Tenant Responsibilities – FAQ

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

As a tenant, what am I required to do?
* Throw out your trash in a clean and safe manner;
* Use all fixtures (such as lights and ceiling fans) and appliances in a reasonable and safe manner;
* Don’t damage the apartment;
* Don’t disturb your neighbors;
* Make sure your family members and guests act appropriately;
* Provide your landlord with reasonable access to your unit (see below); and
* Obey all the lawful provisions of your lease agreement.

Can I be evicted for failing to do these things?
Yes
Please refer to Evictions for more information.

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. Please refer to Building Security, Locks, and the Law for more information.

Must my landlord give me advance notice before entering my apartment?
Yes. Your landlord must provide you with at least two days notice, and he/she can only enter your unit at a reasonable time. An entry between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. is presumed to be reasonable.
Please refer to Building Security, Locks, and the Law for more information.

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.
Please refer to Building Security, Locks, and the Law for more information.

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 into the apartment; or
* Terminate your lease agreement and have you evicted. Please refer to Evictions for more information.

Can I change the locks without giving my landlord a new set of keys?
No. Even when you have the right to install a new lock, you must give your landlord a key.
Please refer to Building Security, Locks, and the Law for more information.

Do I have to tell my landlord I am moving when my written lease ends?
No. Your lease sets forth the date on which it ends, and you are supposed to move on that date unless you and your landlord agree to renew your lease agreement.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

What if I do not have a written lease?
If you pay rent on a monthly basis, you must give your landlord at least one month advance written notice that you are moving out. Otherwise, you can be held liable for another month’s rent. If you pay rent on a weekly basis, you must give your landlord at least 7 days advance written notice that you are moving. Otherwise, you can be held liable for another week’s rent.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

What if I damage the apartment?
If you have paid a security deposit, your landlord can withhold whatever portion of this deposit is necessary to cover the cost of repairs. (See the pamphlet entitled Security Deposits to find out what procedure your landlord must follow before withholding all or part of this deposit). If the cost of repair is more than your security deposit, or if you never paid a security deposit, your landlord can sue you for the cost of repairs.
Please refer to Apartment Conditions and Repair 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.

Moving Out – FAQ

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

Do I have to tell my landlord I am moving if I have a written lease?
No. Your lease sets forth the date on which it ends, and you are supposed to move on that date unless you and your landlord agree to renew your lease agreement.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

What if I do not have a written lease?
If you pay rent on a monthly basis, you must give your landlord 30 days written notice that you are moving out. Otherwise, you can be held liable for another month’s rent. If you pay rent on a weekly basis, you give your landlord 7 days written notice that you are moving. Otherwise, you can be held liable for another week’s rent.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

Can I use my security deposit to pay the last month’s rent?
Not unless your landlord agrees to let you do this. If you reach such an agreement with your landlord, make sure you get this agreement in writing. A security deposit is not rent. You may get evicted if you treat like rent without your landlord’s written permission.
Please refer to Security Deposits for more information.

Is there anything I can do before I move to make sure I get back my security deposit?
Yes. Clean the apartment, repair any damage you caused, and take pictures of the apartment to verify its condition. You should ask the landlord to:

* Walk through the apartment with you just before you move out; and
* Sign a statement verifying the condition of the apartment.

Please refer to Security Deposits for more information.

What if I move out after the day I am supposed to move?
You may become responsible for an additional month’s rent. For instance, if you are supposed to move on the last day of January, but you don’t actually move until February 2, your landlord may be able to hold you responsible for the February rent.

What if I leave my property behind when I move out?
Your landlord must leave the property in the apartment or store it somewhere safe for 7 days. If the property is not worth the cost of storage, however, he/she can throw it away immediately.

Can I break my lease before it ends?
Only if your landlord agrees to let you out of the lease or violates your rights under the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. If You want to break the lease because your landlord has violated your rights, contact an attorney.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

What if my landlord doesn’t let me break the lease, but I still move out before the lease ends?
Your landlord must make a good faith effort to re-rent the apartment. If he/she’s unsuccessful, you remain responsible for the rent. If he/she rents it for less than what you were paying, you remain responsible for the difference.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

Can I sublet my apartment?
Yes, and your landlord cannot charge you any subletting fees. Furthermore, if your landlord does not let you sublet to a suitable person, you don’t have to pay rent for the period that begins when the subtenant was willing to move in.

What if my subtenant does not pay the rent?
You become responsible for it.

What happens to my security deposit when I Sublet?
The landlord is entitled to hold your security deposit until the end of the lease, so you should either:

* Ask your landlord to return your deposit and collect a new one from the subtenant; or,
* Collect a security deposit from the subtenant yourself.

The landlord cannot keep a deposit from both you and the subtenant if the total amount of the deposit exceeds the amount listed on the lease.
Please refer to Security Deposits for more information.

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 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.

Moving In – FAQ

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

Does my landlord have to give me him/her or anyone else’s name, address and telephone number when I move into the apartment?
Yes. Your landlord must give you the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the:

  • Owner or manager of the building; and
  • Person who can receive, on your landlord’s behalf, your notices and demands.

Must I have a written lease agreement?
No. You and your landlord may, if you want,enter into an oral lease agreement. If you have an oral agreement and pay rent on a monthly basis, you have a month-to-month tenancy which either you or your landlord can terminate with at least one month written notice. Please refer to Leases for more information.

What is the advantage of a written lease agreement?
It clearly sets forth the terms of your agreement with the landlord. Furthermore, it states how long your tenancy will last. (IMPORTANT: Your landlord cannot terminate your lease early unless you violate one of the lease provisions). Please refer to Leases for more information.

After I sign a written lease agreement is there a grace period during which I can cancel it?
NO

What if my landlord promises to make certain repairs before I move into the apartment?
Get the landlord to sign a written agreement stating that he/she will complete these repairs by a certain date.

Must my landlord give me a summary of Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance?
Yes. If you do not have a written lease, your landlord must give you a copy of the summary. If you do have a written lease, your landlord must attach the summary to your rental agreement.

What if my landlord does not give me this summary?
You can send him/her a letter stating that you are terminating your tenancy. This letter must specify the date of termination (which cannot be more than 30 days after the notice is sent). You may also sue your landlord for $100.

What if the landlord will not let me move in to the apartment?
You have two choices.

  • If you no longer want the apartment, you can send the landlord a letter stating that you are canceling the lease because he/she refused to let you move in. Keep a copy of your letter. If your landlord does not return your security deposit and prepaid rent, you can sue her.
  • If you still want the apartment, you can send the landlord a letter stating that you want to move in. Keep a copy of your letter. If the landlord does not let you move in, you can sue him/her and ask the court to order him/her to let you move in. You can also recover whatever money you had to spend on temporary housing while waiting to move in.

Can a landlord refuse to rent to me an apartment just because I have children?
No, If a landlord does this, call a lawyer.

Can the landlord tell me how many people can live in my apartment?
The landlord can only insist that you comply with local law, which provide that tenants cannot live in apartments (or sleep in bedrooms) that are too small for the number of people who live there. For instance in Chicago, two tenants cannot live in an apartment that has less that 250 square feet of floor area, three tenants cannot live in an apartment that has less than 350 square feet of floor area, and so on. As long as you are following local laws, the landlord cannot tell you which rooms your family can use as sleeping areas. If you think the landlord’s rules are more restrictive than local law, contact an attorney.

Is it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against me?
Yes, but only if your landlord is discriminating against you on the basis of your:

  • Sex
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Mental or physical disability;
  • Marital status;
  • Parental status;
  • Age (if you are at least 40 years old);
  • Unfavorable military discharge;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Source of income;
  • Status as a current or former CHA resident; or
  • Participation in a Section 8 housing program.

What should I do if a landlord discriminates against me?
You should call an attorney or organization that specializes in discrimination complaints.

If I have a written lease, can my landlord raise my rent before the lease ends?
Only if the lease states that the landlord can do this. Otherwise, your rent must remain the same until the lease ends. Please refer to Leases for more information.

If I do not have a written lease, when can my landlord raise the rent?
Your landlord can raise the rent only after giving you written notice. If you pay rent on a monthly basis, you must receive at least one month advance notice. If you pay rent on a weekly basis, you must receive at lease 7 days advanced notice.

Please refer to Leases for more information.

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 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.

Lockouts – FAQ

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

Lockouts from rental any unit are illegal in the City of Chicago.

What is a lock-out?
Its an attempt to force you out of your apartment by:

  • Changing or plugging the locks on any of your doors;
  • Blocking an entrance to your apartment;
  • Removing one of your apartment doors or windows;
  • Shutting off any of your utility services; or
  • Removing your personal property from the apartment.

Lock-outs are against the law, and your landlord can be arrested and fined for locking you out of your apartment.

Can I be locked-out if I don’t pay rent?
No. Your landlord can evict you for non-payment of rent, but he/she must first file a lawsuit against you, win this lawsuit, and then pay the Sheriff to evict you. Your landlord cannot just lock you out of your apartment. Please refer to Leases for more information.

Can I be locked-out for any reason?
Only if you have abandoned the apartment. Your landlord, however, cannot claim that you have abandoned your apartment unless:

  • You tell your landlord that you are leaving and not coming back;
  • Everyone in your household removes their personal belongings and leaves the apartment for at least 21 days, and no rent is paid for the period you are gone; or
  • Everyone in your household leaves the apartment for at least 32 days and no rent is paid for the period you are gone.

What should I do if my landlord locks me out?
Call the police. If they can find your landlord they will order him/her to let you back into your apartment. Make sure you have something to show the police to prove that you reside in the apartment (such as a rent receipt, utility bill, etc.). You should also call an attorney.

What if the police will not help me?
Remind them that Special Order #01-04-03 states that they must investigate and end lock-outs. If a police officer refuses to help you, get his badge number, call your local police station, and ask to speak with the Watch Commander. If you are still unsuccessful, call MTO with that information at 773-292-4988.

Can I sue my landlord if he/she locks me out?
Yes, but you should speak to an attorney first. You can sue your landlord for two months rent or twice your actual damages (whichever is greater), plus attorney’s fees.

What is retaliatory conduct?
It is any action your landlord takes (or threatens to take) to punish you for engaging in one of the “protected activities” described below.

  • Complaining to a government agency, community organization, or the news media about the condition of your apartment;
  • Asking your landlord to make necessary repairs;
  • Joining a tenants’ organization;
  • Testifying in any court or administrative proceeding about the condition of your apartment or building; or
  • Exercising any other right or remedy under law.

How might my landlord try to retaliate against me?
They might try to retaliate against you by:

  • Terminating or threatening to terminate your lease agreement;
  • Increasing your rent;
  • Refusing to provide you with a necessary service; or
  • Refusing to renew your lease agreement.

Please refer to Heat and Other Essential Services for more information. Please refer to Leases for more information.

How can I prove that my landlord’s conduct is retaliatory?
Keep a record of your “protected activities.” For instance, if you write a letter to your landlord asking him to make repairs, save the letter. Your landlord’s conduct is presumed to be retaliatory if it occurs within one year after you engaged in a “protected activity.” Your landlord may, of course, overcome this presumption by showing that he had a legitimate reason for terminating your lease, increasing your rent, etc.

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.

Unlawful Landlord Entry – Sample Letter

This letter applies to residents within the city of Chicago only who are covered under the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO). Please see the Exceptions to the RLTO to ensure the law applies to you.
For tenants in suburban Chicagoland, please click here for the law as it applies in your town.

Unlawful Landlord Entry

Building Security, Locks, & the Law – FAQ

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.

Common Utility Problems

Tenants Without Access to Fuse Box
In buildings over four units, the Chicago Electrical code requires that a tenant have access to their fuse box.   If the tenant cannot get to their fuse box, the tenant has the right to call a locksmith and have the door opened and a key made.   Before calling the locksmith, the tenants must give the landlord written notice as required in the repair remedies section of the Chicago Ordinance (14 days notice for non emergencies and less for an emergency).

Unfortunately, most locksmiths will not make a key without the owner’s permission.    A second possible solution is to request an electrical inspection by calling 311, requesting an electrical inspector come out, and get a reference number for your call.    The city inspector will cite the landlord for the violation.   Going through the building department takes a while (21 days just for the inspection).   An inspection does not guarantee access to the fuse box.

Lastly tenants can use the rent withholding provisions in the Chicago Ordinance reduce the rent. Before withholding any rent, please call the Metropolitan Tenants Organization’s Hotline at 773-292-4988.

Diversion of Tenants Utilities
Diversion of a tenant’s utilities is a common problem and most tenants do not even realize that it is happening. Some examples of a utility diversion are when a neighbor’s apartment is hooked into the tenant’s meter, or the tenant is paying for common area lighting or the hot water for the entire building is being heated on the tenant’s gas bill.   According to Illinois state law 765 ILCS 735/1.1, the landlord must inform the tenant of all loads on the system.   In the real world landlords never inform their tenants.   Many tenants have said they thought their bill was high but did not know why.   They discovered the situation by chance.   The fuse blew and the neighbor’s fan also went out.   This diversion of power is called theft.   It is a criminal offense.   The landlord is responsible for correcting the wiring and compensating the tenant.

Utility Companies are Liable
Getting compensation and correcting the mis-metering is easier said than done.   The tenant will run into many roadblocks along the way.   The first roadblock will be the utility company.   Once the tenant finds out that his/her power is being diverted, s/he should call the utility company and demand an inspection.   The Public Utility Act requires the utility to inspect and if possible determine who is tapping into the tenant’s power.   The utility companies try hard to avoid their responsibility.   The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) enforces the act.   If the utility refuses to inspect, the tenant should call the ICC at 1.800.524.0795.

When a tenant first calls, the utility representative may inform the tenant that they have nothing to do with the problem – “it is a landlord-tenant problem.”   The tenant needs to insist that the utility company come out and inspect.   If necessary, the tenant should ask to talk to a supervisor.   It is important for the tenant to request that they be present at the time of the inspection.   Otherwise the inspector may just come out and check the meter to see if it is working and never check to see if there is and additional load on the line. The utility company should issue a report confirming the theft and give it to the tenant.    Should the utility refuse to inspect, a complaint should be filed with the ICC.

In theory the utility companies are required to adjust the tenant bill for the past two years to reflect the overpayment due to a tap on the power line.    In practice it will be hard to get any refund.   It will be easier to get a refund from the landlord.

Landlord’s Responsibility
Tenants should then inform the landlord in writing that the utility has determined they are paying for additional loads and that when they agreed to pay utility costs they only agreed to pay for service they use. They should state that they want the defective wiring corrected and compensation for their over payment.   If   the landlord is willing to work something out, the tenant can proceed ahead with negotiations.   The Resources for Apartment Dispute Resolution (RADR) may be able to help mediate this process along.   If   the landlord does want to rewire the house the tenant could suggest that all utilities be included in the rent.   If the landlord refuses to negotiate, under the Rental Property Utility Service Act, the courts can hold the landlord liable for triple the damages.   Hopefully,   the landlord and tenant can work something out.

It is our experience that most landlords will refuse to remedy the situation.   So then what?

Some possible suggestions are:

1. Give the landlord a 14-day notice to correct the faulty metering.   If the landlord fails to correct the situation the tenant can take the cost of the over billing off their rent.   How much money should the tenant reduce their rent?    Call the MTO hotline if you choose this option.

2. Under state law the tenant can take the landlord to court to recover the overpayment.   The tenant can sue the landlord asking for triple damages.   The tenant can sue for the total cost of the electricity or gas.   The tenant is still responsible for the utility they used, but   it is the landlord’s burden to prove the tenant’s usage.    If the total amount of the lawsuit is over $3000, the landlord can be held liable for attorney fees.

3. The tenant should send a letter to the utility company stating that they will not be liable for service used by others without permission.   Register a complaint with the Illinois Commerce Commission regarding the over billing. The ICC can be reached at 1.800.524.0795.

4. Lastly, for low-income residents, Legal Assistance Foundation (LAF) has had some success filing complaints with the ICC and forcing the electric company to reimburse the tenant for the overpayment.   Low-income tenants can contact LAF at 312.341.1070.

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

Heat & Other Essential Services – FAQ

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.

Security Deposit Return – Sample Letter

This letter applies to residents within the city of Chicago only who are covered under the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO). Please see the Exceptions to the RLTO to ensure the law applies to you.
For tenants in suburban Chicagoland, please click here for the law as it applies in your town.

Sample Letter for Security Deposit