Tenant Responsibilities – FAQ

Last updated: November 2, 2009 – 2:42 PM

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

As a tenant, what am I required to do?
* Throw out your trash in a clean and safe manner;
* Use all fixtures (such as lights and ceiling fans) and appliances in a reasonable and safe manner;
* Don’t damage the apartment;
* Don’t disturb your neighbors;
* Make sure your family members and guests act appropriately;
* Provide your landlord with reasonable access to your unit (see below); and
* Obey all the lawful provisions of your lease agreement.

Can I be evicted for failing to do these things?
Please refer to Evictions for more information.

When must I let my landlord into my apartment?
You must let your landlord enter your apartment to:
* Make necessary repairs;
* Supply necessary services;
* Show the apartment to prospective purchasers, workmen, etc.
* Show the apartment to prospective renters within 60 days of the date on which your lease expires; or
* Determine whether you are complying with the terms of your lease agreement. Please refer to Building Security, Locks, and the Law for more information.

Must my landlord give me advance notice before entering my apartment?
Yes. Your landlord must provide you with at least two days notice, and he/she can only enter your unit at a reasonable time. An entry between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. is presumed to be reasonable.
Please refer to Building Security, Locks, and the Law for more information.

Does my landlord ever have the right to enter my apartment without giving me advance notice?
Yes, but only when:
* There is a problem in the common area of the building or in another apartment, and he/she needs to enter your unit to unit to fix this problem; or
* There is an emergency.In either case, your landlord must let you know that he/she entered your apartment within two days after the entry.

What if my landlord keeps coming into my apartment to harass me?
You can call the police. If your landlord does not have a right to be in your apartment, the police should force him/her to leave. You can also:
* File a lawsuit and ask the court to order your landlord to stop entering your apartment more often than necessary; or
* Give your landlord written notice that you will terminate your lease agreement unless he/she stops harassing you within the next 14 days. If he/she does not stop, you can terminate the lease. If you terminate the lease, however, you must move within the next 30 days. Otherwise, the lease will remain in effect.You should consult with an attorney before pursuing either of these two options.
Please refer to Building Security, Locks, and the Law for more information.

Can I refuse to let my landlord into my apartment?
Only if you have a good reason. For instance, you can refuse to let your landlord in if he/she has not provided you with the required advance notice, or if he/she is trying to enter your apartment between 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. (Remember, however, you cannot refuse to let your landlord in when there is an emergency). If you are not sure whether you have a good reason to deny your landlord access to your apartment, call an attorney or the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (773/292-4988).

What if, without good reason, I refuse to let my landlord into my apartment?
Your landlord can:
* File a lawsuit and ask the court to order you to let him into the apartment; or
* Terminate your lease agreement and have you evicted. Please refer to Evictions for more information.

Can I change the locks without giving my landlord a new set of keys?
No. Even when you have the right to install a new lock, you must give your landlord a key.
Please refer to Building Security, Locks, and the Law for more information.

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

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

What if I damage the apartment?
If you have paid a security deposit, your landlord can withhold whatever portion of this deposit is necessary to cover the cost of repairs. (See the pamphlet entitled Security Deposits to find out what procedure your landlord must follow before withholding all or part of this deposit). If the cost of repair is more than your security deposit, or if you never paid a security deposit, your landlord can sue you for the cost of repairs.
Please refer to Apartment Conditions and Repair for more information.

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

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

All 30 Comments

  1. I have been looking on line for tenant / landlord rights and responsibilities in Illinois and specifically dupage county. Can’t find anythinig checked praire state legal services, Hud, Bar Association ect. Is there a handbook with tenant/landlord responsibilities info?

  2. I live in a senior complex via section 8. I am having trouble getting my landlord to accept my rent. We are told to pay online, but when I go online to pay my rent the complex I live doesn’t give me access for my apartment to pay my rent. I am now trying to pay my rent by check instead of paying online. I do not want to make a big to do about this issue, I just want to pay my rent.

    1. I would try writing a letter to the management company to let them know the online payment center is not working for you and then see how they respond.

  3. Does a lease legally need to state what the Subletting/Early Termination Policies are, and the fees that will result of early termination? If this is not clearly stated in the lease, can you sue a landlord for charging huge amounts of money for subletting fees?

    1. The landlord cannot add any clauses to the lease once it has been signed. If the landlord does not live in the building then the landlord cannot add fees for subletting and has to allow a tenant to sublet. There is no law regarding early termination. The law states you can be held liable for the entire duration of the lease. The landlord must try and mitigate your damages by renting the unit and can only hold you liable for actual costs of renting the unit plus the time the unit was vacant. If the landlord does not live on the property, the landlord must provide you with a summary of the landlord and tenant ordinance. If the landlord did not then you can terminate the lease and move out.

  4. If the cost of repair is more than your security deposit, or if you never paid a security deposit, your landlord can sue you for the cost of repairs.

  5. The landlord “uses” one of the tenants to harass non-paying tenants whenever he wants them to move. This same person has keys to the locks on the doors to the electric and gas meters. He has gone in and turned it off in order to get the tenants to pay the rent. Now, this person has turned his abuse on me because I will not take his drunken calls late at night. It is a nightmare, he stands outside my 1st floor window at night and yells at me. I have notified the landlord of this, but the landlord will not take my calls- sends them to voice mail he does not answer. I have notified the landlord that I will be out at month’s end. (He never renewed the lease last December.) Is the landlord liable for this man’s actions? One of the voice messages from the man says “I will drive you out, just like I did the others.” A more recent message was even more personal and specific. If I have him arrested – as the police have suggested, it means he will come back twice as angry and vengeful in 2 or 3 days. I believe the landlord will keep him on a short leash if he thinks it will cost him in court.

    1. I am not sure that allowing this person to harass you or others without any consequences is a good strategy. He sounds like a bully.

      As for is the landlord liable for this person. How much the landlord is liable may depend on whether this person is in anyway employed by the landlord which could include doing chores for a reduction in rent. Does this person perform any other functions other than harassing tenants. If so there is a good case that this person is an employee.

      If not it may be difficult to prove an actual link between the landlord and this bully. The landlord is in some way responsible for providing you with the quiet enjoyment of your unit. If the landlord fails to take action against this person there may be a cause of action for you against the landlord.

      1. Thank you for your response. I was not too clear, I guess. The person, “J”, has keys to the padlocks that prevent tenants access to the utility meters. There are two meter sites for the building- one in “J’s” basement and one in my basement. The layout is 13 units in a u-shape. Eight units plus basement service are fed from each basement. “J” also picks up litter around the building when he feels like it. He has stated that he does not always pay the full rent and “it is okay”. This information came up when the IRS started collecting our rents last year. He indicated that he did not expect to pay the full amount that month- in reflection, that was at the time that he was constantly harassing the first floor tenant above him. The IRS claim has been resolved and it is back to business as usual for the landlord and “J”. The utilities all have “J” on record as the on-site contact, so it would seem it is clear he is “employed”. “J” is an over-the-road trucker on a per-call basis, so not always here for the utility people- that is how I learned he is the contact. I really do not want to get legal if I can avoid it. I was just wondering if I had grounds enough to do so and use it to keep “J” away from me until I get out. Again, thank you for your reply.

  6. My landlord is refusing to pay for an exterminator of the mice we have found in our house. He said, “that he gave us such a great deal on the rent, he didn’t have extra money for taking care of anything and that my wife and I would be responsible. I wanted to know what I may deduct from the rent for the following month because I have already called my own exterminator. I have 2 small children and we have caught 3 mice in one week!!

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also, if there are clear codes or ordinances to be followed please advise me to those numbers and I will include it in any correspondence with my landlord.

    Thank you for your time and help in this matter.

    Kevin Worthy

    1. If you live in Chicago and are covered by the landlord and tenants, then the landlord needs to deal with the extermination. Before you can deduct anything from your rent or pay for an exterminator using your rent, the law requires that you give the landlord a written notice giving the landlord 14 days to fix the problem or else you will hire someone to exterminate or your are going to reduce the rent by a certain percentage until the the problem is abated. The 14 days start once the landlord has received the notice. MTO would suggest sending the notice certified or registered by not return receipt requested because too many landlords do not accept the mail. You can also call the City at 311 and request an inspection though the inspectors do not always find the infestation as some want to see the mice.

  7. I am a landlord and have to decide soon whether to renew the lease of the tenants in a house I am renting. The three individuals renting have not cleaned anything (bathroon and kitchen) since moving in. I had to exterminate for cockroches the first time in 5 years of ownership. Yesterday, my cat brought to me in my home office (in the basement of the house) a dead mouse. My cat is an indoor cat and has assess to the kitchen in the house. I have never had mice before. I believe the lack of cleanliness is drawing in the vermin. I have talked with the tenants before about cleaning, but that is all I think I can do.
    My question: can I give a 4 month lease with a provision that the lease can be extended if the premises are kept clean?

    1. You can do 4 month leases and as long as the lease does not violate fair housing, landlord tenant ordinance or other laws then they are okay. Many landlords have some sort of cleanliness clause. It would probably be helpful to define your expectations in writing.

  8. I have an issue with my landlord. I have a boyfriend who comes over occasionally during the week and occasionally sleeps over. No where in my lease does it discuss whom can and can’t come over as a house guest and no where does it say that I can’t have people over. Also, in no where in my lease does it say I can’t have someone in my unit while I am not there. My landlord is extremely hands on and is always at out property. He has shown up before with only a 10 minute warning from a phone call and this caused him to disturb my roommate while she was in the shower. Two days agao my landlord wrote an email saying he was changing the locks and that he believed (and he said eye witnesses outside my unit) thought I had a permanent house guest. My boyfriend does not have a key to the unit nor any of his belongings in my place whatsoever. The email stated he needed his information (name, email, address, etc.) to make sure. I gave him my boyfriends contact information because he lives up north with his family and his family did not want me to provide such information without being contacted. He then wrote a threatening email that was very unprofessional, putting me down, and rude. he said he banned my boyfriend from being on his property until further notice. I ended up just having my boyfriend supply the information in hopes he would calm down, but he did not. Now he has what he wanted and is saying he is banned. Is my landlord legally allowed to ban my house guest from the property is he has not disturbed the peace of any of the neighbors, there is nothing in my lease stating who can/cannot come over, he does not live with me, and I am not breaking the lease rules in any way? I feel very violated that he is so involved in my life (always outside the property and he does not live there) and that he questioned who my house guest was (he has met my boyfriend prior to moving in).

    I just want to know where my rights are in this situation and where his rights are. I feel so uncomfortable in my home and feel violated. I feel like he runs this property like a dormitory when there is nothing in his lease stating I need to provide such information about house guests.

    1. There is nothing in the landlord and tenant ordinance that directly pertains to this question so I would contact an attorney to discuss this matter. My first question would be is there any discrimination happening or have you complained to the landlord about something else and the landlord is retaliating against you. This certainly seems like it is violating your rights. As a first step I would write the landlord a letter demanding to know the reason for your boyfriend being banned. The landlord certainly has no right to ban someone just because he does not like them. I would also look at you lease and see if there is any wording that may give the landlord the power to ban a guest. If there is none then I would ask where in the lease does it say that he can ban guests from the unit. Lastly the landlord has to provide you with two days notice as well as a reason to enter your unit so the owner has no right to enter the unit without your permission and without notice. If the landlord show up unannounced you do not have to allow him entry. I would reiterate that you are the sole person living in the unit.

  9. This past Saturday upon entering my apartment, I inserted the key and turned it in the normal fashion (no excessive force was pushed upon the lock or key) and the key broke off in the lock.

    I called the landlord to alert him of the problem, and he instantly held me responsible for what had happened. I informed him that I in no way excessively put any additional pressure on the key, nor did I do anything out of my usual routine of opening the door. I also suggested that the key was rather old (as well as the lock) and that perhaps they key was worn and finally snapped.

    Am I at fault? I feel as if this is a situation that the land lord is responsible for since the locks and keys are old and I did not intentionally cause damage to the property.

    Thank you.

    1. I would say that the landlord is liable for all normal wear and tear which as you described what happened is normal wear and tear. The problem that you may encounter is whether it is believable. I had not heard of a situation like yours. I asked a friend and she replied that she had heard of something like that happening. Were there any witnesses? That could be of help. You might also want to ask a locksmith if they could verify this happening.

  10. My tub overflowed in my apt which seeped down to the 2nd flr apt and allegedly to the 1st flr apt. The tenant on the 2nd flr is a janitor/maintenance man for the bldg. He originally contacted me stating all his electronics were damaged, he left that information via voicemail. When I finally spoke to him I guess he forgot about his electronics being “damaged” and spoke about his clothing needing to be “dry-cleaned”. He estimated this cost to be $150. He also said the ceiling on the 1st flr fell but his didn’t. I’m a tenant on the 3rd flr. He said that he would fix the damages to the ceiling and all he needed was his clothes cleaned. I agreed on $100 and had him sign an agreement stating there will be no further ramifications from this water incident. He signed it. The next day the tenant that I had just settled called me while I was at work and told me that I should talk to the guy on the 1st flr. When I got home I rang his bell for the tenant on the 1st flr but the tenant from the 2nd flr answered. He came up to my apt and said the guy wanted a bed and that I should get hit one because “i don’t want him calling the office”. I offered mine. Then the guy from the 2nd flr droppede his head in disappointment. Then he said he would talk to him. This was on a thursday by monday the office called me saying I owe them $480 for damages to the 1st flr unit that I have yet to see. Do I have any rights in this matter? This is no condo…I would even go as far as saying this building is ancient. Currently in my living room there is a huge water bubble due to burst any day now and the ceiling in my bedroom I can even describe. I am to pay $480 for work done by the janitor. He started the work before the office had been notified that there was a problem. What do I do aside from the obvious and move?

    1. Did the tub overflow due to your negligence? What is the water bubble in your room from? If there is water damage in your unit that you did not cause, could it be the cause of the damage of the people below you? This is a tough question to answer without more information. Has anyone produce any receipts and how old was the bed that was damaged. I would certainly complain about the water bubble and put that in writing.

  11. Am I required to have gas heat furnished in my apartment? I am responsible for paying my own heat. But because of the possibility of the pipes bursting am I required to have gas furnished for my apartment?

    1. What does your lease say? The Chicago residential landlord and tenant ordinance does not mention anything one way or the other. In this case the lease will probably have the final say. If the pipes would burst because you did not pay for the gas, the landlord may be able to hold you liable for all of the damage. If you have questions you should talk with an attorney.

  12. My landlord has done nothing with lawn care. In the winter there was no snow removal. Now, the grass and weeds are overgrown and it looks terrible. Also, we have spotted rats hiding in the overgrown brush. The apartment is in the city on a normal city block. Is my landlord required to provide lawn care and maintenance? If nothing is done what are my tenant rights? What can be done?

    1. This is not an easy question to answer. Certainly the landlord must maintain the property and prevent the build up garbage, trash, debris, etc and must exterminate all pests. I am not familiar with the grass cutting laws if there are any and then there is the question of enforcing the law. Have you spoken with the owner? Is the building going into foreclosure, lack of maintenance is often a sign of a landlord in poor financial health. I would start out with a letter to the landlord asking that the lawn be mowed. You might want to get other tenants to sign the letter. You may also want to involve your neighbors and ask them to write letters to your landlord and to your alderman asking for the lawn to be maintained.

  13. If the landlord gave us a 30-day notice to leave the apartment, do we still need to give her a written letter stating that we will be moving out at the end of the month?

    I would think not so in turn we would not need to pay an extra months rent.

    1. I would say that you are not required to but certainly good practice would be to send the land lord a a written note stating that you are in receipt of the letter and will be moving at the end of the month. I do not understand the last part of your question. You need to pay rent for the entire time that you are there.

  14. I have advised my landlord that I will be moving at the end of my lease. I understand that my landlord has permission to show the apartment to perspective tenants and needs to give 48 hours notice. My question is: is the landlord allowed to have another tenant show the apartment? The other tenant is not on the lease as a person who can act on the landlord’s behalf. I also do not know the tenant very well and have offered my time to the landlord to show the unit.

    I’m not comfortable giving a key to another tenant or allowing them in while I’m not there. Please advise.

    Thank you.

    1. There are no clear rules on this. Landlord is defined as owner or agent. The owner can make an argument that this tenant is an agent. It is certainly not up to you to give the tenant the key to your unit. The actual law states that the landlord has to give you notice of intent to enter and you cannot unreasonably withhold consent. Is it reasonable to want want to be present at the time of the showing of the unit. I do not know of any court decisions on this so you could possibly make an argument that you want to be present when the unit is being shown and therefore deny permission to enter if you cannot be present. Reasonable may depend on how often you can be present though it can also take into account who is entering the unit. How long has the landlord known this tenant? Is the tenant regularly in the employ of the landlord. These are all questions that you may want to discuss with the landlord as you work out the details. I would start by talking with the owner, laying out your concerns and see if you can come to a mutually satisfying agreement. Here is what the Chicago law says regarding failure to allow the owner access: If the tenant refuses to allow lawful access, the landlord may obtain injunctive relief to compel access or terminate the rental agreement pursuant to Section 5‑12‑130(b) of this chapter. In either case, the landlord may recover damages.

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