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.

Renting & Credit Reports

Credit reports contain “information” about where you live and work and your bill paying habits; it may also state whether there has been an eviction or arrest. Landlords have the right to charge for credit reports.   Many landlords pay credit agencies for reports.   A landlord may also track credit themselves, by contacting banks, credit card companies, and checking court files for lawsuits or bankruptcies.   Either way, the landlord can charge a non-refundable fee for the check.

Landlords can set whatever credit standards they want.   They must hold that standard to all applicants.   If they do not, they may be charged with discrimination.   Some landlords may accept an applicant with a poor credit history by charging a larger security deposit or requiring a cosigner.   The cosigner is fully responsible for the costs of the apartment.

How to get your credit report?
If someone is denied housing because of a credit check, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the landlord supply the name and address of the credit agency used.   If contacted within 30 days, the agency must supply the tenant with the report for free.

How to fix errors on your report?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute information on your credit report.   Write a letter to the credit agency.   Clearly identify the items you dispute, and request deletions or corrections.   Include copies of any thing that may support your claim, such as a receipt for rent.   Send the letter certified mail and keep a copy.

If the agency feels no change to your report is necessary, file a statement of up to 100 words explaining your side of the story.   The credit agency must include this statement any time it sends out your credit report.   If you feel the agency did not properly investigate your dispute, file a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission or the States Attorney.

What collectors may and may not do
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act bans certain types of debt collection and applies to anyone who collects debts for others.   This includes property managers and lawyers.

A collector may not contact you at unreasonable times or places.   This may include your place of work.   A collector may not tell anyone else that you allegedly owe money.   Harassment is illegal.   They may not repeatedly use the telephone to annoy you, threaten you or use obscene language.   Debt collectors may not falsely imply that you committed a crime or will be arrested for not paying.   Debt collectors may not garnish wages or property without a court judgment.

How to stop a debt collector?
If you believe a debt collector has violated the law, you have the right to sue in state or federal court.   You may recover damages, court costs, and attorney fees if you win.   Whether or not you sue, you should report any problems with a debt collector to the States Attorney and the Federal Trade Commission.   Once a collector receives a letter telling them to stop contacting you, they may only contact you to say that there will be not further contact or regarding a specific action.

Thanks to the Ann Arbor Tenants Union for the credit information

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.

Chicago Space / Occupancy Requirements

In order to meet legal requirements,  a unit must have at a minimum, the following amount of square feet per person:

one person – 125 sq. feet
2 people – 250 sq. feet
3 people – 350 sq. feet
4 people – 450 sq. feet
5 people – 525 sq. feet
6 people – 600 sq. ft
7 people – 675 sq. ft
8 people – 750 sq. ft
9 people – 825 sq. ft
10 people – 900 sq. ft

Leases – FAQ

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

This FAQ describes the different types of leases, how and when you can terminate a lease and identifies different lease provisions that are prohibited by law.

Does every tenant have a lease agreement?
Yes. It may be a written lease or an oral (unwritten) lease.

What is the advantage of a written lease agreement?
It sets out the terms of your agreement with the landlord. Furthermore, it states how long your tenancy will last, and your landlord cannot terminate this tenancy early unless you violate one of the lease provisions.

If I do not have a written lease, when can my tenancy be terminated?
Either you or your landlord can terminate it with at least one month advance written notice (if you pay rent every month), or at least 7 days advance written notice (if you pay rent every week). Neither of you has to give reason for terminating the tenancy.

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.

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 advance written notice. If you pay rent on a monthly basis, you must receive at least one month written notice. If you pay rent on a weekly basis, you must receive at least 7 days written notice.

What if I have a written lease that has provisions that I don’t like?
Don’t sign it. Once you sign the lease you are bound by all its provisions unless these provisions are against the law. (Illegal provisions are listed below). If you don’t like a provision, ask your landlord to cross it out. If he/she agrees to do this, both of you should put your initials next to the provision that has been crossed out.

What lease provisions are against the law?
Any provision stating that you agree to:

  • Give up any of your rights under Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance;
  • Limit your landlord’s liability for breaking the law;
  • Let your landlord win an eviction action against you without first serving you with a termination notice and a summons to appear in court;
  • Give up your right to a jury trial if your landlord files an eviction action against you;
  • Pay for your landlord’s attorney’s fees if he/she files an eviction against you;
  • Pay a late fee in excess of the amount allowed by the Ordinance (see below); or
  • Receive a discount that is equal to more than the monthly fee allowed by the Ordinance if you pay your rent before a certain day of the month.

How much can my landlord charge as a late fee?
If your monthly rent is $500 or less your landlord can charge you no more than $10 per month. If your monthly rent is more than $500, your landlord can charge you an additional fee equal to 5% of the amount that exceeds $500. Therefore if your rent is $700, your landlord can charge you $10 pus 5% of 200, for a total late fee of $20.

Is my lease still in effect if it has an illegal provision?
Yes. Your lease is still in effect, but your landlord cannot enforce the illegal provision. If he/she tries to enforce an illegal provision, you can sue him/her.

Do I have to move if my landlord sells the property before my lease ends?
No. Your lease remains in effect and the new owner has to comply with the terms of this agreement.

If I have a written lease, what happens when it ends?
If you want to leave the apartment when your lease ends, you can just move. You do not have to give your landlord any advance notice.

What if my landlord wants me to move when my written lease ends?
At least 30 days before the lease ends your landlord must provide you with a written notice stating that your tenancy will not be renewed. If you do not receive this notice in a timely manner, you may stay in the unit for up to 60 days after the date on which you do receive the notice. (remember, however, that your obligation to pay rent continues during this 60 day period).

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 Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. If you want to break the lease because your landlord has violated your rights, contact an attorney.

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 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.

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 the rent for that period that begins when the subtenant was willing to move in.

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

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.