Moving In – FAQ

Last updated: November 2, 2009 – 2:36 PM

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?

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.

All 10 Comments

  1. I lived in a building that is not covered by RLTO (it was only 4 units and that landlord lived there). What kind of rights do I have for my security deposit? Or better yet, is there a certain set of rules the landlord must follow when returning my security deposit? It has been 46 days and I have not seen a check or a notice of any deductions. I know under RLTO this would be an issue, but I am not sure what the rules are since my building did not fall into that category. If you have a link to where I can find this information, that would be a great help.


    1. Because you do not live in an ordinance covered there are no hard and fast deadlines. Does it say anything in your lease? You may want to start with a letter to the landlord asking when you can expect your deposit. If the landlord does not respond then you will have to go to court and sue the owner.

  2. If a tenant moves out at the end of their lease which is 2/28/11 . when should they get their sercurity deposit back Is it 45 days after move out.

    1. Hi Jan, if you’re covered under the Chicago RLTO, your landlord is required to return your deposit within 45 days of your move out. Your landlord is also required to disclose any intent to withhold a portion of your deposit for damages within 30 days of your move out, otherwise, the law requires your landlord to return your deposit to you, in full, within the 45 days. If you aren’t covered under the Chicago RLTO, there isn’t anything codified, but court precedents have shown that the standard is 45 days for renters not covered under the RLTO as well.

  3. I have a written lease agreement and when I signed, the lease did NOT have a date of expiration on it. When I received my copy back from the superintendent, someone had handwritten the start and end dates in on the contract. I did not initial the changes, nor did the super/landlord. I was also not given a copy of the RTLO when I moved in. We moved in less than 90 days ago and my husband is being relocated because of his job. When I called the landlord to advise him that we would be leaving within 30 days, he told me that it was OUR responsibility to find a subtenant. Had I known that this was the policy in Chicago, I would NEVER have signed the lease.

    Since we did not receive a copy of the RTLO when we signed the lease, I presume that we just have to give notice that we will be terminating because of that. Please advise of proper verbiage for a notification letter of termination for failure to receive the RTLO. Thanks!

    1. If you are covered by the Chicago Landlord and Tenants Ordinance and did not receive a summary of the ordinance then the law allows tenants to terminate the lease by sending the landlord a written notice stating that you did not receive a summary of the law and thus you will be terminating the lease and will be out of unit within 30 days. I would check all the documents that you received as well as read though the lease to make sure that the summary is not written into the lease or that you signed anything stating that you received the summary.

  4. Is the landlord required to clean the apartment or have it professionally cleaned before I move in? I have signed a lease for the 15th and the previous tenant (who also has several pets) is moving out on the 14th. I asked the landlord if he would be sending cleaners through on the morning of the 15th and he said no, the previous tenant was supposed to leave the apartment clean, as it was when she arrived. He said that if she doesn’t clean it well enough to let him know. The problem is, I won’t find out if it’s “clean enough” until I arrive with movers on the 15th, which is too late. Is it acceptable for him to leave final apartment cleaning up to the tenants? She seems like a nice woman, but few people have the energy to thoroughly clean an apartment after a long day of moving. I fear the place will be filled with pet hair when I move in. I thought this was the landlord’s responsibility. Thanks in advance for you help!

    1. The landlord is required to make the unit ready for you to move in. Certainly if it is not ready then you do not have to move in nor pay rent for that time and can terminate the lease if it is not ready. This is probably not that helpful. I would negotiate with the landlord to see what you can do if the unit is not ready. Will he allow you to hire a cleaner and deduct the cost from the rent. I would make sure that if there are problems that you document the situation but taking pictures and/or video of the unit and have it time dated if possible.

  5. Hi all,
    I am looking to move into a place with an 1100 rent and the move in date is about a month and a half away. The landlord wants me to pay the security deposit (1100) to hold the apartment. I told him that I can write him a check and date it to the first of the month (when the move in date is) but he wants it all now. Is this normal/legal practice?????

    1. It is not an illegal practice. A month and half is a long time for the landlord to hold your money. Maybe you can put a lessor amount down to hold the apartment.

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