Support the Just Housing Amendment

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 10.09.04 AMOne out of every three Americans has an arrest record. Nearly 50% of children have a parent with a criminal record. Housing policies that ban people with records disproportionately affects people of color and people with disabilities.

The Just Housing Amendment will ban discrimination in real estate transactions based on one’s covered criminal history, help reduce recidivism and make Cook County a safe place, as well as protect children and families from the consequences of housing instability. People re-entering their communities with access to stable housing are seven times less likely to recividate than those facing homelessness.

Home is the cornerstone from which people build better lives for themselves and their families. People with criminal records, like everyone else, deserve a place to call home. Housing is a right!

Saturday, September 25th: the Rents Rights Expo

Learn about bed bugs, credit repair, foreclosure, repair issues, housing subsidies and more.

Come join us Saturday September 25th from 9am- 2pm at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave., for the cities largest rental housing expo, hosted by “Chicago Rents Right”. The highlight of the expo will be the workshops that will be put on by various organizations including workshops on bed bugs, building code violations, reasonable accommodations for the disabled, subsidized housing, foreclosures, credit repair, updates on the amended Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance, and even workshops for condo board associations.  There will be translators available for Spanish speaking tenants.  There will be counselors who specialize in foreclosure prevention and general landlord/tenant questions.

One of the most essential workshops this year will be on the subject of bed bugs. Nationwide, Chicago is one of the top 5 cities being hit by the bed bug epidemic.  The workshop on bedbugs will be useful for those who are trying to get rid of bed bugs and useful for those trying to avoid getting bed bugs.  If Chicago is going to be successful in doing away with this epidemic it will have to be done by those educated on how to effectively exterminate bed bugs AND citizens educated on how to stop the further spread of bed bugs.

“Chicago Rents Right” is a program of the Chicago Department of Community Development, and has a committee comprised of local community organizations, including Metropolitan Tenants Organization, with a common goal of helping tenants and/or landlords.  Admission to the event and workshops is free.

Apartment Conditions and Repairs – FAQ

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

What is my landlord responsible for?
Your landlord has a duty to keep your apartment in good shape and make all necessary repairs. If she fails to do this, you may be able to:

  • Make the repairs yourself and deduct their cost from your rent;
  • Withhold a portion of your rent;
  • Sue your landlord; or
  • Terminate your lease agreement. This pamphlet explains when and how you can do these things.

What must my landlord do to maintain the condition of my apartment?
Keep your toilet, bathtub, shower, and bathroom sink in good working order;

  • Keep your furnace and boiler in good working order;
  • Keep your windows weatherproof;
  • Keep your floors, walls and ceilings in good repair;
  • Keep your plumbing fixtures in good repair;
  • Keep your electrical outlets safe and operable;
  • Prevent the accumulation of stagnant water;
  • Keep all of the appliances he supplies in good working order;
  • Maintain the building is foundation, exterior walls, and roof in good and watertight condition;
  • Provide adequate hall and stairway lighting; Keep all stairways and porches in a safe and sound condition;
  • Provide trash containers;
  • Protect you against rodents and insects by exterminating; and
  • Comply with all other requirements of Chicago’s Municipal Code.

If my landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can I use my rent to pay for these repairs?

Yes, but only if the repair will not cost more than $500 or one-half of your rent (which ever is greater). Using your rent money to make necessary repairs is called “repairing and deducting.”

How do I “repair and deduct?”
First you must give your landlord a written notice stating that, unless she makes the necessary repairs within 14 days, you will make them yourself and deduct their cost from your rent. Keep a copy of the notice. If your landlord doesn’t make the necessary repairs within 14 days of receiving the notice, you can make the repairs or pay someone else to do it. After giving your landlord paid receipts to confirm the cost of repair, you can deduct this cost from your rent. See sample letter here.

What if I want to repair a problem in a common area, such as a stairway or hallway?
You must first give all of the other tenants written notice of your plan to make the repair.

If my landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can I withhold a portion of my rent?
Yes, but first give your landlord a written notice stating that, unless she makes the necessary repairs within 14 days, you will withhold a certain portion of your monthly rent payments. NOTE: You cannot withhold a portion of your rent and “repair and deduct” in the same month.

If I decide to withhold a portion of my rent, exactly how much should I withhold?
The amount you withhold must reasonably reflect the reduced value of your apartment. Be conservative. You cannot withhold all your rent unless your apartment is in such bad shape that you must move, and you can rarely withhold as much as 50%. If you withhold too much, your landlord may be able to evict you for nonpayment of rent. To be safe, consult with an attorney. See “rent reduction” sample letter here.

Can I terminate my lease because my landlord has failed to make necessary repairs?
Yes, but only in very serious cases. Consult with an attorney first.

How can I terminate my lease?
First, you must provide your landlord with written notice that you will terminate your lease in no less than 14 days unless he makes whatever repairs are necessary. If she does not correct the problem within 14 days of receiving this notice, you may terminate your lease agreement. If you terminate the lease, you must move within the next 30 days otherwise your lease will remain in effect. See sample letter here.

If my landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can I sue him/her?
Yes, but consult with an attorney first.

Can I make my landlord pay for the cost of repairing a problem I caused?
No.

What if my landlord fails to provide me with an essential service (such as heat, electricity, or running water)?
See the page entitled Heat & Other Essential Services.

Does my landlord have to repaint my apartment?
Not unless the paint is cracking or peeling.

Can I sue my landlord if my property is damaged in her apartment?
Only if the property was damaged as a result of your landlord’s negligence.

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

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

Lawyers, Low-Income Housing & Other Resources

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

Legal Organization Referrals

Evictions (tenant must be low-income)

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

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

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

Advice before court or to get an extension to stay:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security Deposit Defense

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

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

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

Tenants over 60 years of age

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

Tenants with Disabilities And Seniors

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

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

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

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

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

Tenants living in Logan Square or surrounding neighborhoods:

Micah Legal Aid……… …….773 463-6768

Tenants living in or around Uptown area 60640

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

Suburbanites with questions

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

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

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

Du Page……… ..630-690-2130

Kane………….…630-232-9415

Lake & McHenry………847-662-6925

Will………………815-727-5123

Peoria…………….309-674-9831

MTO Lawyer Referral List

PRIVATE ATTORNEYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph F. Vitu    ……….312-726-2323

Susan Ritacca …………… 872-222-6960

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government & Other Resources

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

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

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

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

CHA………………………………312-935-2600

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Condo Owners………. 312-987-1906

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HUD…………………………..312-353-7776

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discrimination

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foreclosure

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

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

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

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

Tenants in foreclosure (income guideline & costs)

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

(Statewide)……………………….855-207-8347

Low-Income Housing Resources:

www.ILHousingSearch.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landlords seeking assistance

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

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

Community Investment Corporation……………312 258 0070

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

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

Resources for Homeowners:

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

Translation Services:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois Laws

Foreclosure (Right to Possession) Law: Public Act 095-0262

Illinois Condo Conversion Ordinance

Illinois State Preservation Ordinance

Illinois Code of Civil Procedure – Eviction – Sets out in detail the procedures and methodology of eviction court cases.

Condo Conversion Proposal

“New” Illinois Condo Conversion Law – Outlines a tenant’s rights and a developer’s responsibilities in converting rental property into condominiums for purchase.

Illinois Rent Concession Act – Statute requires disclosure of all rent concessions in leases so that potential buyers, etc. are not misled or deceived by secret and undisclosed concessions made by landlords to tenants.

Illinois Rent Control Preemption Act – State law provides that no local government like Chicago can regulate the amount of rent charged by landlords for residential and commercial property.

Illinois Rental Property Utility Service Act – Complex statute relating to the regulation of charges to tenants for utility services. The main provision relates to a tenant paying for common areas of a building and in such event, the court may treble the damage award when the court finds that the landlord’s violation of this Act was knowing or intentional. The tenant may also recover costs and fees, including attorneys fees, if the amount awarded by the court for utility service is in excess of $3,000.

Illinois Residential Tenants’ Right to Repair Act – Gives tenants the right to do certain repairs to their apartments and to deduct such payments, with proper documentation, from their rent. The state statute falls short of tenants’ rights under The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.

Click here for a sample Illinois “Repair and Deduct” letter

Illinois Retaliatory Eviction Act – Protects tenants in the State of Illinois from a landlord failing to renew a lease when the tenant has complained to a governmental agency about building code violations and the need for repairs. The state statute falls short of tenants’ rights under The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.

Illinois Safe Homes Act –  Allows the victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking to terminate their lease by proper notice to the landlord. Also, changing locks is also provided for in this new law.
Safe Homes Act of Illinois (Domestic Violence)
Safe Homes Act Violence Against Women Flyer (English) (Spanish)
Safe Homes Act Violence Against Women Brochure (English) (Spanish)

Illinois Security Deposit Interest – Provides for the payment of interest on security deposits where the number of units in a building or in a complex of buildings exceeds 25 in number. If the failure is WILLFUL then damages are due to the tenant equal to the amount of the security deposit plus attorney’s fees. The state statute falls short of tenants’ rights under The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.

Illinois Security Deposit Return Act – For all properties of 5 units or more, provides for the return of the tenants security deposits. If the amount is not refunded in a timely fashion and/or if inadequate documentation of deductions is present, then damages equal to two times the amount of the deposit may be imposed. It provides for the liability of the seller and buyer of residential property as to security deposits of tenants. The state statute falls short of tenants’ rights under The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.

Illinois Landlord and Tenant Act – Statute providing that landlord may NOT exempt themselves from payment of damages to a tenant due to negligence of the landlord.

Illinois Tenant Utility Payment Disclosure Act – Allows owners to pass along utility charges made under a MASTER billing arrangement provided the tenant gets certain information in writing as to the formula used to assess such costs to individual units and so that there is no excess charges passed along to occupants of separate units.

Public Act 095-0262 – This law sets out the rights and procedures to be followed during a foreclosure (Right to Possession).

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.

Heat & Other Essential Services – FAQ

thermostat

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

What are essential services?
Heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas,and plumbing.

Who is responsible for paying for these services?
That depends upon the terms of your lease agreement.

What if I’m responsible for the cost of heating my apartment?
Your landlord must give you a written statement setting forth the projected average monthly cost of heating your unit. (Your landlord must do this even if your tenancy is not governed by Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance).

What if I get a shut-off notice because my landlord didn’t pay a utility bill?
After giving your landlord written notice of this problem, you can

  • pay the utility company to keep the service on, and
  • deduct from your rent the amount you pay the utility company.

What is the first thing I should do if an essential service that my landlord is supposed to supply is shut off?
You must first give your landlord written notice of this problem. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. After providing such notice, you have several options. These options are set forth in the answers to the next five written questions.

Can I pay the utility company to restore the service?
Yes, and you can deduct this payment from your rent. Make sure you get a receipt from the utility company so you can prove how much you paid.

Can I buy something (such as a space heater) that can supply the essential service?
Yes, and you can deduct from your rent the cost of what you’ve bought. Make sure you get a receipt for your purchase so you can prove how much you paid for it. Do not use a gas stove to heat the apartment!

Can I sue my landlord?
Yes, but contact an attorney first. He/she can help you sue your landlord for an amount that reflects the reduced value of your apartment plus attorney’s fees.

Can I move out of my apartment and stay in a motel until the essential service is restored?
Yes, and you do not have to pay rent for the period you’re in the motel or other temporary housing. Furthermore, you may deduct from your future rent payments the cost of this temporary housing (as long as it does not exceed your monthly rent).

If my landlord doesn’t restore the essential service, can I terminate my lease?
Yes, but only if your landlord doesn’t restore the service within 72 hours of receiving your written notice. If that happens, you can send your landlord another written notice stating that you are terminating the lease agreement.
NOTE: You may not terminate your lease agreement for lack of an essential service if the utility company is unable to provide the service). If you terminate the lease, you must move within the next 30 days. Otherwise, your lease will remain in effect.

What if a member of my family, a guest, or myself are responsible for the lack of service?
In that case, you may not use any of the remedies set forth above.

Am I entitled to notice if the building’s utilities are going to be disconnected?
Yes. Your landlord must provide you with written notice of any proposed shut-off. This notice must:

  • Identify the service that will be terminated;
  • State the intended date of termination; and
  • State whether the proposed termination will affect your apartment.

What if my landlord fails to provide me with this notice?
You can notify him/her, in writing, that you will terminate the lease agreement in no less than 14 days if he/she does not provide you with the required information. If you terminate the lease, you must move within the next 30 days. Otherwise, your lease will remain in effect.

How warm should my apartment be?
The Chicago Municipal Code states that, from September 15 of each year to June 1 of the following year, the temperature in your apartment must be at least:

  • 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • 66 degrees for all other times.

*This is true even if your tenancy is not governed by Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.*

What if my apartment is too cold?
Record the temperature in your apartment three times a day for a week. If these recordings show that your apartment is too cold, send your landlord a letter stating that he/she is violating the Chicago Municipal Code and must increase the temperature in your apartment. If he/she doesn’t comply with this demand, call the City’s Heat Hotline at 312/744-5000.

What if my landlord shuts off my utility service in an attempt to force me out of the apartment?
Call the police and an attorney. (For more information, see “Lock-outs and Retaliation“).

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

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