Radon – FAQ

What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, dense, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally in soil.

How does radon get into homes?
Radon gas forms naturally in the soil in the Midwest. When the gas is produced, it simply rises up through the ground and is released into the natural environment.
However, when homes are built in or on soil emitting radon, instead of the gas rising up through dense soil, radon gas chooses the path of least resistance – normally through the floors or wall of the first level of the home – the basement. Depending on how the home was built and how ventilated the basement is, levels of radon can fluctuate.

Why is radon dangerous to human beings?
Radon has been classified as carcinogenic by the US EPA. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer – first being smoking. People who are exposed to both radon gas and smoke (first or second-hand) have a multipled risk of developing lung cancer.
Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people’s homes.

Why are basements the most likely place to find radon gas? Why not in my second floor apartment?
Radon gas comes from decay of radioactive substances that are ubiquitous in the Midwestern soil. Because basements and first floor units are most often the first point of contact between soil (the source of radon gas) and the building, this is where radon normally enters the building.
Radon gas is also far more dense than “air.” Helium is lighter and less dense than air and therefore balloons filled with it fly away and up into the sky if not held down. Radon is heavier than air. For that reason, it sinks below lighter “air” to remain in our basements and lower level units. The more time someone spends in a unit/basement that has radon gas, the more exposure that person receives.

How do I know if my family and I are being exposed to radon gas?
If you live in the basement or first floor of a building, it is likely that you are being exposed to radon gas. The risk goes up if the building was poorly built, is poorly maintained and/or is poorly ventilated. There is no safe level of radon but minimizing exposure can reduce you and your family’s risk of lung cancer.
If you live in a second floor unit or higher, it is unlikely that you and your family are being exposed to significant levels of radon in your home.
The only way to know for sure is to test your living space(s).

Is there a test for radon?
Yes. Tenants, landlords, and homeowners have an easy and affordable option to test the level of radon in their home. Air Chek Inc. has sold over 4,000,000 radon tests worldwide. The Illinois Department of Public Health referrals for the test kit get the customer a major discount, which normally costs $14.95.
Those interested in purchasing the radon test can access the discount by phone, online, or through the mail. With the discount, each kit is $6.95. Call 800.247.2435 and ask for the Illinois discount or go online to il.radon.com for online or mailing instructions. Each test kit ordered includes the testing kit itself, testing instructions, shipping to and back, cost of lab work and reporting of results to you.

Bed Bugs – FAQ

What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. Bed bugs prefer human blood, but can also feed on pets if people aren’t present.

Are bed bugs disease carriers?
There isn’t any medical evidence that bed bugs pose any sort of health risk. Some people do, however, experience mild reactions to their bites. It is also possible for the bites to result in secondary infections if scratched.

How did I get bed bugs?
A bed bug infestation is not an indicator of a lack of cleanliness. Bed bugs feed on blood and are attracted to CO2. They may have hitchhiked onto your belongings and into your home or, if you live in a multi-unit building, they may have traveled from an adjacent unit.

So, there really isn’t any link between bed bugs and sanitation?
None. Bed bugs are not attracted to filth nor do they feed on it. However, reducing clutter is extremely important as clutter can provide hiding space for bed bugs. Bed bugs will thrive in cluttered environments because the effectiveness of your pest control plan will be limited.

I have a bed bug infestation. What do I do?
Around the House

-Reduce clutter in the home. These are safe havens for bed bugs.
-Vacuum frequently.
-Wash clothes in hot water and dry in high heat for a minimum of 20 minutes.
-Do not apply pesticides on your own. Applying pesticides should be left to licensed pest control professionals.
-Never use bug bombs or total release foggers. These can worsen the infestation and are extremely harmful to your health.

Beds and Furniture
-Steam clean your bed and other furniture at a heat of 120 degrees or more.
-Encase your mattress and box spring with bed bug proof mattress protectors.
-Do not apply pesticides to your bed or other furniture. Pesticides are often harmful to people.
-Do not throw away your furniture until a pest control professional tells you that it can’t be salvaged.
-If you must throw away your bed or other furniture, please dispose responsibly. Render the furniture unusable by slashing all sides or spray paint “bed bugs” in large letters.

Remember, bed bugs and their eggs absolutely cannot survive temperatures higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is my landlord responsible for ridding my unit of bed bugs?
On June 5, 2013 Chicago alderman passed an ordinance on bed bug control.  The ordinance requires eradication to be performed by a pest control professtional as many times as necessary to eliminate the reported problem.  Click here to read the full ordinance.  

The City of Chicago has recently been named the nation’s #1 city infested with bed bugs.  Everyday MTO’s tenants’ rights hotline receives calls from renters throughout the City and suburbs dealing with the pesky pests.  Bed bugs are not unique to Chicago.  They are undoubtedly a nuisance and hard to control.  Controlling bed bugs requires tenants and landlords working together. There are key components of the ordinance that all renters should know.  Let’s start with landlord responsibilities:

  • To supply a tenant starting or renewing a lease with an informational brochure
  • To maintain a written record of bed bug control efforts
  • To send a written notice to the tenant explaining their responsibilities before the inspection
  • To provide pest control services when bed bugs are found by a pest management professional as many times as necessary to eliminate the problem
  • To inspect within 10 days and treat if necessary the two units on either side as well as the two units above and below of the infested unit

The ordinance also outlines what tenants’ responsibilities are to help eliminate bed bugs.  Please note that this section of the ordinance does not apply to tenants living in assisted living or a shared housing establishment, when the establishment provides assistance with daily living activities.  According to the ordinance, tenant responsibilities include:

  • To notify the landlord in writing of any suspected or known infestation in the tenants’ unit, clothing, furniture or personal property within 5 days
  • To notify the landlord in writing of any recurring or unexplained bites, stings or sores suspected to be caused by bed bugs
  • To cooperate with the landlord in the control, treatment, and eradication of bed bugs including
  • To grant access at reasonable times upon reasonable notice for inspections and treatments/to not interfere
  • To prepare unit prior to treatment including:  cleaning, dusting, vacuuming
  • To properly dispose of personal property that cannot be treated or cleaned before the pest control services

The Chicago Bed Bug Ordinance also mandates the disposal of bedding, clothing, furnishings or other infested materials.  For example, you may not place, discard or dispose of any bedding, clothing or furnishings infested on the public way (i.e. dumpsters, sidewalks, hallways).  To get rid of infested items, you must enclose the item in a plastic bag and label it as infested.  Doing so should prevent neighbors from bringing to their home infested items, therefore stalling the spread of bed bugs.

The ordinance will be enforced by the Department of Buildings and the Department of Public Health.  If any person is found violating the ordinancethat person may be fined $300.00 to $1,000 per day for each offense.  By complying with the ordinance, these fees can be avoided.   The full ordinance can be found atwww.cityofchicago.org.  You can make a request for a City inspector here.

My landlord won’t accept responsibility. What should I do?

You can call MTO’s Tenants’ Rights Hotline to speak with a hotline counselor about your situation. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 1pm – 5pm. If you live in a building with 12 or more units and other renters in the building are living with bed bugs, you may also request a visit from an organizer who can assist you in getting your requests met by your landlord.

Learn more about tenant remedies for pest infestation here

Have bed bugs in your apartment building? What is your landlord doing about it?

Apartment Conditions and Repairs – FAQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I make my landlord pay for the cost of repairing a problem I caused?
No.

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

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

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

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

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

Tenants and Foreclosure – FAQ

Tenants impacted by foreclosure: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a foreclosure?
When an owner falls behind in mortgage payments, foreclosure is the court process by which a bank forces the sale of a building used as security in order to pay off the owner’s debt. In an effort to protect tenants who live in a building that is in foreclosure, the city passed the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO). Under the KCRO, you may be eligible for a lease renewal or $10,600 in relocation assistance. To learn more click HERE.

Who owns the building while it is in court?
Just because a building is in foreclosure does NOT mean that the building has been foreclosed on or will be foreclosed on. Until the court approves a sale and there is a confirmation of sale, your landlord still owns the building. In most cases, the bank acquires the property and becomes the owner.

What are some common signs that my building might be in foreclosure?
Maintenance suddenly stops
– Utility shutoff notices
– Banks sending notices to the landlord
– Realtors hanging around the building, or taking pictures of the building
– The landlord disappears and/or stops collecting rent.

How long does the foreclosure process take?
The court process takes an average of nine months. If the owner is not able to satisfy the bank’s requirements, the court puts the property up for sale where it is usually bought by the bank.

Where can I find out if my building is in foreclosure?
1. Get the PIN # of the property by going to www.cookcountyassessor.com and entering the building address.

2. Enter the PIN # at www.cookrecorder.com or call the Recorder of Deeds at 312-603-5050 and give them your PIN #. If the building is in foreclosure, they can provide you with the foreclosure notice (the “lis pendens”) and the associated foreclosure court case number.

3. For more information about the case go to www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org or call the Chancery Court, at 312-603-5133. You can also go to http://www.cookcountyclerkofcourt.org – go to online case info – full docket search – and search the chancery division for the landlord’s name under defendant or using the case #.

Under the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO), if your building is in foreclosure, you may be eligible for a lease renewal or $10,600 in relocation assistance. To learn more about the KCRO, click HERE.

Do I still have to pay rent?
Yes. As long as you are living in the unit you must pay rent. Checks or money orders are best so that you have proof of payment. You can still be evicted for nonpayment of rent even though your landlord is in foreclosure.

What if I don’t know to whom to pay rent or the landlord stops collecting it?
Click here to find our who the owner is or contact a lawyer to assist you in determining the new owner of the property. Be sure to ask any new people claiming to be the owner for proof before giving them rent money. The law only requires that tenants make a good faith effort to pay the rent if the landlord disappears. Some examples of good faith efforts to pay rent may include:
– Holding the rent in a money order
– Using the rent on utilities your landlord was paying
– Using the rent to make repairs to the property
– Sending a letter via certified mail, requesting information from the new owner on where to send the rent. (Keep             a copy of the letter for yourself)

Do I have the right to break my lease because my landlord is in foreclosure?
No…however, if you are covered under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance and did not receive proper notice, please see below under Are landlords required to tell their tenants that their building is in foreclosure?

The bank has taken over the building. What do I do?
The bank is your new landlord. You must pay them rent once they have notified you as to whom and where to pay, and they are responsible for repairs, any utilities paid by the old landlord, etc. If you are uncertain of who to pay, hold your rent in escrow. Also, check to see if you’re covered by the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance. You may be eligible for relocation assistance if the bank chooses not to renew your lease.

The sheriff posted a notice saying that my landlord or unknown occupants must vacate the building. Does this apply to me?
No. If your name is not on the notice, you do not have to move. Immediately contact the sheriff’s office at (312) 603-3365 to inform them that there are tenants in the building and contact an attorney to get legal help. If the sheriff shows up, you will need to show them identification, as well as your lease, a piece of mail, or other evidence proving that you are a tenant in the building and not the landlord.

Will I have to move? How much time will I have once a new owner takes over?
If the building is foreclosed upon and sold, the new owner must give you 90 days or until the end of your lease, whichever longer. However, if the new owner would like to use the unit as a personal residence, they do not have to honor the lease, but they must give you at lest 90 days notice prior to eviction proceedings. Once the lease expires, the owner must give you a 30 day notice in writing before proceeding in eviction court. (This is assuming that you are lease complaint and up to date on rent.)

NOTE: The sheriff’s office can and will evict tenants during the winter, with the exception if it is 15 degrees or snowing.

Can the bank or new owner put me out without a court date?
No. If anyone tries to evict you before taking you to court, then it is an illegal eviction, also known as a lockout. Call the police, file a police report (get officers name and badge #) and contact the Tenants Rights Hotline at 773-292-4988. If you receive a summons to court make sure to contact an attorney.

Will this eviction show on my record?
If you were evicted solely because of the foreclosure your attorney can petition the judge to seal the record. If you are evicted for nonpayment of rent, it will be on your record.

The bank offered me a “Cash for Keys” deal. What should I do?
Sometimes banks offer tenants a cash for keys deal in order to vacate the building more quickly. Evaluate the entire situation first and make sure you have enough time to find a safe and decent apartment. Make sure you get any deal in writing and talk to a lawyer before you sign. If the bank does not offer a settlement feel free to ask for one. However, be aware that many tenants are eligible for $10,600 under the KCRO, which is more than most banks will initially offer. Call us or contact an attorney before agreeing to any “Cash for Keys” deal.

How do I get my security deposit back?
If your tenancy is NOT governed by the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO): The bank is not responsible for your deposit. If you do not receive your security deposit back within 45 days of moving you can take your landlord to court. If you know your landlord is in foreclosure court or is about to lose the building ask for written permission to live out your security deposit. If you live out your deposit without permission you can be evicted for non-payment of rent. If your tenancy is CRLTO please see below.

Additional Information for tenants who are covered under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO): 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).

What happens to my security deposit?
In the event that the building is lost to foreclosure, the lender is responsible if the landlord fails to return the security deposit.

Are landlords required to tell their tenants that their building is in foreclosure?
If your tenancy is governed by the CRLTO: The landlord is required to tell current tenants about foreclosure filings within seven days of being served with a foreclosure complaint. The landlord must also inform any potential tenants before they move in. Tenants who were not properly informed about the foreclosure can sue for $200 in damages and/or terminate their leases.

Additional References:
Building Inspectors: Call 311 for an inspection if you have repairs that need to be made or are lacking utilities.
If you need assistance moving or with a security deposit call 311 and inform them that your landlord is in foreclosure.

Request an inspection online

Lawyers Committee for Better Housing: (312)-347-7600

Legal Assistance Foundation (Subsidized Tenants): (312)-341-1070

Sheriffs Eviction Unit: (312)-603-3365

Chancery Court: (312)-603-5133

Metropolitan Tenants Organization Tenants’ Rights Hotline: (773)-292-4988 Open: Mon-Fri, 1-5pm

Chicago Legal Clinic: (773)-731-1762

Citizens Utility Board: 1-800-669-5556

Asthma – FAQ

Child properly using asthma inhaler and spacer.

What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that makes it very difficult to breathe. The small and medium airways swell and fill with mucus when they come into contact with certain environmental allergens. In some cases asthma can cause death. Asthma cannot be cured but it can be controlled through medications and cleaning up your environment.

What allergens found in the home can cause asthma?
Dust mites are a common allergen that can trigger an asthma attack. Dust mites can be found in carpets, drapes, overstuffed furniture and bedding and the result of poor air sealing of windows and doors can allow outside dust into the home.
Other common household hazards that can trigger asthma attacks are:
* Leaking plumbing and roofs; water damaged areas
* Poor ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens
* Basements and crawlspaces without proper drainage or moisture control
* Infestations of cockroaches, mice and rats can cause allergic reactions
* Extreme temperature shifts, either hot or cold, can trigger asthma attacks

Many of these conditions are violations of the building code. Learn how to enforce your right to a healthier home here.

Does the landlord have to provide heat and air-conditioning if I have asthma?
The landlord must provide heat from heat September 15 – June 1. The landlord must maintain the following minimum temperatures:
68 degrees from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm
66 degrees from 10:30 pm – 8:30 am
The landlord is not required to provide air-conditioning.

Learn more about Healthy Home Healthy Child: The Westside Children’s Asthma Partnership

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.

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.