen. Basically it heats half the apartment okay.

    A) I can’t close any doors otherwise I get no heat to the rooms.

    B) One of the rooms I had to just close because at night it gets down to 50 degrees and makes the living room colder.

    What are the laws towards landlords providing adequate heating elements to heat an apartment vs. landlords keeping the temperature at a certain degree for supplying heat?

    I spoke with the company and they specifically told me it would cost too much for them to fix and I could walk from my lease. I’m not in the position where I can walk and have enough funds to get a new lease???

    • From your description it does not sound like the unit is up to code. The Chicago heat law requires that the all rooms in the unit be heated to a minimum of 68 degrees in the day time and 66 degrees as night. There are several potential options that you may have if you are covered by the Chicago Landlord and Tenants Ordinance. First even if you are not you can call the City of Chicago’s 311 line and request a heat inspection. Secondly you can potentially purchase a space heater and deduct the cost from the rent. You would first have to provide the owner with a 14 day notice to fix the problem or else you will purchase a space heater and deduct the cost from the rent. If the landlord is responsible for the paying the heat then you could also deduct the cost off the increased electricity that you use.

      Here is what the law states regarding the failure toprovide heat. (f) 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, the tenant may give written notice to the landlord specifying the material noncompliance or failure. If the landlord has, pursuant to this ordinance or in the rental agreement, informed the tenant of an address at which notices to the landlord are to be received, the tenant shall mail or deliver the written notice required in this section to such address If the landlord has not informed the tenant of an address at which notices to the landlord are to be received, the written notice required in this section shall be delivered by mail to the last known address of the landlord or by other reasonable means designed in good faith to provide written notice to the landlord. After such notice, the tenant may during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance or failure:

      (1) procure reasonable amounts of heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas or plumbing service, as the case may be and upon presentation to the landlord of paid receipts deduct their cost from the rent; or

      (2) recover damages based on the reduction in the fair rental value of the dwelling unit; or

      (3) procure substitute housing, in which case the tenant is excused from paying rent for the period of the landlord’s noncompliance. The tenant may recover the cost of the reasonable value of the substitute housing up to an amount equal to the monthly rent for each month or portion thereof of noncompliance as prorated.

      In addition to the remedies set forth in Section 5-12-110 (1) (1) — (3), the tenant may:

      (4) withhold from the monthly rent an amount that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the premises due to the material noncompliance or failure if the landlord fails to correct the condition within 24 hours after being notified by the tenant; provided, however, that no rent shall be withheld if the failure is due to the inability of the utility provider to provide service; or

      (5) terminate the rental agreement by written notice to the landlord if the material noncompliance or failure persists for more than 72 hours after the tenant has notified the landlord of the material noncompliance or failure; provided, however, that no termination shall be allowed if the failure is due to the inability of the utility provider to provide service. If the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord shall return all prepaid rent, security deposits and interest thereon in accordance with Section 5-12-080 and tenant shall deliver possession of the dwelling unit to the landlord within 30 days after the expiration of the 72 hour time period specified in the notice. If possession shall not be so delivered, then the tenant’s notice shall be deemed withdrawn and the lease shall remain in full force and effect.

      If the tenant proceeds under this subsection (f), he may not proceed under subsection (c) or (d). The tenant may not exercise his rights under this subsection if the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent act or omission of the tenant, a member of his family, or other person on the premises with his consent. Before correcting a condition, the repair of which will affect more than his own dwelling unit, the tenant shall notify all other tenants affected and shall cause the work to be done so as to result in the least practical inconvenience to other tenants.

  • April J says:

    1) How many days/weeks do I need to document the heat diary?

    2) If one room is heated properly but several other rooms are not properly heated at all do I still have a legitimate complaint?

    3) If the landlord fails to comply or resolve the issue within the stated time frame, can I seek alternate housing immediately? I am 4 months pregnant, and having complications now. I don’t want to wait!

    • There are no regulations for how long to maintain a heat diary. In general the longer the better, though you may want to check in with an attorney.
      The Chicago building code requires that all rooms be a minimum of 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees at night. The City can cite for a violation in room.

      I am not sure what you mean by seek alternative housing immediately. Do you mean terminate your lease and move somewhere else. If so the following is what the Chicago Landlord and tenants ordinance states. I am not sure if you are covered by the law because you did not mention how many units are in the building and if the owner resides there.

      (f) 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, the tenant may give written notice to the landlord specifying the material noncompliance or failure. If the landlord has, pursuant to this ordinance or in the rental agreement, informed the tenant of an address at which notices to the landlord are to be received, the tenant shall mail or deliver the written notice required in this section to such address If the landlord has not informed the tenant of an address at which notices to the landlord are to be received, the written notice required in this section shall be delivered by mail to the last known address of the landlord or by other reasonable means designed in good faith to provide written notice to the landlord. After such notice, the tenant may during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance or failure:

      (5) terminate the rental agreement by written notice to the landlord if the material noncompliance or failure persists for more than 72 hours after the tenant has notified the landlord of the material noncompliance or failure; provided, however, that no termination shall be allowed if the failure is due to the inability of the utility provider to provide service. If the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord shall return all prepaid rent, security deposits and interest thereon in accordance with Section 5-12-080 and tenant shall deliver possession of the dwelling unit to the landlord within 30 days after the expiration of the 72 hour time period specified in the notice. If possession shall not be so delivered, then the tenant’s notice shall be deemed withdrawn and the lease shall remain in full force and effect.

  • Sarah says:

    I am having issues with the heat in my apartment 1) working at all in my bedroom, 2) remaining around 68 degrees. I have attempted to resolve the issue over the phone but the response has been ad hoc and not really resolved the issue. I have already ordered two space heaters to help with this…should I just deduct the cost of them and the electricity bills from next month’s rent, and from every month after that and notify them via certified mail that I am doing this? I am somewhat hesitant to move, but I also don’t have too much faith that they are going to resolve the matter, either. Please advise.

    • The heat laws for Chicago are require that the landlord maintain heat at * 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. * 66 degrees for all other times. The first step is to document the problem by creating a heat diary. You can do this by taking the temperature at various time of the day in different rooms. You can deduct the cost of the space heaters once you have written a letter to the landlord. As for the cost of the electricity that may be a little harder to determine though you should be able to deduct the additional cost to bring the unit into compliance though for instance if you wanted to heat the unit warmer than 68 then that would have to be a cost you would bear.

  • Nan says:

    The guidelines regarding heat (between Sept. 15 and June 1) are misstated here. It should read as follows:

    10:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. – 63 degrees

    7:30-8:30 a.m. – 65 degrees

    8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. – 68 degrees

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