Building Security, Locks, & the Law – FAQ

Last updated: November 2, 2009 – 2:27 PM

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

lock1Is there a law requiring my landlord to change the locks before I move in? Yes. An amendment to state law 765 ILCS 705 § 15, also known as the Landlord Tenant Act, requires lessors to change or re-key locks on or before the day that a new tenant moves in.

What kinds of locks must be on the front and rear doors of my building?
The front and rear entrance doors to the building should each have a DEADLOCKING LATCH (see picture), which automatically locks when you shut the door. From the outside, it can be opened only with a key. From the inside, it can be opened merely by turning a knob or handle.

If my building has a vestibule or lobby, with an outside door and an inside door, must they both have a deadlocking latch?
No. Only one of these doors must have this latch.

locks2What kind of lock must be on the doors to my own apartment?
Both the front and rear doors to the apartment must have a DEADBOLT LOCK. This can be a “vertical drop” type lock (see picture), or a saw-resistant horizontal bolt that projects at least one inch. If you are not sure what kind of locks you have, ask a locksmith.

Must the front door of my apartment have a window or peephole?
Yes. It must have some kind of viewing device that allows you to look out the door without opening it.

locks1Should my windows have locks?
If your window is less than 20 feet from the ground (or within 10 feet of an adjacent roof, outside stairway, fire escape, ramp, or porch which can be reached from the ground), then it must have a SASH LOCK It must also have a lock which allows it to open 4 to 6 inches and then lock in that position. This is called a VENTILATION LOCK.

Who is responsible for the cost of installing these locks?
Your landlord. If you want more security than these locks provide, you must get your landlord’s permission to install them and you must give him/her a set of keys. Your landlord does not have to pay for the additional locks.

What about burglar bars?
You cannot install burglar bars without your landlord’s permission. (Make sure you get this permission in writing). Furthermore, your landlord does not have to pay for the burglar bars or their installation. Because bars become a permanent part of his/her building, they also become her property. NOTE: It is against the law to install burglar bars on the entrance or exit doors to your apartment or building. Furthermore, certain burglar bars are illegal, so contact the fire or police department to find out whether the kind you want to buy are legal.

What if my doors and windows do not have the required locks?
Send your landlord a written demand for the right locks, and keep a copy of this letter. If your landlord does not comply with your demand you can call the Department of Buildings (312/744-5000), which can sue your landlord and force him/her to install the required locks.

If my landlord refuses to install the correct locks, can I install them myself and deduct the cost of installation from my rent?
Only if your tenancy is governed by Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. If you live in Chicago, the Ordinance governs your tenancy unless you reside in:

  • An owner occupied building containing less than seven apartments;
  • A hotel, motel, inn, rooming house, or boarding house (unless you have resided there for more than 31 days and pay rent on a monthly basis); or
  • A hospital, convent, monastery, school dormitory,temporary overnight or transitional shelter, cooperative, or
  • A building owned by your employer (assuming your right to live there is conditioned upon you being employed in or around the building).

How do I install the correct locks and deduct the cost of installation from my rent?
You must first give your landlord a written notice stating that, if he/she does not install the required locks in 14 days, you will install them yourself and deduct the cost of installation from your rent. Keep a copy of this notice. If your landlord does not install the locks within 14 days, you may install them yourself or pay a locksmith to install them. After providing your landlord with paid receipts confirming the cost of installation, you can deduct this cost from your rent. This procedure is called repair and deduct. Remember, you can use this procedure only if your tenancy is governed by the Ordinance.

If I use the “repair and deduct” procedure, how much can I spend?
Up to $500 or one-half your monthly rent, whichever is greater.

Can I use the “repair and deduct” procedure to install the correct locks on the entrance door to my building?
Yes, but you must first give all the other tenants in the building written notice that you are going to do this.

If I install new locks on my door, must I provide my landlord with a key?
Yes, because your landlord must be able to get into your apartment.

When must I let my landlord into my apartment?
You must let your landlord enter your apartment to:

  • Make necessary repairs;
  • Supply necessary services;
  • Show the apartment to prospective purchasers, workmen, etc.;
  • Show the apartment to prospective renters within 60 days of the date on which your lease expires; or
  • Determine whether you are complying with the terms of your lease agreement.

Your landlord must provide you with at least two days notice, and he/she can only enter your unit at a reasonable time. Entry between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. is presumed to be reasonable.

Does my landlord ever have the right to enter my apartment without giving me advance notice?
Yes, but only when:

  • There is a problem in the common area of the building or in another apartment, and he/she needs to enter your unit to unit to fix this problem; or
  • There is an emergency.

In either case, your landlord must let you know that he/she entered your apartment within two days after the entry.

What if my landlord keeps coming into my apartment to harass me?
You can call the police. If your landlord does not have a right to be in your apartment, the police should force him/her to leave. You can also:

  • File a lawsuit and ask the court to order your landlord to stop entering your apartment more often than necessary; or
  • Give your landlord written notice that you will terminate your lease agreement unless he/she stops harassing you within the next 14 days. If he/she does not stop, you can terminate the lease. If you terminate the lease, however, you must move within the next 30 days. Otherwise, the lease will remain in effect. You should consult with an attorney before pursuing either of these two options.

Can I refuse to let my landlord into my apartment?
Only if you have a good reason. For instance, you can refuse to let your landlord in if he/she has not provided you with the required advance notice, or if he/she is trying to enter your apartment between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. (Remember, however, you cannot refuse to let your landlord in when there is an emergency). If you are not sure whether you have a good reason to deny your landlord access to your apartment, call an attorney or the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (773/292-4988).

What if, without good reason, I refuse to let my landlord into my apartment?
Your landlord can:

  • File a lawsuit and ask the court to order you to let him/her into the apartment; or
  • Terminate your lease agreement and have you evicted. (See the pamphlet entitled Evictions for more information).

Please Note:This pamphlet, 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 Chicagoís 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.

All 134 Comments

    1. Is this the lock to your unit or to the outside of the apartment. If it is to your unit then you can write the landlord a 24 hour notice to get it repaired and if it is not you can hire a locksmith. If it is to the outside of the apartment you may have to provide the landlord with a 14 day notice to fix it.

    1. I am not clear what is happening. Has she locked you out of using the bathroom. If so that would be illegal. If she has made it so that you cannot enter the bathroom when she is in it then then could be okay. She cannot make it so that if the door would get locked from the other side that you would not be able to get out.

  1. My landlord changed my mailbox key without permission. Therefore stopping me from receiving my mail. Has not provided me with a key. I called and texted and no reply. Also a improper eviction was filed against me. So I received the paperwork yesterday stating I go to court Monday. However I believe the landlord was trying to make me not receive the paperwork for court so I can miss court. Therefore he came out and changed my mailbox key without cause. Is this illegal? I am in chicago Illinois

    1. Certainly it is illegal for the landlord to do this. I would call the police and say that this is a lockout.

      Here is what what the Chicago ordinance defines as a lockout It is unlawful for any landlord or any person acting at his direction knowingly to oust or dispossess or threaten or attempt to oust or dispossess any tenant from a dwelling unit without authority of law, by plugging, changing, adding or removing any lock or latching device; or by blocking any entrance into said unit; or by removing any door or window from said unit; or by interfering with the services to said unit. I think the mail could be considered a service. I am not sure what you want to do but the law would also allow you to hire a locksmith and change the lock and bill it to the landlord.


  2. The Fab lock system on our building is broken. There is no way for tenants who only have fabs to enter.
    The super texted us that our management is out until next Tuesday and it’s Friday and is not responding to my question about how we are supposed to get in and out. This can’t be legal please help we have a dog and we work weird hours, how are we supposed to get back in?!

    1. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I would call this an emergency if you cannot get into your apartment. Is there another way to get into the the apartments such as a key. If so I would demand a key and I would get other tenants together who are in your same situation and write a collective letter demanding immediate action. Tuesday is too long. You might want to call the press.

  3. The main entrance door to my building anyone can get in by just pulling the door. We do not have a doorman. I live in a 6 story Bldg with 20 apts on each floor. We have tried to get management to give us a doorman but they said no that it is not in the budget. We have had packages stolen, children in and out smoking in the laundry room, and stairways. Can management be held accountable? As far as a doorman can we make management give us one for added security??? I live in Brooklyn, Ny!

  4. I live in assistant living in California and I was told that I’m a shut my apartment door at all times because if there is a fire
    Door that I get of is hard to open
    apartment shit on me very hard

    1. The laws vary from state to state. It is difficult for me to answer your question. There are several tenant groups in California who could be more helpful. Have you put anything in writing to the owners of the property?

  5. My landlord keeps entering my apartment without notice, both when we are there and when we are gone. This last time he walked right into my daughter’s bedroom.
    Can we install a deadbolt on the front door that only unlocks from the inside? Michigan.

    1. I am not sure I understand the question. First all doors leading to the outside should have a deadbolt or a deadlatch on them. Have you written anything to the landlord stating that under Chicago law, landlords are required to give 2 days not to enter except in the case of an emergency. Have you detailed all the times the landlords has entered without permission. In the letter you could threaten to add another lock to the door if this behavior persists. The law also allows tenants to sue the landlord for one-month rent for each violation if the landlord does not stop. The law does not allow tenants to make permanent changes to the unit without permission.

      1. I believe that Suzanne is referring to a keyless deadbolt/single-sided deadbolt. The inside looks just like a regular single-cylinder deadbolt but there is no keyhole on the outside so it cannot be locked or unlocked from the outside. It’s actually one of the security devices required on every exterior door of every rental dwelling in the state of Texas according to the statute in the Texas Property Code titled Security Devices Required Without Necessity of Tenant Request.

  6. If I live in a building with a shared bathroom is the landlord allowed to remove the ability for tenants to lock the bathroom doors?

    1. In general, landlords have to provide notice or any change like this. For an month to month agreement at least 30 days would be required. I am not sure why the landlord is doing this. Could there be some discrimination or harassment happening?

  7. Someone vandalizing my apartment,tearing things up and has a key.I believe it is the maintenance man,because I caught him with his hands on my safe while he came to fix something that wasn’t broken.Now I can’t get him to fix things that are broken which present safety issues like loose torn up screen and loose door knobs.Landlord won’t allow me to have a keyless deadbolt,and windows do not have ventilation lock.

    1. Have you contacted the landlord? Have you made a police report. Maybe you could start with demanding the key to your unit is changed that way if someone continues to vandalize your apartment you can say definitively that the maintenance person is the only one with a key. As for the torn screen and loose door, the landlord and tenant laws states that you can write the landlord a letter stating that if these items are not fixed within 14 days, you will hire someone to make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent.

  8. I live in Colorado there have been homeless people sleeping in our hallways I’ve been emailing the rental agency about replacing the locks on the doors it’s been 7 months and still nothing. What can I do?

    1. I am not familiar with Colorado rental laws. One strategy that often works is to organize the other tenants in the building. Maybe you could start with a petition demanding that the landlord replace the locks or demand a meeting with the management or owner to discuss the problems in the buildings. You could also try to call the local building department and request an inspection.

    1. It depends on what is behind the door. Tenants need to have access to fuse boxes but the landlord does not need to give tenants access to the basement. For instance the landlord can have a shop in the basement and tenants have no rights to access the shop or the landlord’s storage area.

  9. My unit is the only one without a security screen door in my apartment building complex is my landlord responsible for supplying me with the security screen door

    1. I am not sure what you mean by a security screen door. It is not a building code requirement. If there was one there when you moved in the landlord needs to supply one. Have you requested one from the landlord?

  10. I live in New York City my apartment front door lock just had broken I went to insert the key but it just kept spinning it was late Sunday night I could not get a hold of the superintendent I had to call a locksmith he charge me $900 can I deduct this from the rent I did not break it it was faulty on its own

    1. I cannot answer your question, as each state and many municipalities have their own laws governing the landlord and tenant relationship. If you had lived in Chicago, the question I would ask are did you in anyway damage the lock because if you did then you could not charge the landlord. Secondly, the law requires that you to contact the owner (preferably by writing) prior to taking any action. The last question is $900 a reasonable amount to pay.

  11. My condo association took out front and rear buzzer entry doorbells during pandemic. We have nothing. It is three story with eight units. They hid behind legal saying since we are mainly rentals and not owner occupied. Is it not Ada requirement for even a well being check to have an outdoor entry. And when we purchased our unit all had this feature

    1. Below is the building code requirement regarding voice communications. Your building does not seem to be covered by the law. If you were a tenant and the landlord provided an intercom at the beginning of the tenancy then the landlord would have to continue to maintain the intercom in working order. Because you are the condo owner different laws apply. The law assumes that as an owner you have a certain amount of control over maintenance.

      13-196-204 Voice communication systems in existing buildings.

      (A) Subject to the exceptions listed below, no later than January 1, 2012, every existing building exceeding 80 feet in height above grade shall be equipped with the following: (i) a one-way voice communication system meeting the requirements of Section 13-76-050(b); and (ii) a two-way voice communication system meeting the requirements of Section 13-76-050(a); provided, however, that a telephone or other two-way communication system connected to an approved station, and installed pursuant to and in accordance with Option 2 of Section 13-196-084(a), shall be deemed to satisfy the requirements of item (ii) of this subsection.

      (B) Neither a one-way nor a two-way voice communication system shall be required in the following buildings:

      Exception Number 1: Buildings that are classified as Class A-2, Multiple Dwellings, and are for non- transient residential use and are fully protected by automatic sprinklers.

      Exception Number 2: Institutional buildings and schools that have an approved standard fire alarm system as required by Section 15-16-110.

      (C) A one-way voice communication system shall not be required in the following buildings:

      Exception Number 1: Non-transient residential buildings with an existing occupant notification system if a detailed description of the existing occupant notification system is submitted to and approved by the commissioner of buildings and the fire commissioner or by their designated representatives. In order to be considered for approval under this exception, and if approved under this exception, the existing occupant notification system shall meet the following criteria:

      (a) the system must be in continuous use and must be tested on a monthly basis, or the system must have electronic supervision to indicate operational deficiencies in the system including, but not limited to, shorts, grounds and breaks in the circuit wiring; and

      (b) the system must be audible throughout all required areas of the building, or must produce within all dwelling units a minimum sound level of 45 dBA within ten feet of any existing occupant notification system device; and

      (c) the system must be able to transmit voice instructions without delay; and

      (d) the system must be able to transmit voice instructions to all required areas or to all dwelling units at the same time; and

      (e) the system must be available for fire department use from a central command location; and

      (f) the system is subject to field testing; and

      (g) replacement or modification of system components to meet the above criteria is limited to 50 percent of the reproduction cost of the existing occupant notification system.

      (D) A two-way voice communication system shall not be required in the following buildings:

      Exception 1: Buildings that are classified as Class A-2, Multiple Dwellings, and are for non-transient residential use if the building does not exceed 15 stories in height and contains 60 or fewer dwelling units as defined in Section 13-4-010.

      (E) For purposes of this section, “non-transient residential” means a residential use other than a hotel, motel, bed-and-breakfast establishment, dormitory, transitional shelter, emergency shelter or other temporary residential use.

      (F) This section shall be enforceable against the building owner and against any subsequent owner.

  12. Hi:

    I’m a landlord who first thing secures his building with deadbolts, etc., when he buys them. I’m having an argument with my locksmith who says there’s no code requirement that the doors be self locking.

    So I read your website with interest where it says:
    hat kinds of locks must be on the front and rear doors of my building?
    The front and rear entrance doors to the building should each have a DEADLOCKING LATCH (see picture), which automatically locks when you shut the door. From the outside, it can be opened only with a key. From the inside, it can be opened merely by turning a knob or handle.

    Can you point me to the code provision that says this? Thanks.

    1. 13-164-040 Building entrances.

      Every building entrance shall be secured by a door equipped with a deadlocking latch with at least a one- half-inch latch bolt projection. The latch shall be operated from the outside by a key and from the inside by a device which does not require a key or any special knowledge to operate, such as a turnpiece, handle, knob, panic hardware or electric latch release system which can be overridden by doorknob release. If an entrance is so constructed that entry to the interior of the building is gained by passage through an enclosed vestibule, the requirements of this section shall be deemed to be met if either the outer door leading from the exterior to the vestibule or the inner door leading from the vestibule to the interior of the building is equipped with the type of latch prescribed herein. A double leaf door shall be deemed to meet the requirements of this section if the inactive leaf is equipped with flush bolts at head and foot and the active leaf is equipped with the type of latch prescribed herein. The requirements of this section shall not apply to a building entrance where an attendant is continuously on duty.

  13. The lock on the front door of my building is broken so that if the door is properly shut all the way, tenants are locked inside and can only exit by either going back up the stairs or elevator and walking all the way to the other side of the building and going down the back stairs. Otherwise, the lock doesn’t work properly and the door is left ajar for anyone to come inside where there are packages and mail left out for anyone to take.

    I have contacted my management company several times in the past 5 days as has my husband. They claimed repair came by and “took a video of the door opening and closing properly,” but clearly the lock is still broken and poses a serious fire/security hazard.

    What can I do?

    1. You are correct this is an immediate threat to health and safety. I do not know how much it would cost to repair something like this. You could start by sending the landlord a letter stating if the problem is an immediate threat to health and safety should there be a fire and that if the problem is not fixed within 24 hours you will hire a locksmith to fix the problem and deduct the cost from the rent. If it costs more than a months rent you would have to get other tenants in the building to write the same letter and all agree to deduct the cost of the repair from the rent. You could call the City and request an inspection though it may take the City some time to get an inspector to your unit. You might try a call to the local fire department, they may be able to go and inspect and be able to cite the landlord. I would also suggest getting a tenants association in the building. In the long run it will help negotiate problems like this if a group of people are pushing the landlord.

  14. I live in a building with 24/7 concierge and fob entry. Every entrance, elevator, storage room, dog run, dog wash room, bike room, fitness center, community room, basically every room in the building has fob entry. The 1st floor is the lobby and the 2nd floor is the garage which has sensor entry only. The 3rd-11th floors are residential units. There are 3 stairways in the building and each stairway has a pushbar gate when approaching the 3rd floor. The gate is locked from the outside, but automatically unlocks from the inside when exiting. Meaning you can never walk up the stairs, only down. I find it very unusual that as residents the only way we can access our apartment floor is by elevator. I don’t understand why every door in the building has fob entry, but these gates are just locked with no entry. The building hasn’t responded the many times I’ve reached out. When I moved in I asked about these gates and if I’d get a key. They seemed clueless about the gates, had me try a key I have that didn’t work, then told me they were for construction and would be removed after. Construction ended months ago. Concierge is just as clueless about the gates being there. Are there any codes I could provide for this issue? Something requiring them to provide a key or add key fobs for residents to enter these gates in the stairways?

    1. I agree with you that building should provide you with a key so that you can walk up the stairs, especially during the pandemic. As far as I know there is no law requiring it. Have you tried a petition to management asking them to provide keys.

      1. No, I have not. Those are my thoughts exactly. I haven’t been able to get them to respond to anything. Is there someone who I can get to reach out to them? I’m surprised there aren’t any laws. I recently read a news report from 2003 about an office building in Chicago loop requiring floors to be locked which makes sense in an office setting, but people died because they couldn’t go back up when told my firefighters. Quite similar to going downstairs in my building and being trapped and not being able to come back up. These gates don’t have an alarm on them. You’d think in case of an emergency they could quickly unlock them. But that isn’t the case.

      2. You might want to reach out to your city council representative. The representative may have relationship with the owner and could encourage them to unlock the doors or be willing to require landlords to allow fob entrance etc.

  15. The doobell/buzzer/talk/hear system for my apartment does not work – none of the functions work anymore. Is this something that must be provided and maintained by my landlord? For now I can only be alerted that someone is at the building for me if they know to call or text. If I need to allow access to a guest I have to walk down to the lobby. Thank you.

    1. Is your buzzer the only one in the building that is not working. If other tenants are having a problem I would think that working together is the quickest way to get the landlord to react. The law does not require a buzzer system though if one is provided the landlord is required to maintain it. If yours is the only not working then give the landlord a written notice to fix it within 14 days of receiving the letter or you will hire someone to fix it and deduct the cost from the rent.

  16. my owner refuses to give me the new fob key that was changed by the apt complex because he wants to inspect my apt first. its covid and i have medical condition and dont want him coming in my apt. the resident mgr refuses to give me the new fob key also which controls the elevator and lobby door, therefore im locked out and have to find another resident to let me in. is the resident mgr responsible to give me a new fob key for the new system?

    1. The landlord needs to give you a key. The law also states that Landlords have the right to enter your unit to perform an inspection. The governors COVID declaration allows landlords to request entrance and tenants have to give permission.

      This could potentially be a discrimination based on a disability. You might want to file a complaint with Chicago Commission on Human Relations. The process is pretty slow. You might call Access Living and who has attorneys and enforce discrimination laws.

      Finally, you might want to try and negotiate with the landlord. Can you take the landlord on a virtual tour of your unit using you phone, laptop or tablet.

  17. My Daughter and her husband live in an apartment where the common entrance into the building has a lock but none of the tenants have a key . therefore it must remain unlocked at all times. When the door gets locked for some reason they have to wait for the property manager to come open the door so they can enter the building. The Landlord says that he is not required to have a lock on this door and it can be left open for anyone to enter the building at anytime. If this is the case when the door is locked the tenants are at the availability of the property manager… they could be locked out of their own apartment having all their keys to unlock the locks on their own apartment door for hours upon hours or even days.. Is the Landlord correct? please cite the law if possible thank you

    1. I do not understand what the landlord’s problem is with providing everyone with a key. I cannot see the door but in most cases the landlord is required to have a self locking and self-closing door. As a first step, Why not get all the tenants together to write a letter to the owner informing him that if a key is not provided within 14 days that the tenants will call a locksmith to make a key and deduct the cost from the rent. You can also call the building department and request an inspection.

  18. My daughter and her roommate moved into an apartment complex. All the other apartment have security door except for them. When that asked about the property management said it was extra, however all the other units have security doors and it looks like it was a security door on the place but they removed it….they live in San Diego

    1. First Metropolitan Tenants Organization is a Chicago-based group and I am not familiar with either San Diego or California law. Given that if you were in Chicago my first question would be what do you mean by security door. In Chicago the building code requires that all doors have dead bolts and peep holes. The Chicago building code also requires all doors to building with a vestibule to have self-closing and self locking doors. I would start by looking at the building code for San Diego and then to the state of California code.

  19. What is the law concerning mandatory exit routes from an underground parking garage.

  20. As a renter living on second floor apt with three other apts in building is there a law stateing that I can or can’t give a key to a friend for the first floor main door so he can get up to my apt door or it is not allowed

  21. What should I or the landlord do if someone broke the deadlocking latch? I came back and while out I found out the hard way that it was broken (the whole arm with the lock swung down). The lock was unlocked, so I locked it back and that’s when it came “off”. I was able to get it back in place and back into position to unlock it, but I have a dog and can’t just hang out inside while no one tries to fix it.

    1. If you are unable to lock the door that could constitute and immediate threat to your health and safety. Thus you could write a letter to the owner telling them if the problem is not fixed within 24 hours you will hire someone and deduct the cost from the rent. Can you also get a police report? It would be best to have some sort of proof that the damage was caused by someone other than you.

    1. I am not sure what you mean by this question. The law is that you cannot permanently change the structure of the building without the landlord’s permission.

  22. I live in an apartment building in Michigan there is two stairs exits to back of building and 1 elevator exit to back And front. The front exit is locked to exit but not to enter. Is this legal?!! I want to use the front exit because the smokers hang out at the back doors and it causes anxiety to just exit the building at the back!

    1. Our website focuses on Chicago and surrounding suburbs. I would like to be able to help but the laws are different for each state. Have you asked the landlord about the reasons for locking the front doors and explain the situation. Maybe the landlord will change the lock configuration. In general most fire codes will require that exit doors open from the inside without a key so that people can quickly flee in case of a fire. Most fire codes are going to require 2 means of getting out. If the landlord does not do anything, you may want to contact the fire department to see if it is legal.

  23. I lived in a large apartment complex where there is a security system to enter the building, and the security system remained in a broken state for several months. I moved out as a result of lack of safety after several months of notification and lack of ability to repair. I am now being sued for breaking the lease. Prior notice was given to the landlord (2 months) but no repairs were made. Under Default of Management, management must “substantially comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws regarding safety, sanitation”, etc. Did I have a right to move out if I followed the provisions to leave based on advance written notice? Also, what law in Fairfax County, VA could I cite?

    1. Our agency and website focus on issues for the City of Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Laws vary from state to state, I am not familiar with VA law. Did you notify the landlord in writing of the problem and warn them that if the problem was not resolved then you would move out. Most states require written notification before taking any action. Written notification is good practice. You may want to contact Fairfax County officials to get a copy of rental laws for the area.

  24. My apartment has a sliding glass door as it’s entry door. Are rental properties required to have an actual door?

    1. Yes, sliding glass doors are permitted under Chicago’s building code. Here is what the code states:
      Every sliding glass patio door providing direct access to a dwelling unit and located within 20 feet of ground level or within ten feet of an adjacent roof or within ten feet of an exterior stairway, fire escape, ramp or porch accessible from ground level shall be equipped with a johnny bar or other device which securely locks the movable leaf in the closed position and which does not require a key or any special knowledge to operate from the inside. Every such sliding glass patio door shall be so constructed that it will resist removal from its tracks when in the closed position.

  25. I live in honey Brook apt in rich va and they told me the only locks I will have on my door now is a dead bolt they will be removing the bottom locks because of issue they have had with tenant locking themselves out the only locks we will have is a dead bolt can they do this

    1. The laws vary from state to state. I am not familiar with Virginia laws. In Chicago, the law requires deadbolts but they do not require other locking mechanisms.

  26. Can a landlord or property management deny letting you back in apartment if you accidentally locked yourself out?? I’m on shelter plus care paying 1/3 of income as rent and on disability. New owner bought place and I’m still on lease and lease states that they have to let me back in. Whether or not they charge lock out fee or not is up to landlord. All tenants got notice in mail they they are no longer dealing with lockouts effective immediately. I think that is breaching the lease I currently am on. Please help if you can. Thanks

    1. If you are on a lease, the owner must abide by the terms of the lease unless there is a clause that allows the landlord to terminate the lease. A new owner must follow the rules of the lease and cannot change the lease until it is up. Chicago Landlord and Tenants Ordinance requires that if either party can cancel or terminate the lease early it must be disclosed on a separate agreement that you would sign. You should look through all the papers that you signed.

  27. My landlord refuses to make any repairs on the house,unclog the toilets fix the garage doors,the leaking sinks,I have had to replace all the lights in the house,there were no lights outside o had to repair them all the fan dont work in the master bedroom,the plugs dont work in the kitchen I had to pressure wash the house cause there was mildew all over the place,there is so much more.but I just need to know if someone can help me with this?

    1. I cannot tell where you live, if the landlord lives on the premises or if you have a rent to buy agreement but it does not seem like you should be paying for these repairs. If you are a renter covered under the Chicago residential landlord and tenants ordinance then the law allows tenants to provide the landlord with a written notice of a repair problem and state in the letter that if the repair is not corrected then the tenant is allowed to hire someone to make the repair as long as it is less than the greater of $500 or half of the monthly rent. You can use the MTO app to help with documenting and writing the letter. Often times landlords will respond to letters of this nature.

  28. This just applies. To the landlord, right? I currently have a 20-year rent-to-own contract and the owner is sick and dying and he is selling the house to someone else. Without even telling us And it’s not even him coming in at our house. It’s a realtor and they put a lockbox on our door with the key where all you have to do is put the pin in to get the key to come in. I’m scared for myself and my children to have random people coming in my house Whenever they want.

    1. If the owner does not live on the premises then the landlord or the realtor have to give you two days advance notice of their intent to enter. If they do not you do not have to let them in. Secondly, you mentioned you have a 20 year rent to buy lease. I think that you had better have an attorney look at the lease to make sure there is not any way out of the lease or that the new owners cannot raise the rent. Rent to purchase can be very bad for renters. How much longer do you have before you own the place.

  29. My elderly mom is moving into a luxury apartment with a Hydraulic door closer that makes the door extremely heavy and a struggle to open. My mom is weak and fragile and struggles to open the door. The apartment tried to adjust the door once and it’s still very very heavy. Does my mom have any legal rights to have them adjust the door so it can operate like a normal apartment door in other complexes?
    I think their refusal to adjust the door is only putting them at higher risk for liability. What are your thoughts?

    1. I do not know the answer to that question. There are several issues at play. First I do not know if the Chicago building code has a code that mandates how much force it should take to open a door. As for making accommodations to a unit, the law more states that a landlord has to allow you to change the door (meaning pay for it). If it is an easy adjustment, then you may have a good arguement that it is reasonable.

  30. Can I place a chain lock on my door because individuals have been coming into my apartment, vandalism and ofher things has happened. I told the management and they even made me take the chain lock off my door. So, I need to know is ok for me to have a chain lock. I place the to slow the criminals down to see them on the surveillance cameras. Please contact me back.
    Thank you for your consideration.

    1. It depends on what your lease says. Most leases require permission to make alterations to the the unit. Do you think someone else has a key and is using that key to enter your unit? Have you written the landlord asking for permission and describing why you need the lock. If you believe that someone is entering you unit with the key, it would be good to document what has happened. You might want to in a letter document the each time someone has entered your unit and what has happened. Let the landlord know they are responsible for providing a safe and secure residence. I would see how the manager responds to the letter.

  31. I have rented a room from a friend and has turned into a nightmare he stole my door handle while I slept and torn out the sink in bathroom now only source of water is tub I have a house that I am buying yet it needs redoing I have worked on this place and put in countless hours it a shame to let this go to waste yet I am not sure what is going on next he’s going insane

    1. My first question is always are you safe there. If not that is the first thing that needs to taken care of. Certainly it is illegal for your roommate to rip out a sink or take your door handle. Is the building owned by your friend. If not you may want to engage the owner of the building. If it is owned by your friend, you could engage the police as this behavior could be considered a lockout. If the person has mental health problems you can try calling agencies that specialize in that area.

  32. I live in an apartment that has to backyard doors witch I have had put lock on them because I have been robbed have had this for years but know the new owners say I have to take them of is this correct? Live in California

    1. Sorry but I am not familiar with state and local housing laws in California. Many building codes require locks of a certain type to be installed on doors.

  33. Do I have right to install extra type of a bar or chain lock on my entry door To my apartment for protection I was almost killed in 2012 They called call it a hotel bar lock
    it doesn’t stop them from coming in. It stops people that I don’t want in. I’m a older women it’s been there for 16 months they have been in my apartment 10 times a had to seen it. Now it’s a Fire Code I never heard of such a thing why would they allow them in hotel. Please help me explain the code

    1. I do not know of any such code. Though most leases have a rule forbidding tenants to make changes like that to the unit without the landlord’s permission. Did you ask permission? If there is actually a law against it, I would call your alderman for an explanation of such a code was made.

  34. Ok I am in a 12 unit apt building we have no front or back doors to our main entrance that lets people in and out of the building. We have had homeless people sleeping in hallways in electrical closets graffiti on the hallway walls. The carpet in the hallways are nasty black dirty don’t get cleaned. We have two windows in the hallway. My apt has no central AC or Heat have to use AC units and heaters. Mail that is Ups cannot be left at tenants door inside the complex gets stolen. Any one can walk in walk out no safety in hallways. It’s lighted got smoke detectors but no fire hydrant in the building at all. I live in Dallas Texas . Question is do they have to have security doors for main entrance to the building or not?

    1. Sorry but I do not know the laws in Dallas or Texas. Rental Housing laws are different for each state. In Chicago, the answer to your question would depend on the design of the building . If it is a 12 unit walk up type building then there are no requirements that there be doors.

  35. Are apartment build has locks on the entry doors, you can get out but you can’t get back in. The main entry is open but we have parking all the way around and five other entries. Shouldn’t we have a key to get in anytime day or evening ????

    1. I am not quite sure what you are asking. Have you asked the landlord about getting a key for the for the other entries. Is there a reason the landlord does not want to provide keys. Does anyone else have keys? If so why do they have keys and not you.

  36. In order to exit our apartment from any exit you have to have a key to get out. This worries me in the case of a fire. What are the codes/violations being broken here if any?

  37. The door is wide open in vestibule which is a common area for upstairs apartments and provides access immediately to a closed door on the left to a shop. Is this legal or should there be another door that is secured for tenants upstairs? Please advise.

    1. Are there 2 doors? The law states that if there are 2 doors, then one needs to be self-closing and self-locking. If there is only one door there is no requirement. You might want to consult with an attorney but I am unsure if there is a law requiring that there be a door on the vestibule. Have you spoke with the business and the owner about this. Are either willing to do anything?

  38. I need to get answer to how I get replaced my fob/ key to entry of my strata bldg. who’s the person I get from im a tenant and never had before getting replacement from caretaker but now she said it’s not her job

    1. Who is the person designated to handle repairs and other building issues that may arise. If the owner did not give you a number then it is the owner who is responsible.

  39. From Seattle. My apartment bldg mgr has locked the manual release lever on the electric garage door, if we lose power, I am unable to exit in my car.
    What if I need to go to work… go to a friend’s house with heat…. get to a doctor apt…?
    Is this legal ?

    1. I am not sure what the laws are in Seattle, so I cannot answer the question. Have you asked the owner why this has been done? There may be reasons or a way to work around the issue.

  40. My apartment complex Advertise 24 hour security guard and a gate but never actually work. Can I do something to make them provide the services

    1. This is not an easy situation to resolve. We have had some success getting management companies to provide security by forming tenants associations and then having a petition, contacting legal support as a group, etc. If you should want assistance in forming a tenants association, please contact our helpline at 773-292-4988.

  41. By chance, I have discovered that my apartment key opens the door to other apartments in my rental building. Is this legal?

    1. I am not sure if it is illegal but it certainly is not right. Have you contacted the landlord yet about this problem? It is always best to create a paper trail so informing the landlord in writing about the issue is best. Because it is creating an unsafe situation if others in your apartment building may have your key, it would be good to get the landlord to immediately replace your lock. The landlord and tenant law allows tenants to take action to correct violations within 14 days of the landlord receiving written notice. This can include hiring someone to put a new lock on your door. I am not an attorney but you may be able to may an argument that this immediate danger to your health and safety and thus give the landlord less time than 14 days to replace your lock before you engage a locksmith. You should discuss this with an attorney if you choose to take this path.

      Once your lock is replaced, it would be good to warn others about your discovery so that the landlord can change all the locks. It could be that somehow you ended up with a master key and that others cannot get into your unit. If you have a master key, surely others may also have the key. This is a problem that the landlord needs to fix and will have to fix.

  42. Hi, I recently moved into an apartment that has at least 50 units and has an intercom system. I have lived there almost a month and haven’t been added to the directory so that anyone at the door can reach me. Do I have an recourse so that I can be added to this directory on the intercom?

    1. Have you put your request in writing? You might put the request in writing and send the request not only to the onsite manager but to the the manager’s supervisor.

      1. You may want to discuss this with an attorney. Illinois law requires that a landlord re-key the lock between tenants. The Chicago ordinance requires that landlords follow the laws and if the landlord is making needed repairs then the tenant can give the landlord a written 14 day notice to fix the problem or if it is not fixed within that time the tenant can hire someone to make the repair and deduct the cost from the rent.

  43. My apt bldg has a security intercom system that does not work. All tenants have keys to the bldg however. Is this legal?

    1. I am not aware of any building codes requiring that a building to have a security intercom system. However if the intercom was working during your tenancy then there are steps you could possibly take to get the landlord to fix the intercom as it was a part of the lease and a convenience. It would be the same way that if the landlord provides a refrigerator. The law does not require the landlord to do so but if they do then the landlord is required to maintain it.

      Lastly, you might want to try organizing the other tenants in the building to pressure the landlord to fix the intercom. A petition could be a good way to start. If you want more help organizing your building in this way contact our hotline, 773-292-4988.

  44. Landlord put self locking key entry doors throughout the community. There are 7 apartments in each tower. Deliveries can’t be made because their is no call box or bell system to each separate apartments. Tenants must list rental office for all deliveries. When the rental office is closed, deliveries are left at the office door in one of the towers and the access door to tower is not self locking. I’ve had three missing deliveries recently. What is landlords responsibility?

    1. The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance does not have a direct response to your question. I am not sure that the Chicago building code requires mailboxes. You might want to canvass the building to see if other people have the same problem. If so then you might want to get a petition together demanding that the landlord take some sort of action. I am not sure what that would be. Maybe you could ask for a call box.

  45. I live in an apartment. Where there is 3 exits. But the back exits has a pad lock. At all times. Also i live upstairs. In case of a fire. I will have to run to the front of the building and down the stairs

    1. The Chicago building code requires 2 exits. If all your exits lead to the same door that could very well be a fire hazard and illegal. I would check with the fire department. Has the landlord provided a reason for locking the back door? Have you mentioned your concern to your landlord? Once you talk with your landlord and confirm with the fire department, let us know what happens.

  46. I live in Bloomington, IL and I have asked my landlord to install a peephole for security reasons as I’m 60 years old and live alone except for when my daughter is home for a visit. They said I would have to pay for it and for them to install it. Is this true

    1. I am not sure what the building code states for Bloomington Illinois. Chicago’s code requires a peephole or other means of looking out. If the building code does not require it then the landlord is correct in that it is not their responsibility to install the peephole. If it is a part of the code then the landlord must bear the cost. You might try contacting your city representative to ask what the code is regarding peepholes. If it is not a part you might want to suggest that Bloomington consider passing an ordinace requiring peepholes.

  47. I tried to find the exact building code to cite to my landlord about having to keep the doors to the building locked. I know you say it’s the law, but I need to cite the exact law. I looked on the Chicago department of buildings site, but I saw nothing. Thank you!

    1. 13-196-170 Self-closing devices required for corridor doors.

      In residential buildings exceeding four stories in height, all apartment doors opening upon public corridors shall be equipped with approved self-closing devices. In all new and existing single-room occupancy buildings, irrespective of height, all dwelling unit doors opening to public corridors shall be equipped with approved self-closing devices.

  48. Unfortunately i fell into the hospital for almost two weeks. The thieves were workers of the owner of the building and had a duplicate key. When I returned from the hospital they had almost taken everything. The landlord did nothing, neither order to some worker to change the locks. I lost almost everithing. The landlord acted that this was not his responsability to provide me more security even though he was in the hospital. My extra saving was stolen and I asked him to use one of my two insurance only for this month to cover my rent because I do not have money . I’m retired (almosrt 69). I went to police station, but they didn’t nothing.
    Finally I have to buy new lock and change the other one. This is devastated and the landlord said to me that I should had insurance against thefts, but of its responsibility to have changed the locks. I can not believe it.

    1. What documentation do you have that the landlord’s workers stole your property. If you have conclusive evidence then the landlord is responsible because he hired the workers and thus because they were working for him he is responsible. He should not have let anyone into your unit without your permission and being responsible for their conduct. Once again if you can show that the landlord is at fault regarding the workers getting the keys then the landlord is responsible for changing the locks. You can use our app to help you document your situation and write necessary letters.

  49. What if you landlord decided to lock the building door but there is no intercom system or anyway for package to be delivered?

    1. The Chicago building code does require at least a one-way intercom system if the building is at least 80 feet, approximately 5 stories. How tall is your building.

      If there was an intercom system in place and it is not working then the landlord must maintain the intercom.

      I do not know of any law in Chicago that requires a landlord to provide a mail box.

  50. I can’t see the “exceptions” area for rules if the landlord lives in the building. It’s a mid rise building with about 150 apartments. They’ve been leaving g the backdoir unlocked from 7am til 9pm daily.

      1. So what is the rule? We also have a new fob system and they won’t give any extras. So there’s no exception then? What are my options? It’s on weekends too.

      2. I am not sure what the question is? If you can get enough of the other tenants asking the landlord to change fobs because it creates a danger then the landlord may have to take action. Though once again landlord may try to make you responsible for the cost due to negligence.

      3. They are giving us fobs, but won’t give us extras. Aren’t we entitled to an extra? Our management seems to think that this is allowed: to leave our back door unlocked from 7am to 9pm. What can we do about this?

      4. Ok. And what can we do about the back doors being left unlocked from 7am to 9pm daily? Apparently the management thinks it’s legal.

      5. Can you lock it? What do your neighbors think? Do they want it locked? If so I would try a joint letter to the manager asking for the door to be locked.

  51. The house where my son rents a room was burglarized when a housemate left the back door unlocked. The burglars entered the unlocked house and found two interior rooms unlocked. They stole two computers, a couple sets of keys, and a car in the lot that one set of keys started. They also stole keys to the house. The tenants are worried the burglars will return as they have housekeys and keys to two rooms. Is the landlord required to change the locks?

    1. This a gray area of the law. If your question is simply whether the landlord has to change the locks, there is a strong argument that this is an immediate health and safety issue. It would be like not having a lock on your door. The landlord would have to remedy the problem in that case. The landlord may argue that there is no problem and that the locks are not broken and therefore not a code violation.

      If you are asking who has to pay for the change in locks that becomes grayer as the landlord can argue that the problem was caused by negligent on the tenants part. Under the law if the tenant causes the damage then the tenant is responsible for correcting the damage.

      The argument from the tenant perspective can be well the tenant did not cause the damage. Uninvited guest stole the keys. Let’s say that the an intruder broke down the door. In this case, the landlord is responsible for fixing damage.

      Is this a single family home? If there are other units that are in jeopardy then this second argument becomes stronger.

      There is certainly a legal issue here. I have no idea how a judge would rule on such a situation. Then the question is do you want to hire an attorney to litigate the issue. Hiring an attorney may cost more than replacing the locks. Has your son had a conversation with the landlord about replacing the locks? A letter/email to the landlord may be the best way to start and to see how the landlord is going to respond.

  52. How much notice must a landlord give the 18 tenants in his building when he decides to change the locks (providing two new keys for each household). My landlord gave us one day’s notice (nothing by text or email)–sliding an envelope with a letter explaining that there had been recent burglaries (bicycles stolen) and beginning tomorrow, the locks would be changed for all of the doors offering admittance to the building (7 doors, each using an identical key).

    It seemed to be inevitable that a fair number of my neighbors will have been away, returning, perhaps late at night, and unable to enter the building. Could one sue the landlord for doing the change with so little notice, especially when alternatives–text messages, email, and even phone calls would have been the thing to do when not doing it could effect lots of grief for tenants through no fault of their own.

    Any precedents?

    1. The law states that the landlord has to provide 2 days notice to enter the unit to make repairs. you should consult with an attorney but I think the landlord would have to provide everyone with 2 days notice unless there was an emergency. For instance, lets say that someone got robbed at gun point and the person stole the person’s keys. This could possibly be considered an emergency. In emergency situations, the landlord is not required to provide and notice.

      If the a tenant suffered actual damages, lets say that they had to pay for a hotel because they could not get into the unit. They could sue the landlord for damages. I would speak with an attorney. I think that it would start with a letter to the landlord stating that the landlord entered the building without notice and and caused damage. An attorney might be able to do a small class action and state that everyone suffered damage.


  53. Company installed a fence yet has deadbolt on each side. No one has a key and the closest exit you have to purchase a gate opener

    1. Hi Tina,

      You should send the landlord a 14-day notice requesting that the repair be made (aka give keys to the tenants so they can exit/enter). While it’s not a repair in the traditional sense it is the legal step you need to take to exercise your right to access the building. Once the landlord receives the notice he has 14 days to remedy the problem or you have the right to withhold a portion of rent until the problem is resolved. You should always take pictures if possible, and send them with the notice. Always make a copy of anything you send and keep it for your records. Keeping a paper trail of your actions is important. That’s why I strongly recommend using our free renters app to take photos, and create a timeline of events for your records. You can easily create letters to send to your landlord and find other tenants rights information there. Sign in at Feel free to call our hotline between 1-5PM Monday through Friday at 773-292-4988 as well.

  54. Yesterday (Sunday), I locked my keys in my apartment.Upon moving in I was only given one set of keys. I contacted (via Text) the building mgr- who does not live in the building to please let me inside. I explained I made a copy of the key, but the copy did not work. The building manager then called me and explained nobody was able to let me into my apartment. He apologized because he never informed me I couldn’t make duplicate keys at a hardware store- they had to be made by a locksmith only. He then asked me if he’s ever given me a spare key at move-in, I replied “no.” He said he recommends I call a locksmith or to wait until tomorrow. I called a locksmith because I couldn’t wait until tomorrow, I had my purse in the apartment and my work gear for the next day. The locksmith cost $100.00 and had to drill a hole into my keyhole on the knob, so now I have to buy a new knob and key set and make copies for the landlord and for myself. Is there anything I can do in regards to getting this taken off of my rent? I read the lease, it says nothing regarding this situation.

  55. The fire dept had to break into the security door of my building. Since there is no mamager on site to assist in emergencies or lock outs who is responsible to fix the security door? This is not the direct entry to my home.

    1. The law states that tenants are responsible for their actions and the actions of their guests. I do not think that the fire department is going to be considered a guest. There could be other circumstances such as if there was a fire and the fire was the result of negligent action on a part of the tenant then the tenant could be held liable for the damage to the apartment. Without knowing all the details it is difficult to say.

  56. Although we have a lock on the front door of our 3 story walk-up, my landlord’s maintenance man refuses to replace the buzzer system. I missed an important delivery last week and guests need to call me and I have to run down stairs to let them in. Twice the landlord himself has told me he was going to fix it but his “minion” that lives in the building refuses.

    1. If the owner does not live in the unit, the law allows the tenant to give the owner a written notice describing the problem and giving the landlord 14 days from the receipt of the letter to fix the problem and then telling the landlord in the notice that if the problem is not fixed that the tenant will hire someone to make the repair and deduct the cost from the rent. You can deduct upto one half months rent.

  57. I write on behalf of a friend. She had her computer stolen in a break-in. There is no functioning lock on the back door of the yard bordering on the alley behind her building. Is the landlord required to have a functioning lock on the back door of the yard? The burglars got access to her apartment by coming in through the unlocked back door bordering the alley. She has spoken to the landlord after the burglary and he is refusing to put in a lock for this back door.

    1. Here is link with a picture of the locks required on the front and back doors of an apartment. You can try calling 311 and requesting an inspection and the city inspector should cite the landlord for any violations. Are there other tenants impacted by this door? If so could all join together and write the landlord a letter demanding the repair of the locks. Finally if you are covered by the landlord and tenants ordinance then you could possibly hire someone to replace the locks and give keys to everyone including the landlord. You will have to follow certain procedures described in the law including sending a 14-day letter. Here is a link to a sample letter

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