Tenant Wins Settlement Over Illegal Lockout

The south side block Donna Johnson called home.
The south side block Donna Johnson called home.

Donna Johnson always paid the rent on time in the south side apartment where she lived with her daughter. She enjoyed living in the modest three-unit building near Marquette Park. By any definition, Donna was a model tenant and a loving mother. But when her apartment became infested with bed bugs, her landlord treated her like anything but. Initially, her requests for repairs were ignored. Donna made phone calls and even sent letters to her landlord. Eventually, a representative of the landlord would respond, but the response would be anything but professional.

On more than one occasion after Donna requested repairs, the property manager showed up unannounced, letting himself into the apartment with no warning. Donna’s daughter awoke one day to find the property manager looming over her as she slept. One day soon after, Ms. Johnson was taking a shower when she heard a noise outside the bathroom. She listened and soon realized the property manager was in her apartment again! He had illegally entered her home, and now he was face to face with Donna, making sexual advances towards her. Feeling shocked, angry and violated, Donna kicked him out of the apartment and called the police. In retaliation, the landlord cut off her gas. Donna was being illegally evicted – because she wouldn’t put up with her landlord’s criminal behavior.

That is when Donna called MTO’s Tenants Rights Hotline for help. She spoke with a counselor who explained her rights and how she can document the situation. They spoke about Donna’s desire to terminate her lease and find a new apartment where she and her daughter felt safe. To aid her in this effort, MTO connected Donna with a trusted community partner, the Law Offices of Brian J. Gilbert. Donna brought suit against her bully landlord for illegal lockout, illegal landlord entry, and other violations of the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance. Rather than fight a battle he was certain to lose in court, the landlord agreed to settle.

And while Donna has a settlement check in her hand today, she did anything but settle. Donna has a new home, a fresh start, and is free from the fear of illegal lockouts or harassment. Her daughter is happy and safe today because Donna followed through and did what is right. Donna fought for her rights. And she couldn’t have done it with out the assistance of strong community partners like the Law Offices of Brian J. Gilbert.

MTO believes safe housing is a human right. We have a number of ways you can lend your skills to make that a reality.

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Lawyers, Low-Income Housing & Other Resources

This is an informational resource list. None of the following organizations have affiliation with the Metropolitan Tenants Organization.

Legal Organization Referrals

Evictions (tenant must be low-income)

Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (referral must be faxed)…………..312-784-3527

Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (serves Spanish speakers)………………..…312-332-1624

Chicago Legal Clinic (retaliatory eviction only) (serves Spanish speakers)………773-731-1762

Advice before court or to get an extension to stay:

CARPLS Advice Desk Room 602, Daley Center located at Station 7 – Pro se defendants only

Kent Law School Advice Desk Room 602, Daley Center – Pro se defendants only

Illinois Legal Aid Online Pro Se  www.IllinoisLegalAid.org  www.AyudaLegalIl.org

Tenants in CHA or HUD housing or on a Section 8 program

LAF (must fit under income guidelines)…312-341-1070

(unit conditions ONLY)……………….312-229-6093

Cabrini Green Legal Aid……..312-738-2452

Security Deposit Defense

Chicago Legal Clinic (deposit must be $2500 & over) ($30 1st visit & court)….773-731-1762

Cabrini Green Legal Clinic (income guideline & $20.00 fee)……….312 738 2452

Lawyers Committee for Better Housing……(312) 784-3527

Tenants over 60 years of age

Chicago Department on Aging………312-744-4016

Tenants with Disabilities And Seniors

Mayor’s Office for People with disability up to age 59 ……….312-744-6673

Legal Clinic for the Disabled and seniors (must receive referral from Chgo. Dept. Of Aging)……. 312-908-4463

Center for Disability and Elder Law (they also cover legal issues beyond Tenant/Landlord)………312 376 1880

Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4)…………………………………………………………………..773-769-0205

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Chicago HELPLINE………………………………………………….312-563-0445

Tenants living in Logan Square or surrounding neighborhoods:

Micah Legal Aid……… …….773 463-6768

Tenants living in or around Uptown area 60640

Uptown People’s Law Office (Eviction Defense Only) ………… ………773-769-1411

Suburbanites with questions

CARPLS (Cook County, serves Spanish speaking tenants too)…… …..312-738-9200

Open Communities (North & Northwest Cook County Suburbs)…847-501-5760

Prairie State Legal Services DeKalb & Kane………..630-232-9415

Du Page……… ..630-690-2130

Kane………….…630-232-9415

Lake & McHenry………847-662-6925

Will………………815-727-5123

Peoria…………….309-674-9831

MTO Lawyer Referral List

PRIVATE ATTORNEYS

Aldon Patt (security deposit) ……….312-641-0885

Berton N. Ring (class action & appellate, Mold Inspectors)…………..312-781-0290

Brian Gilbert (eviction, security deposit, and consumer defense)….872-216-4615

Daniel M. Starr (security deposits, evictions and class actions)………….. 312-346-9420

David Morris (security deposit, affirmative RLTO, class actions, retaliation, lockouts, illegal entry, trespass, and utility theft if $3000 or more is owed to tenant) Chicago, Mt. Prospect, Oak Park and Evanston………………312-986-3200

Hall Adams (bed bugs, must demonstrate via paper trail that the bed bug issue has occurred)……………….. 312-445-4900

Joan Fenstermaker (security deposit, retaliation, foreclosure, illegal lockouts and illegal late fees)…….312-371-6473 or http://givemebackmydeposit.com/

John Norkus (security deposit, unit conditions, evictions, consumer)…312-600-7457

Joseph F. Vitu    ……….312-726-2323

Susan Ritacca …………… 872-222-6960

Michael A. Childers (security deposit, other legal advice)………..312- 641-1900 (speak or leave message with Beverly Hadley)

Mike Radzilowsky (primarily evictions)   …………312-986-0600

Morgan Cook (tenant-landlord law, debt collection defense)…………………….312-880-7215 or www.legalmcfirm.com

Paul Bernstein (security deposit).…1-866-769-2892

William Moore (security deposits, affirmative RLTO) ……………….. 708-268-3495

Chicago Bar Association (for other Attorney referrals)…………….312-554-2001
(Free Legal Advice every 3rd Saturday of the month & no income guidelines.)

Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission………….…. (312) 565-2600

Government & Other Resources

Ameritech Reverse Directory (to find landlord address)…………411

CEDA (weatherization program for low income)……………800-571-2332

Center for Conflict Resolution (Mediation)……………312-922-6464

CHAC Fraud Hotline…………………………..800-533-0441

CHA………………………………312-935-2600

Chicago Dept. on Aging + (disabled & tenants over 60)…………312-744-4016

Chicago Department of Childhood Lead Poisoning….(312) 747-5323

Chicago Dept. of Community Development……………………………311 or 312.744.5000

Chicago Housing Authority (CHA Housing and Sec. 8)…………312-742-8500

CHA Hotline (for complaints about CHA management)……………………1-800-544-7139

Circuit Court Clerk’s Office (to find out if you’re being sued)…………312-603-5030

Citizen’s Utility Board (complaints about utility bill)…………..…800-669-5556

Condo Owners………. 312-987-1906

Cook County Recorder of Deeds (Sale of Property Info)………312-603-5050

Cook County Sheriff’s Eviction Unit…………….312-603-3365

Cook County States Attorney Consumer Fraud………..312-814-3000

Department of Consumer Services (sec. deposit & utility theft complaints) …312-744-4090

Department of Human Services (emergency shelter)………312-746-5400

Eviction Court…………………..312-603-6486
Or cookcountyclerkofcourt.org (full docket search)

For Building Inspections & Emergency Rental Assistance…………..311 or 312-744-5000

HOME (Seniors needing help moving) …………..(773) 921-1332

MTO Hotline* – Tenants Rights …. 773-292-4988 (M-F, 1-5pm)

HUD Complaints about Section 8 Counselor……………….312-353-6236

HUD…………………………..312-353-7776

IL Commerce Commission (regulates utility providers)…………800-524-0795

Independent Police Review Authority (to file complaint against police) ……………… 312-745-3609

Lakeside CDC (condo owners)……………………..773 381 5253

LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)………..312-795-8800

Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (social support for the elderly)…………312-455-1000

Pro Se Court, Rm 602, Daley Center (for claims up to $1500)……….312-603-5626

Rental Assistance & Utility Assistance………311 or 312.744.5000, ask for short term help

Shriver Center (victims of sexual & domestic assault)………….……..….312-263-3830

Small Claims Court (for claims between $1500 to $5000) .Civil Division…..312-603-5145

United States Postal Service……………………………….800-275-8777

Discrimination

Access Living (disability 226-1687TDD-hearing impaired)………312-640-2100

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law………312-630-9744

Commission on Human Relations (all discrimination complaints)…312-744-4111

Illinois Department of Human Rights (Fair Housing Division)………………..312-814-6227

John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal clinic…………312-786-2267

Latinos United (referrals and trainings)………….312-226-0151

Foreclosure

newschicago.org or cookcountyassessor.com (to get PIN # of the property, then call recorder of deeds)

Recorder of Deeds……………………………………312-603-5050

(Give them PIN# to see if apt. has a case #, if it has a case number call Chancery Court 312-603-5133)

Neighborhood Housing Services (landlords facing foreclosure)…………….773-329-4010

Tenants in foreclosure (income guideline & costs)

Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (referral must be faxed).……312- 784-3507

(Statewide)……………………….855-207-8347

Low-Income Housing Resources:

www.ILHousingSearch.org

Bickerdike Apartments (low-income housing)…………………………………………773-227-6332
– Provides housing for low-income tenants.

Chicago Housing Authority…………………………………………………….. …….. (312) 742-8500
– The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal housing rental assistance program. It allows low-
income families to rent good housing in the private market. The voucher program pays a portion of their rent each month directly to the property owner or manager.

Cook County Housing Authority…………………………………………………………(312)542-4728
– Provides access to decent, safe, and affordable housing to low and moderate income individuals, families,
elderly and/or disabled within suburban Cook County.

Earthly Women Corp. ……………………………………………………………………..708 822 3786
– Serves women and single parents.

East Lake Management & Development Corp…………………………………..……..312.842.5500
– Offers affordable housing to tenants throughout the chicagoland area.

Habitat Corp……………………………………………………………………..…….….(312)527-5700
– Provides housing for low-income tenants.

Heartland Alliance……………………………………………………………………..….312- 660-1300
– They build and advocate for safe, high-quality housing and supportive services for people experiencing
homelessness, poverty, or chronic illness.

Hispanic Housing Development Corporation………………………………………… (312) 602-6500
– Provides housing for low-income families and the elderly.

Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.)………….……. 773-921-3200
– Committed to improving the quality of life for Chicago’s low-income elderly, Housing Opportunities and
Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.) helps seniors remain independent and part of their community by
offering opportunities for intergenerational living and by providing a variety of citywide support services.

Housing Opportunities for Women…………………………………………….………(773) 465-5770
– Their goal is to help homeless women and children exit the homeless shelter system as quickly as possible
by providing rental subsidies to secure permanent housing. They also offer employment services.

IL Housing Development Authority……………………………………………….…… (312)836-5200
– Help create and fund affordable housing programs across the state.

Mercy Housing Lakefront Office………………………………………………………….312.447.4500
– To create stable, vibrant and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable,
program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic
resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.

Landlords seeking assistance

Chicago Rents Right…….………………312-742-7369

Spanish Coalition for Housing…………773-276-7633

Community Investment Corporation……………312 258 0070

or via email (preferred): taft.west@cicchicago.com

Neighborhood Housing Services (landlords facing foreclosure)…………….773-329-4010

Resources for Homeowners:

Partners In Community Building, Inc…………….312.328.0873
– Financial Literacy, Credit Repair, Other services

Translation Services:

Chinese American Service League (Translation, Southside)…………………312-791-0418

Chinese Mutual Aid (Translation, North side)……………………………………773-784-2900

Polish American Association……………………………………………..773-282-8206

Resources for writing letters or other areas of support (citywide)

LIFT- Chicago Uptown Office…………………………773-303-0700

LIFT- Chicago Pilsen Office……………………………312-994-8387

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