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Home » Chicago Laws, Chicago-specific Guide, Rental Laws

Exceptions to the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance

last updated on February 12, 2009 – 8:00 AM65 comments

If you live in Chicago, the Chicago RLTO 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).

This information does not apply if you live outside of the City of Chicago or if one of the above conditions apply.


  • Katrena says:

    Hello I have a question. I been staying in the 15 apartment complex for almost 9 years. We have New owner for the building that I live in. How soon can the New owner go up on your rent & how much notice should they give the tenant before they go up. What is the minimum or maximum amount they can go up at one time.

    Are the New owner obligate to do what the old owner should had done. Like clean my carpet & paint my apartment.

    The new owner went up on my rent additional $75 dollars. Can I ask for updated appliance & cabinets.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    • If you are on a lease, the landlord cannot increase the rent until the lease is up. The landlord must give a 30 day written notice of intent to increase the rent on a month -to-month agreement. There are not limits as to how much a landlord can increase the rent.

      The new owner is obligated to follow all agreements. On a month to month agreement the new owner can change any of the rules by providing a 30 day notice. There are no rules regarding painting other than paint cannot be chipping or pealing especially if there is lead present in the paint. There are no rules regarding cleaning the carpets.

      A tenant is always allowed to ask for improvements and repairs. the landlord is not under any obligation to improve the property but the landlord does have to maintain the building up to the building code.

  • Jaquana Matthews says:

    Hey john,

    My name is jaquana and I moved into this apartment on December 9th and thought it would be ok but since I moved in I’ve been having problems, I wasent aware this building was an drug infested building along with Hugh bug infested problems. I have a 4 year old son who has asthma and roaches are known for being a trigger to start asthma attacks. What can I do to end my lease??? The building is dreg infested along with marjor roach problems I can’t take it any longer I’m paying rent and I’m trying to seek help the property manger have them come to exterminate but nothing seems to work if the whole building is infested.

    • If a repair problem and roaches would be considered a repair problem makes the unit not reasonably fit and habitable then you can terminate the lease. I would start by getting a letter from your doctor stating that roaches are creating a health problem for your child. Then send the landlord a letter 14-day letter with the doctor’s note to terminate the lease if the problems are not remedied. You can use the Squaredaway.com app or contact our Healthy Homes Organizer at mangelica@tenants-rights.org

  • Ashley says:

    Hi John,

    We have a lease in an 18 unit condo building in Chicago city limits that ends May 31. We’re purchasing our first home and closing the end of February. Our landlord (the owner of our condo) is planning on listing and selling the unit rather than re-renting and as such is making no attempts to find someone to take over our lease. We asked to break our lease the end of March, paying a full month’s rent when the unit will be unoccupied, but they’re insisting that we fulfill the lease and pay through the end of May. We also requested that we be allowed to sublet the condo, which they’re denying because the condo association doesn’t allow sublets.

    So, three questions:

    1) If they’re planning on selling rather than re-renting, does that fulfill the requirement for them to make an effort to find someone to take over the lease? It seems to us that this is not at all the same, but we’re unclear of the law.
    2) Do the condo association rules to not allow sublets override the Chicago RLTO in this case? Our lease does say that they must allow sublets, in conflict with the association rules.
    3) Any other advice on how to move forward? We’re trying to be reasonable and compromise while also being aware that we’re breaking the lease. They seem to be taking advantage of the situation to benefit their attempt to sell while collecting rent for as long as possible without otherwise renting the unit. It should also be noted that our offer on our new home was accepted over three weeks ago, we informed them immediately, and they’ve been dragging their feet on listing. The unit is still not listed nearly a month later.

    Thanks in advance for any info and advice!

    • In answer to your questions, though I would add you should consult with an attorney as I am not an attorney.

      First did the landlord provide you with an up-to-date summary of the Chicago law. If not then you can terminate the lease by giving teh landlord a written notice stating that ordinance summary was not provided and therefore you can terminate the lease lease immediately and move out within 30 days. If you do not move out within 30 days then you will be lliable for the lease.

      The Chicago Ordinance as well as State law requires that the landlord try to mitigate your damages. 5-12-120 Subleases.
      If the tenant terminates the rental agreement prior to its expiration date, except for cause authorized by this chapter, the landlord shall make a good faith effort to re-rent the tenant’s dwelling unit at a fair rental, which shall be the rent charged for comparable dwelling units in the premises or in the same neighborhood. There is nothing in the law that states if a lnaldord wants to see the unit then they do not have to follow the law.

      Condo associations can overrule the RLTO but you do not have any agreement with the condo association. It is the landlord’s problem. The landlord still has to follow the Landlord and tenants ordinance.

      I cannot give you any legal advice. You can go ahead and find a sublet and then the landlord will have deal with the situation.

      • Ashley says:

        This is all really helpful information! Thank you so much. For your first question though about providing us with an up-to-date summary of the law – is that something they needed to provide when we signed our lease, or something that they need to provide us with now that this situation has come up?

        • When you sign your lease, a landlord must provide you with a summary of the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenants Ordinance. Please check the fine print in the lease to make sure that you did not sign that you received it.

          One other possibility is did the landlord collect a security deposit from you? There are some strict laws landlords are obligated to follow and you landlord may not have followed them which could give you leverage to end your lease.

        • Ashley says:

          The box was pre-checked for us that we received it, but it was included in the packet they gave us. However, the version they gave us was approved by the City of Chicago in July 2010 and it looks like there was an update to the summary in 2016, although the date is unclear. Likely after we signed our lease in April 2016.

          They did collect a security deposit from us, but I’m fairly certain they followed procedures for that – we have the address of where the deposit is held, interest rate, etc.

  • Sandy says:

    Hi John,

    I moved into my apartment about a year ago and after moving in I noticed the apt needed alot of repairs. The lighting in my bedroom would just stop working, the plumbing was terrible. The tub would constantly get clogged. The kitchen sink was constantly getting clogged too. It just seemed like the entire apartment needed alot of repairs and when they did fix things it looked like they just cut alot of corners. Finally my tub would not drain properly and they came in and “fixed it” after 1 month of me requesting this and when I got back home they had broken the kitchen sink and the tub was ok for 1 week then back to the same issue. The kitchen sink started leaking and the cabinet below started molding and it ruined alot of my items and pantry. All the cabinets were in dire need of repair and again that took months. Finally he sent ppl to fix the sink and told me it would be completed in one day. I returned home from work to find it half done. I had asked for an extension on my rent due to financial issues before…so when I asked the landlord why it wasnt done he said it wouldnt be done until I paid the rent. The sink would not drain properly! It’s literally rotting the new cabinet they replaced at the bottom again! So they put a new one in to just let it mold all over again. I can only wash 3 dishes at a time before it cloggs again. I asked the landlord to fix it and she responded back 1 month later stating she was going to evict me for non payment. All the payments were in her bank account pending her approval not my fault at all. She also claimed the workers told her the job was complete. I sent her pictures and she said it was my fault for not using the sink stoppers. At this point the old cabinets are still there and the new one is in place but rotting. She stated they would not be putting in new cabinets ( they are diff colors to top it off). I was also asked to resign my lease in september when my current lease wasnt up until 12/1. I was told all these repairs would be done and its been 3 months and i never received a signed lease back. I signed it but never got the full copy back. My landlord has also entered the building without my permission and I have a witness. The other tenants are also very filthy. They leave rotten food in the common area and they leave their garbage outside in the back. I have seen alot of rats around there.I think they have a full on family of 5-6 in a small little apartment. I really dont know what to do, I just want to terminate my lease the apt is just so old and he even said my apt was the most outdated one. My landlord lives on site during the summer only but he did include the RLTO when i signed the first and second time. I withheld rent in hopes they would fix something 🙁 Please let me know what my options are.

    • I am a little hesitant about the whether the Chicago Ordinance applies to your situation. I think there are some good arguments for it being covered as it does not seem like this is her residence though I am not sure how the law will interpret it as being a summer home. Do you know where she resides the rest of the year? Is she a resident of another state?

      If you want to move, the first step may be to write a letter to the landlord stating the repairs and that because the repairs and unsanitary condition of the property you would like to terminate the lease and get your deposit returned. You would like to do this in a way that benefits everyone. You can always call the City inspectors and get an attorney but it seems like an easier way is just to talk and work it out.

      If that does not work, then call the inspectors (plumbing, rodent patrol and any other problem.

      If you are behind in rent this may provoke the landlord to evict you. You may need to modify the strategy a little.

  • Gretel J says:

    Hello. I moved into a two flat with landlord living on first floor. She and the neighbors were basically bullying me. She was certain I had been doing things I did not do to the building. The neighbors led her to believe I was up on the roof installing a flood light?! (Light that had clearly been there for decades.) She called me a liar when I tried to explain I wouldn’t do that and was honestly confused. It was a hopeless situation; and she hated my work schedule and the sound of my cats on the floor, so we agreed that I should move out and that she would return my security deposit. I loved the apartment but moved in consideration of her age, 90s, and my own self preservation 5 months into the lease. We had a verbal agreement that she would return my security deposit after I moved. I moved on October 7, 2016. She still has not returned my security deposit. Do I have any rights as the tenant of an owner occupied 2 flat? I believe the woman is dealing with dementia. There is also a realtor involved who benefited from me renting the space and then having me move out and then renting it out again. It seems like a con to me. I’ve been unable to get help from the realtor in this matter. Please advise. Thank you for providing this service.

    • The security deposit laws governing owner occupied buildings are not that helpful to your situation. You mentioned that you and the landlord came to an agreement that you would move out and the landlord would return your security deposit. Do you have documentation that the landlord made this agreement? A written agreement would be best but any communication mentioning the agreement would help. Did the realtor know of the agreement. Was there any written communication regarding the reasons that you left? Have you written the landlord a letter asking for the deposit? These would all be helpful.

  • David says:

    Hi! Is there a resource for the rules and responsibilities of a landlord in an owner occupied two-flat? I realize it’s not covered by RLTO but there must be some regulation or rules right?

    • The are rules and regulations. Landlords still have to obey all the applicable building code ordinances and laws. Landlords cannot evict tenants without a court order. There are state laws that may be applicable. Do you have a specific question?

      • Dalia Hoffman says:

        Thought I’m not the asker of the original question, I’m glad it was asked. I *do* have a specific question. I live in an owner-occupied 3-flat. The owner retired 2 years ago. Last year was the first time he decided to spend winters elsewhere, coming home for 2-3 days each month. When he decided to embrace this new lifestyle, he told me he expects me to shovel the snow. I resisted because I am middle-aged and have long-term injury and urged him to ask our neighbor for help. He did so, offered to pay him but never did. This year he is following the same pattern. The night before he left, earlier this week, he informed me that he left a shovel (presumably for me) plus a bag or two of salt. When I asked him who he’d hired to shovel this year, he told me he expects me to shovel, but I resisted again. When he called the neighbor the next morning, she told me that he asked her again as well, but she, too, declined. He left without making arrangements. I noticed this snowy weekend that the tenant downstairs shoveled the sidewalk and the path to the house, but I use the back/garage because I drive, and that hasn’t been cleared (the path to the garage and the area in front of the garage/alley. What do you suggest I do? Thank you in advance.

        • There are not clear enforcible rules regarding snow removal particularly as it pertains to sidewalks and pathways on private property. Given that situation, I might start by getting a note from a medical person about your injury and the risk associated with shoveling snow. You best would be to make this into an accessibility issue. I do not see any easy solution.

  • Karen Aguirre says:

    Hello John,

    In June 2016, I signed a lease with 2 other roommates for a year (lease ends May 2017). In September 2016, I asked my landlord if I could sublet my room because I got a new job offer and had to relocate. She said yes and allowed me to move out. My roommates were upset that I decided to sublet, so they met with my landlord separately without my presence and complained. As a result, the landlord asked me to return my keys to her (I thought it was part of the sublease process so I did, then after two weeks, I asked for my keys back and asked why they took them from me, the landlord said my roommates complained about me not locking the door when I moved out, so they decided to confiscate them from me, is this a violation?).

    Then I noticed that the two individuals who wanted my sublease were not allowed to apply for the apartment until they met BOTH of my roommates and if my roommates were interested and they thought the person was the “perfect fit” they would get to choose if the person would get the sublease or not. I have been paying for two months rent without living or having any possessions in the apartment and my roommates continue to refuse every person that wants my sublease, the landlord also refuses to give anyone an application until my roommates decide yes or no. Additionally, one roommate is always unavailable 6 days/week for apartment viewings, so I am not even allowed to move at the pace I want.

    I asked if I can break the lease. Landlord said no because my roommates are also part of the lease.

    Any recommendations?

    • The law states that landlord and your roommates must work to mitigate your damages. You might want to start with a letter to the landlord and the tenants stating that you do not feel that they are making a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit as required by law and thus your obligation to continue paying rent is over.

      Secondly, if the owner does not live on the premises, did the owner provide you with a summary of the landlord and tenants ordinance. If not then you can terminate the lease with a letter and then you would not have to pay the rent.

      Did you provide actual written notice to the landlord that you do not intend to return to the premises? If not you can also argue that you have been locked out of the unit because the landlord took your keys and has not returned them. You could demand a key to the unit. If you are paying rent for the unit then you need to have access to the unit.

      If you quit paying rent, the landlord or the tenants could take you to court and sue. There are probably several different arguments that you could make though I would talk with an attorney if you choose this route.

  • Tenant says:

    I just moved into a room in an apartment (one floor of a two-level house) with two other roommates this past month. My landlord is an attorney. When I visited his office to sign my lease, the lease itself was in extremely fine print, and he only gave me the first page to sign (without letting me read the entire lease). When I asked him about the other pages, he sarcastically/belittlingly asked me if I wanted to read the rest of the lease while he pulled out a few more pages of the rest of the lease from BEHIND his desk. (So, he didn’t give me all the pages to sign to begin with.) Because his tone was so belittling, I signed the lease and he told me he would send me a copy after my roommates all signed it.

    After moving into the apartment, I have noticed several things that need fixing. My shower pressure is extremely low, and whenever the hot water is on, the pipes screech extremely loudly. Additionally, the floor has broken tiles/broken wood – definitely a safety hazard. The sink in the kitchen is leaking and the cupboard underneath the sink is covered in moldy newspaper. The apartment feels stuffy as there is no airflow through the apartment – all the windows are blocked with a plastic screen.

    Because the landlord does not live in this apartment (the other apartment in this house is filled with other tenants) and this is a two-apartment building, it doesn’t seem as if I am covered under the RLTO. Based on my experience so far, my landlord has been pretty unresponsive. He only gave me his office number and it’s been difficult for me to contact him because of his unavailability. Additionally, I still have not received a copy of the lease. What are my rights as a tenant in this situation??

    • If the landlord does not live on the premises, then your unit is covered by the Chicago Landlord and Tenants Ordinance. The landlord should have provided you with a summary of the Ordinance. I am not sure what you and your roommates want to do so thus is is hard to let you know what your rights are in this situation. Do you want to get things fixed? Do you want to move? Do you just want a copy of your lease?

  • Summer says:

    How can I go about getting my security deposit back if I lived in a four-unit building? I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in May of 2015, and my previous landlord is still ignoring me. I tried to get an attorney, but they said that the Chicago law does not cover units of 4 or less. Does this mean that my landlord is allowed to steal my security deposit? Also, it was a verbal lease. I have the copy of the check that he signed as my security deposit, and I have all of the texts of him saying that he would give me half of my deposit. However, a few months ago he started ignoring me. Also, I received no receipt of repairs.

    • First I want to make sure that the landlord lives on the premises. If the landlord does reside there then even if the buildings is only four units it is covered by the landlord and tenant law.

      If the unit is not covered then you may very well have to file a law suit against the landlord to get your money returned. The is no governmental agency that enforces the law. For owner occupied units not covered by the Chicago Ordinance, small claims court is probably the best venue. Small claims court means that you will have to return to Chicago to go to court. It is hardly worth the time and effort to make a special trip. Do you come to Chicago for any reasons. It may be possible to set a date and time for when you will be here.

      Other than that, you can always write negative reviews of the owner on various online publications. You could try and get friends and family to pressure the landlord to return your deposit.

  • Colette Peterson says:

    I moved into my owner occupied 3 flat, 10/15, with my 12 yo twins. My landlord seemed to be a reasonable, decent person. My 2nd or 3rd night, there was a roach crawling on my face, then one in my bed, the following night. I notified my landlord, and he pretended to be baffled. I got a used refrigerator a few days later and continued to see roaches.
    , so we thought they could be coming from the fridge…because I was seeing them now in the kitchen and not the rest of the house. The landlord told me what to buy, which was a roach bait, from the store. I purchased that along with a spray and started the process of exterminating. I went to put the roach bait where he tod me I should and guess what?! I saw old roach bait in the same areas… Indicating there was a pre exsisting problem with roaches. Then I found a dead mouse in my cupboard… What? He continued to come up with excuses to minimize the bug and rodent issue. Meanwhile my master bathroom had brown rusted water coming from it… He made an excuse for that. Well in addition to all of the issues I was having, there was frequently no lights in my hallway… No screens in the windows he was demanding my children take their shoes off when they came in, to prevent the carpet from getting dirty. I was in a 6 month lease and he asked me to sign another one and I didn’t. I set a move date for 7/1, but couldn’t find a place. I moved out on 8/7 but had things still here came back on 8/11 after he told me that he through my things out. I called the police used my key and se my things were still in ten kitchen, he followed me throughout the apartment and the refused to let me go past the living room. After about 30 minutes ( we are still waiting on Chicago police) he went into the kirchen and began to throw my things out of the house. I videotaped him refusing to let me get my things, blocking me from the kitchen, he is on video telling me to leave, none of my stuff is there and I have footage of him throwing my things out of the house. The less than helpful police did come and told him that he could not evict me, he would have to take me to court. Am I not protected because it is an owner occupied 3 flat? Can he throw my things out and damage them the way he did? There are also things missing from my apartment.

    • Lock outs are illegal in all residential rental units whether or not they are covered by the Chicago Ordinance. In this case, the police should have stopped the landlord from throwing your stuff out. In fact the police could have and should have arrested the owner if he did not stop.

      If you are missing items, I would make a police report. You could make a police report about the illegal lockout and the theft. You can sue the landlord for the lockout. An attorney may take the case, it seems like you will have some good evidence.

  • Bernie says:

    The section of the Ordinance titled “WHAT RENTAL UNITS ARE COVERED BY THE ORDINANCE? {MUN. CODE CH 5-12-010 & 5-12-020}” states that “Owner occupied co-ops and condominiums” are not covered by the Ordinance.

    I was confused by this.

    I am renting a condo unit in a building that (from what I understand) is occupied mostly by other condo owners. From my understanding, however, my unit is not “owner occupied”, since the owner is renting his unit to me.

    Is my rental covered by the Ordinance or not?


    • Condo units that are rented are covered by the law. Each condo would be considered a single unit. As an FYI, tenants need to follow condo rules which in some cases can override an agreement. For instance, a tenant can pay the rent to the owner on time. If the owner does not pay association fees, the condo association can go to court and evict both the owner and tenant.

  • Jeff says:

    I live in a Chicago 2 flat. The owner has a “bachelor pad” in the basement. He might sleep there a couple nights a week. The lease lists his address in his suburban home but the receipt uses the Chicago building’s address. He also owns two out of state properties and is gone for several months/yr.

    Does this mean I am covered under the ordinance?


    • That is a tough question to answer. I would consult with an attorney. If the landlord stays there 3 days per week it may be difficult to say it is not owner occupied.

      • Jeff says:

        Thanks for your response. The landlord just handed me a new lease (7/29) and the old lease is up on August 1.

        If the unit is not covered by the LTO, does the landlord still have an obligation to give more than a couple of days notice?

        The copy of last year’s lease did not mention what happens at the end of the lease. The new copy he just handed me gives him the right to double the rent on a daily basis until I move. This page was missing from my copy of last year’s lease.

        I don’t want to sign for another year. I believed (until today) that I would have a month to month lease since he didn’t notify me in advance. Any thoughts?

        Thank you.

        • If you are not covered by the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance then when the lease is up it is technically up and no one has to give any notice unless the lease states it. If you do not like a lease clause then raise it to the landlord and ask the owner to delete it. Lease are negotiable. If you do not sign the lease then the landlord could potentially evict you.

  • RG says:


    Beginning of June this year I moved out of a rented apartment in Chicago. I had lived in that apartment for almost 3 years. At the time I moved in, I had put in one month rent security deposit. My understanding is that per Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance, the landlord was supposed to provide me information about the interest bearing account in which the deposit was kept at the time of moving in the unit. The landlord had failed to do that.

    When I moved out of the unit the landlord conveniently deducted $ 300 from my deposit to cover normal wear and tear of the house. This has basically pissed me off. He just texted me how he came up with this number and never gave me a formal break-up for the repairs. In the past 3 years and even upon returning the balance portion of the deposit, he never paid me any interests. Please help me understand if the law requires the landlord to return double security deposit if they had failed to return the interests (however small they may be) in a timely manner. I am thinking about sending a letter to the land lord at the least.


    • The only time a landlord does not have to follow the security deposit law is when the landlord lives in the building and it is less than 7 units. In almost all other cases the landlord must follow the law which means the landlord is liable for the penalties.

  • Matt says:


    I just moved into a unit and noticed an issue with the front and back doors to the unit. I didn’t notice this initially but the doors don’t have a dead bolt and they both are hollow core doors. My concern is two fold. A hollow core door provides little if an any resistance to a break in and they are not fire rated. The demising wall that separates the unit from the common area should have some sort of fire rated door by code.

    Is the landlord required to provide a deadbolt and fire rated door to the individual units. What should I do? I have asked if he will change out the doors with no response.


  • steve says:

    I recently ended my 18 month lease with a homeowner who rented out the basement to me. Does this mean I am not as protected because I was the only tenant?
    I tried contacting landlord to give keys and show the apartment to and they were unable to be there. Though I cleaned the apartment I forgot to clean the oven door and the garbage disposal had stains inside it. I offered to clean again and was told it took a cleaner 4 hours to clean. Also I was going to be billed for them to bring out someone for the disposal.
    I also never got my interest after 12 months.
    Can you advise?

    • If the owner lives in the home and it is less than six units then you are not covered by Chicago’s law. If the owner rents out the first floor unit then you are covered.

      First in regards to interest, if you are not covered by the Chicago Ordinance there is no requirement to pay interest unless it is written in the lease. You should look at your lease and see if talks about interest.

      As for the return of your deposit, The law requires a tenant to return it to the unit to its original condition less normal wear and tear. When you say there were stains on garbage disposal. What does that mean? The same for the oven door. If there is food stuck to the door of the oven then it would have been best to clean it. If the stains are heat stains and the result of normal use, then you may not be responsible.

      How much money has the landlord deducted from your deposit? You can file a small claims court claim in an effort to get your money returned. Do you have any photos of the unit after you left? the more documentation and witnesses that you have the better.

      You may want to start with a letter to landlord and may want to use MTO’s web app as a means of communicating. You can find the web app at http://www.squaredawaychicago.com.

  • Brittany says:

    My apartments started leaking water from the ceiling over my bed and other areas in my room every time it rains/snows. It has almost been 2 months and the problem is not fixed. The owners of my unit had a roofer come out to fix the problem but they stopped him due to not being reimbursed because the building owner plains on fixing the entire roof. I asked my landlord for a rent reduction for this month but he has not responded to my email. This is currently rain season and my bed and floor are drenched in water due to the leakage.Do I have the right to withhold rent until the problem is fixed and what are my options. It is the 6th day of the month and I have not paid my rent yet.

    • From your question, I am assuming that the landlord does not reside on premises. In this case the law does allow tenants to reduce the rent to reflect the diminished value of the unit. The law never allows tenants to not pay any rent. If you wish to use the rent reduction portion of Chicago’s rental laws, you might first provide the landlord written notification of the problem and inform the landlord if the problem is not fixed within 14 days that you will begin reducing the rent. MTO’s Squared Away rental web app can help with this process. You can find it at http://www.squaredawaychicago.com.

  • Sleepless in Chicago says:

    I have just renewed my lease for another year, but I am thinking of moving out in the next few months. The problem is upstairs neighbor. My issue is that they are not quiet after 10pm. I wake up early and would love to go to bed around 9pm ( 10pm is absolute latest), but that’s never going to happen here, because even though my upstairs neighbor comes home around 7-8-9pm, they seem to revive at 10pm and they settle again well after 11pm ( they go to work in the mid-morn/noon). Yesterday, they settled at 1am. Space heater vibrating away, shoes, TV set, opening and closing drawers, closing cabintes, walking (read: stomping), conversations, getting on and off the bed, using bathroom – I can hear it all. Cooking smells and someone’s cigarettes and weed – those odors come into my apt thru vents. I’ve told my landlord many times that I don’t expect people to freeze at 10pm sharp and not do anything, but there has to be a limit to all that racket. If my landlord expects rent from me then I need to be functional to work and I am not. I also need my landlord to be a buffer zone between me and the neighbor and the advice I got is to “go talk to the lady”. Doesn’t work that way. My questions: is 10pm the legal cutoff time to cease excessive activity; does Ordinance cover these types of issues; when I am ready to move out, how much time and what notices should I give to my landlord; how should I document all the disturbances going on. But, basically, i just want to move out, so what would be the correct steps to do so. Thanks.

    • Noise problems like the one you describe are very difficult to resolve. Have you had a conversation with the landlord about the problem? Have you asked the landlord to let you out of the lease? The noise is a code violation. I am not sure that the tenants are violating the ordinance. the noise ordinance is probably based on a decibel level. The question is would the police cite the upstairs neighbors for noise? In most cases the police cite people for noise when they have music or other electronic equipment on too loud.

      Have you talked with the upstairs neighbor? Sometimes that can resolve the situation.

  • Ms. Roberts says:

    I moved into an owner-occupied, 2-flat building on October 1, 2012. There were minor repairs needed we my family viewed the apartment and we were told they would be taken care of. Upon moving into the apartment, the landlord told us that the Jacuzzi tub didn’t work after telling us twice that it did. Since my family has been in the apartment, we’re come across other issues in the apartment: sewer gas, a malfunctioning bedroom window, a malfunctioning back door lock, a bedroom door still missing, insect problems (spiders and house centipedes), solid wood cabinet fronts that fall on your feet if you bump the cabinet in the kitchen, a severely rusted medicine cabinet, and more. On October 21, I gave a letter to my landlord listing all the repairs and issues. He said he would work getting everything done. To date, he only repaired a broken drawer. We can’t take baths; since the jets of the tub don’t work, we can’t efficiently clean the tub. I have a 5-year- old daughter that I have to make take stand-up showers. What a mess it can be! Every time we ask the landlord when the repairs will start, he either says he’s contacting a handyman or contractor, or he’s waiting on an estimate. I feel like the landlord is giving us the run-around. At this point, I need to know if I can legally break my lease. From what I’ve read, I have the right to do so since the landlord is in noncompliance regarding maintenance and repairs. Can you help me understand my rights in this situation?

    • The Chicago law states that a tenant can terminate a lease if the repairs in question make the unit not reasonably fit and habitable. There is no definition for reasonably fit and habitable. I am not in a position to judge that. If you choose to terminate the lease then you would need to put in writing the list of all the items that need repairs and give the landlord 14 days to make the make the repairs from the time of receipt of the notice. In the letter you will also need to let the landlord know that if the repairs are not completed that you will be terminating the lease because the unit is not reasonably fit and habitable. After the 14 days have passed and if the repairs are not completed then send a letter to the landlord stating you are terminating the lease immediately and will be vacating the unit within 30 days. If you do not leave within 30 days then the lease is remains in effect.

      • Ms. Roberts says:


        Thank you for your quick response. I guess my new concern is can I legally break my lease, following the instructions you gave to me, since I live in an OWNER OCCUPIED 2-FLAT building? I read the Exceptions to the RLTO, and that’s where the confusion sets in regarding my rights as a tenant. Can you clarify the Exceptions so that I can move forward with the letter? I just want to make sure everything is in order, and I’m doing things by the book.

        Thank you again.

  • Karen says:


    1 month after signing my lease on September 2011, my wood floor started to buckle and the landlord had the buckled sheets removed. The flooring has not been reinstalled despite the fact that the black glue that is now exposed is causing me to have a headache every morning.

    I’ve asked numerous times about the floor being fixed only to be met with excuse after excuse as to why the issue isn’t being handled. When my lease was due to be resigned, I refused to sign without a guarantee that a new floor would be installed. It has now been an additional 2 months and I’m still getting excuses.

    I pay almost $1000 a month in rent and there should be no reason that this isn’t getting done!

    What can I do to force them to fix my flooring?

    • Under the Chicago Landlord and Tenants Ordinance, a tenant may give the landlord a written notice demanding that the problem be fixed within 14 days of the receipt of the notice. If the repair is not made in that time period, the tenant can then go out and hire someone to make the repair and deduct the cost from the rent. In your case you could spend up to $500 to have the floor fixed. You will have to provide receipts.

      • Karen says:

        This will cost several thousand dollars to fix. What then?

        • If it costs that much you will not be able to use the repair and deduct remedy. You might want to try reducing the rent. Once again you have to give the owner 14 days written to fix the floor and if it is not fixed then you can withhold a portion of the rent to reflect the diminished value of the unit.

  • Marissa says:

    I lived in an owner occupied building with only 4 units. 45 days after we moved out we still had not received our security deposit back so I contacted him saying that since we had not heard from him after 30 days we were assuming we would be getting our full security deposit, and when could we expect it. He said that he does not have to follow CLTO. Is this true? If so are there any rules he does have to follow? After 45 days of no return he is now trying to deduct ridiculous charges.

  • kareina says:

    I live in a two-flat, owner-occupied building. What code DOES my landlord have to follow? There are multiple problems with the building that are seriously impacting my quality of life (sewer gas, rodents in common areas, common areas under continuous construction, etc.)

  • marilyn says:

    I live in a building where the owner lives in houston, tx, but her son lives in the building basement and he collects rent and act as maintenance person. The building is a two part, one side is six units with basement and one is three units, it is connected but not connected. She is trying to tell me that she is exempt for the 5-12-020….however she still has laws to uphold correct? What laws should I tell her she has to uphold? She is trying to charge me a $10 late fee per day if I am late. Well she did charge me $10 and i was stupid enough to pay it. I need to let her know that I will not tolerate her slave mentality!

    • I would talk with an attorney and with other tenants to see if they have been charged the fee. The building does not sound owner occupied to me. If you want to know for sure you would have to go to the recorder of deeds to see if her son is also an owner of the property.

  • Carrie says:

    I am considering suing my former landlord for a number of violations of the Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance, one of which is their failure to return my security deposit to me in full including interest. There are a number of issues that complicate things a bit or else I would just represent myself. Is there someone who is reading this who could recommend a good attorney for consultation? Thanks so much!

  • Justin says:

    I rented a condominium unit from the owner and she failed to return the security deposit. It was not in an owner occupied building. Does the RTLO return period and damages provisions apply? If not, what law should I turn to?

  • Val says:

    I live in an owner-occupied two-flat and my landlord is trying to deduct “cleaning fees” from the security deposit. What recourse do I have if I left the apartment in spotless condition?

    • It is the tenants responsibility to return the unit to its original condition minus wear and tear. Cleaning fees could potentially be a part of that. My first question is how well can you document that you left the apartment in spotless condition? Did you take any photographs? Did anyone else witness the condition? Does the landlord have receipts from a cleaning service? The main problem with living in an occupied unit is that there are no penalties if landlord violates the law and attorney fees may not be included if you win. If you have any documentation you might want to start with a letter to the owner stating that you left the unit in the same or better condition than when you took it.

  • Esther says:

    I live in an owner-occupied 3 unit building. My landlord had us sign a Chicago’s RLTO Apartment lease even though it is only a 3 unit building. Does this mean that the RLTO applies because they volunteered that form as our agreement?

  • Bill Bingle says:

    I live in an owner occupied apartment building with fewer than 7 apartments. What rules apply to my landlord with regard to providing heat to my apartment.

    • Some State of Illinois laws apply. The landlord still must follow Chicago’s Building code.

      • Magdalene says:


        You seem to have dealt with a lot of landlord issues. I too live in an owner occupied building. She however attached the RLTO as part of the lease that we signed. My landlady wants me to remove some of my items from the yard. Is she required to provide storage? Also, can I counter her argument with the fact that she has her items in places I could have used for storage? I live in the upstairs floor and her things are in the unit storage closet and in the back of our unit.
        Finally, she believes my boyfriend has keys to the building and washes his clothes here (laundry is included), both of which are untrue. He is here alot, because I let him in. She wants me not to have him over any more. Can she impose this legally?

        • What does the lease say about the yard? Does it say that you can store things there? How long have you stored things in the yard. If the lease allows you to keep things in the yard the owner cannot suddenly change the rules. Is there some compromise that you can work out. Why does the landlord want you to remove the stuff.

          As for the owner’s property in your unit. Once again what does the lease state about it. If the lease is silent then you have the right to ask the landlord to remove the property of ask for a storage fee.

          As for not allowing your boyfriend on the premises, once again what does the lease state? Can the landlord ban someone from the property and for what reason.


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