Moving Out – FAQ

Last updated: November 2, 2009 – 2:37 PM

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

Do I have to tell my landlord I am moving if I have a written lease?
No. Your lease sets forth the date on which it ends, and you are supposed to move on that date unless you and your landlord agree to renew your lease agreement.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

What if I do not have a written lease?
If you pay rent on a monthly basis, you must give your landlord 30 days written notice that you are moving out. Otherwise, you can be held liable for another month’s rent. If you pay rent on a weekly basis, you give your landlord 7 days written notice that you are moving. Otherwise, you can be held liable for another week’s rent.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

Can I use my security deposit to pay the last month’s rent?
Not unless your landlord agrees to let you do this. If you reach such an agreement with your landlord, make sure you get this agreement in writing. A security deposit is not rent. You may get evicted if you treat like rent without your landlord’s written permission.
Please refer to Security Deposits for more information.

Is there anything I can do before I move to make sure I get back my security deposit?
Yes. Clean the apartment, repair any damage you caused, and take pictures of the apartment to verify its condition. You should ask the landlord to:

* Walk through the apartment with you just before you move out; and
* Sign a statement verifying the condition of the apartment.

Please refer to Security Deposits for more information.

What if I move out after the day I am supposed to move?
You may become responsible for an additional month’s rent. For instance, if you are supposed to move on the last day of January, but you don’t actually move until February 2, your landlord may be able to hold you responsible for the February rent.

What if I leave my property behind when I move out?
Your landlord must leave the property in the apartment or store it somewhere safe for 7 days. If the property is not worth the cost of storage, however, he/she can throw it away immediately.

Can I break my lease before it ends?
Only if your landlord agrees to let you out of the lease or violates your rights under the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. If You want to break the lease because your landlord has violated your rights, contact an attorney.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

What if my landlord doesn’t let me break the lease, but I still move out before the lease ends?
Your landlord must make a good faith effort to re-rent the apartment. If he/she’s unsuccessful, you remain responsible for the rent. If he/she rents it for less than what you were paying, you remain responsible for the difference.
Please refer to Leases for more information.

Can I sublet my apartment?
Yes, and your landlord cannot charge you any subletting fees. Furthermore, if your landlord does not let you sublet to a suitable person, you don’t have to pay rent for the period that begins when the subtenant was willing to move in.

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

What happens to my security deposit when I Sublet?
The landlord is entitled to hold your security deposit until the end of the lease, so you should either:

* Ask your landlord to return your deposit and collect a new one from the subtenant; or,
* Collect a security deposit from the subtenant yourself.

The landlord cannot keep a deposit from both you and the subtenant if the total amount of the deposit exceeds the amount listed on the lease.
Please refer to Security Deposits for more information.

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

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

All 18 Comments

  1. My landlord sold the building and the new landlord moved in and harassed me about moving my stuff out of the basement and garage. She told me I am not renting the basement. The storage place she wanted me to use is only around 8 x10 and 4 feet high. The lease does say I have storage, but doesn’t specify the where. I told her the basement is my storage space and she pretty much let that go. I have so much stuff, there is no where for me to move it. I’m entitled to half the garage, but the previous owners let me use the shelving unit on the other side as well. She then threatened to charge me for the other half, so I had to throw a bunch of stuff out. Then she threatened to not make the basement available because she was angry that I didn’t move my stuff away from the walls when she had waterproof people over. I meant to move it, but I got stuck out of town and then she expected my wife to do it. She also told me that I could not leave my severely disabled daughter home alone, even after I explained that it is only for a couple of hours a day and that my 12 yr old is not old enough to stay with her alone. Furthermore, she insists we use non- scented laundry soap because her kid is allergic. We don’t think she can do that, and then she threatened to take away the laundry privileges because she found scented dryer sheets in the dryer, because the machines are not in the lease. Then, she asked me to leave the hall light on at night, even though I pay the common electric. She says I don’t pay the electric because she reimburses me for it, but I like to keep my electric bill down. She just kept texting me about the same stuff over and over and this is clearly harassment. The lease is up in 6 weeks and she gave me notice that it would not be renewed, but we have been here 6 yrs and don’t want to move. Can we stay since she is obviously retaliating by not renewing the lease or because our daughter is disabled and it will be hard to find a place for the same rent?

    1. This sounds like a tough situation. There are several issues at play and would suggest that you call MTO’s hotline and request to speak with the eviction specialist.

      The issues at play are: A landlord does not have to provide a reason to evict a tenant at the end of the lease. The landlord is only required to give a 30 days written notice.

      The landlord is not allowed to change the terms of the lease mid lease. If the previous as a part of your agreement allowed you to use the basement then the landlord cannot change the term of the lease until the end of the lease period.

      You might be able to make a similar argument about using scented detergent.

      Retaliation is difficult to prove. Have you sent the landlord any letters asserting your rights regarding the above situation. At this point, it will be best to consult with our eviction prevention specialist.

  2. Hello- my apartment lease was up on August 31st and I moved everything out except for my bed and desk (i moved out on August 15th). I happened to know the new people moving in, so I e-mailed them the week before moving out asking them if they wanted to buy the bed and the desk, I got a response saying that they might be interested, and that they would let me know. Turns out they just wanted to have their lease start and claim the possessions for themselves. I know some states have a law that the landlord has to contact the prior tenant, hold the possessions for a certain number of days, and then they can do whatever they want with it. Is this true for Chicago?

    Any help would be appreciated, thanks

    1. Have you put a demand in writing requesting the return of your property to the landlord and the tenants? That is often a first step. Do you have any proof that the furniture is yours?

      If the tenant moved in prior to the end of the lease term, you may be able to ask for a pro-rated amount of rent.

      1. I have- the apartment claims that they had two options: either throw it out and charge me for it, or give it to the new tenants as if I had “lost” the furniture.

        I have researched online that landlords need to store the personal items left behind for a certain amount of days, and must, at the very least, attempt to reach out to the previous tenant and allow him the opportunity to re-claim his belongings. The landlord did neither of these things. However, online it says that laws on this differ in different states, and some landlords may do whatever they want with the furniture the day the lease ends. So my question is, what is the ruling on this in Chicago? I have done extensive online research and can’t seem to find the law regarding this matter for Illinois.

        Again, any help is greatly appreciated.

      2. I am sorry I did not know that you lived in Evanston. The laws are different for many cities. From your previous email I could not tell what you told the landlord and the tenants regarding the furniture. You could run into some problems. The landlord may say that this is a retail deal gone bad and thus the landlord is not responsible. Have you asked for the furniture back in writing. If the current tenants state that it is their property, how are you going to prove that it is yours. I am not an attorney and I suggest that you contact an attorney. If you want to try to resolve this without an attorney, you could begin with a letter to both the tenants and the landlord demanding your property and lay out exactly what happened. You left on 15th planning to return to get the furniture as you had the unit leased until the first. You never agreed to let the current tenants move in prior to the 1st nor agreed that they could have the furniture. The tenants did move in.

        Here is the Chicago law regarding disposition of abandoned property. If the tenant abandons the dwelling unit as described in subsection (e) hereof, or fails to remove his personal property from the premises after termination of a rental agreement, the landlord shall leave the property in the dwelling unit or remove and store all abandoned property from the dwelling unit and may dispose of the property after seven days. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if the landlord reasonably believes such abandoned property to be valueless or of such little value that the cost of storage would exceed the amount that would be realized from sale, or if such property is subject to spoilage, the landlord may immediately dispose of such property.

        The law allows the landlord to charge you for the storage of the goods.

  3. I am looking for a little help with a situation I am in now. I moved to Chicago last March and signed a 12 month lease. In Dec of last year I resigned a lease for another 12 months taking me through March 2013. The owners of the condo I am renting contacted me and said due to financial reasons they were trying to sell the place and I got an email from their real-estate guy saying they are under contract and are doing an inspection this week. They want me to move out in mid July. What are my rights? Do I have to move by the date they give or can I move when I find another apt that is similar etc (I can’t seem to find anything around now for the price I am paying and feel, I won’t find a place in a month). What do they have to pay? Moving costs, anything else? I just feel like I am totally pushed into a corner and don’t know what to do at this point. Any advise is appreciated.

    1. Is there a clause in the lease that states the you or the landlord can terminate the lease or a separate clause not included in the fine print that allows the landlord to terminate the lease? If not then the landlord must honor the terms of the lease and if the unit is sold the new owner must honor the lease.

  4. My roommate and I are two weeks away from moving out (Thank God!) but we are a bit confused regarding the security deposit situation. When we moved in, we had a “Move-in fee” not a security deposit. We read our contract at least three times to see if there is anything that said something about the fee and what is expected when we move out. Will the apartment management be able to claim anything against us if they felt that the apartment was not left the way they wanted it to be? Do they have the right to ask us for money for any damages, if any, once we move out, similarly to how other landlords take out $$ out of the security deposit when the tenant moves out?

    Lastly, I have been renting since college, close to 10 years now and our current apartment management is the worst management I have ever encountered. I want to know who I can report them to and actually have this report make a difference? I wrote a review on YELP about them but apparently they have filtered it together with the other bad reviews which involve other tenants even having health issues which they never had before due to this management’s neglect.

    Any additional information regarding the move-in fee and the report is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. **(I forgot to add what happened after we read our contract at least three times)**

      All that we read were things related to a security deposit and the consequences, etc. Nothing involving a move-in fee.

      1. Move in fees are a new phenomena. I would suggest that you write a letter to your alderman suggesting that this fee needs regulation. It seems like it is a fee where the landlord get money for doing nothing.

    2. In regards to your question, what did the agreement state that the move in fee was for. Landlords can only charge under normal situations for damage beyond normal wear and tear. For instance if you put a hole in the wall you could probably be charged for that.

      We are currently contemplating developing an app that could not only help with renters rights but also identify bad landlord. Currently we do not have anyway to report bad landlords nor do we know of any.

  5. My lease is up september 30th and my landlord began showing my apartment the 1st week of september to potential renters. She shows the apartment without notice and just comes by ringing the bell before she enters. She called this morning to tell me that she will be showing my apartment 4 times today eventhough I’m at work. She sas that she can hold our security deposit if I do not comply bcus I am stopping her from renting out the apartment in a reasonable amount of time. Isn’t this illegal? What can I do? I live in west suburban berwyn, illinois.

    1. I am not sure if Berwyn has laws governing this situation. Are there any clauses in your lease that talk about landlord entry. If there are, they might help to clarify the situation. Illinois law does not give permission to the owner to enter. It gives the sole right of possession to the tenant, therefore the landlord needs permission to enter. As for keeping your security deposit, the landlord can only keep the deposit for damages.

  6. In order for there to be retaliation that is actionable, the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance does NOT require any written notice…..surely, written notices or requests (where the tenant keeps a copy for themselves) is better that no such writing, but verbal demands only do not prevent actions by the tenant for damages for retaliation.

    Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, is usually thought of as the best way to communicate with a landlord in writing; however, landlords who are not inclined to follow the law seldom, in my experience, accept or pick up Certified Letters. Try in addition, a certificate of mailing, or personal delivery to the landlrod with a witness, etc.

  7. My landlord was very flaky the whole year. I had to remind him plenty of times before anything was fixed. Our toilet kept overflowing and I left him several messages about it (which he is denying ever receiving). finally, while we were at work, the tenant below us called him about a leak into his bathroom, and we had to get a new toilet. He tried to blame us for not telling him about the problem and almost tried to make us pay for the new toilet (which came a week later so we had no toilet for a week). Later the tenant complained about water damage in his bathroom and again we were not home, so I gave the landlord permission to check it out. He called and said that our sink drains were broken and it caused major damage underneath us. My lease was up in august but he has pt us on a temporary month-to-month until we were able to sign a new lease. Now he gave me a letter that he decided not to renew my lease because “I am negligent.” I couldn’t have told him there were faulty pipes if water never overflowed into our bathroom and our sink worked perfectly. He is trying to take out the money for the damage from the security deposit. Because he is already kicking me out, I do not want to pay October’s rent, but make him keep the security deposit instead. Is it legal for him to kick me out like this? I have paid rent on time every month and let him know immediately when I found problems with the apartment. Please advise.

    1. From what you write, it appears as though you never put your repair concerns in writing. Your landlord may be retaliating against you, but because there have been no written complaints or calls to the city, it would be difficult to prove.

      As for your security deposit. It appears that your landlord’s neglect of the plumbing in the bathroom is responsible for the damage. 1. Take pictures of this both now and when you move out. 2. Write to your landlord now – a certified letter – explaining the repair problems in your apartment as they have developed, your response to them (phone calls and messages) and his response (or lack-thereof.)

      If your landlord would like you to move, he must give you a 30 day written notice, since you are on a month to month lease. You still must pay your October rent. If you fail to do so, your landlord could successfully sue you for it, regardless of whether or not he chooses to keep your security deposit.

      Once you’ve moved out, your landlord must provide you with an itemized invoice within 30 days if he intends on keeping your money. If he sends one with damage you did not do, or you do not receive one, call our Hotline for referrals to attorneys. If he illegally keeps your deposit, you can sue for double your deposit plus attorneys fees. Many of our attorneys may take your case pro-bono if the case is solid (you took pictures, have all the documentation, etc.)

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