Share

The information in this page is provided as a free resource for renters in Chicago. It is not legal advice. If you need legal advice or additional legal help, contact Legal Aid Cook County. Chicago renters can also get help at Rentervention.com

Does Chicago have “rent control?”

Rent is not regulated in Chicago. And cities in Illinois, including Chicago, are not allowed to create their own rent control because of a state law called the Rent Control Preemption Act. That means landlords in Chicago can charge whatever price they think is appropriate.

What does it mean to have a “safe, habitable” place to live in Chicago ?

Landlords in Chicago have to make sure rentals are safe, clean, and follow all building codes and regulations. Rentals must have working heating, plumbing, and electrical systems, and they can’t have any dangerous conditions that could harm the renters. Additionally, the landlords have to take care of the shared areas of the building, like hallways and stairwells, and keep them safe and clean.

Doors

Every rental unit’s main entrance door must include at least one of these locks: 1) a deadbolt lock with at least a one-inch saw-resistant bolt, 2) a rim-mounted deadbolt lock, or 3) a vertical drop deadbolt lock. This is not required if the main entrance door is a sliding glass door.

Heat and Air Conditioning

Landlords must supply heat to apartments between September 15 and June 1, unless renters can control the heat themselves. Landlords must keep heating equipment that they provided (like a furnace or radiator) in good working condition. Landlords and building owners could be fined up to $1,000 per day, per violation, if they don’t supply heat or working heating equipment.

Hot Water

SixFifty couldn’t find specific temperatures in Chicago’s laws, but landlords in Chicago must maintain a habitable and safe home. This includes hot water. 

Does my landlord have to provide smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in Chicago ?

Landlords in Chicago are required to provide working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors for all of their rental units. The detectors must be installed in accordance with Chicago’s Building Code and must be maintained in good working order as long as a renter lives in the rental unit.

How long does my landlord have to fix problems at my apartment in Chicago?

Usually that depends on how severe the problem is. If the repair is an emergency, such as a gas leak or a broken heating system in the winter, the landlord must make the repair within 24 hours. For less urgent repairs, the landlord must make the repair within a reasonable amount of time, which is typically considered to be 14 days. 

What can I do if my landlord can’t or won’t fix problems at my apartment in Chicago?

Rent Abatement

If a Chicago landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs in a reasonable amount of time, the renter may have the right to not pay full rent for a while or end the lease. Renters can request in writing that the landlord make repairs in 14 days, and if the landlord doesn’t do it, renters may pay what the apartment is actually worth without having repairs done. Renters can begin paying lower rent starting at 15 days after the written request. They will need to pay normal rent again when repairs are made. Before deciding to pay a reduced rent, renters should talk to an attorney.

Repair and Deduct

If a Chicago landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs in a reasonable amount of time, a tenant may have the right to pay for the repair themselves and deduct the cost from their rent. There are specific rules and procedures for this.

  1. Renters request that the landlord make repairs within 14 days. This request must be in writing.
  2. If the landlord fails to make the repair within 14 days, the renter may pay for the repairs themselves.
  3. Repairs must be done in compliance with the Chicago’s Building Code.
  4. Renters may deduct up to $500 or 1/2 of the month’s rent, whichever is more, from their next month’s rent to cover the repair cost.
  5. Renters must give the landlord a receipt for the repair, or other documents that show who made the repair, when they made it, and the cost of the repair. Renter’s can’t deduct more than the cost shown on the receipt.

Before deciding to deduct rent, renters should talk to an attorney.

Vacate

If a Chicago landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs in a reasonable amount of time, a tenant may have the right to end the lease. If the landlord fails to maintain the property in compliance with Chicago’s Building Code, and that makes the rental unsafe to live in, a renter may request in writing that the landlord make repairs within 14 days. If after 14 days repairs are not made, the renter may immediately end the lease and move out. Renters must move out in 30 days of when that 14 day period ends. Before deciding to end a lease and move out, renters should talk to an attorney.

What are the rules for security deposits in Chicago, and how do I get my security deposit refunded? 

Landlords in Chicago have to give renters information about security deposits. Landlords also have to give renters a receipt for any security deposit paid. The City of Chicago provides information on security deposit interest rates on its website.

Chicago landlords have to return all security deposits and required interest to renters within 45 days after they move out. Landlords are allowed to keep an amount from the deposit to cover unpaid rent and expenses for damages. Before they can do that, landlords have to give renters a list of the damages within 30 days after the renter moves out.

What kinds of notice does my landlord need to give me in Chicago?

Eviction

Landlords in Chicago must give renters notice before an eviction, whether the lease is written or oral. The amount of notice required for eviction depends on how long the renter has lived there and what kind of rental it is.

For apartments with fewer than 6 units, or if the landlord does not live there, the notice periods are:

  • Less than 6 months = 30 days notice, or the tenant can stay for up to 60 more days
  • 6 months to 3 years = 60 days notice or the tenant can stay for up to 60 days
  • Over 3 years = 120 days notice, or the tenant can stay for up to 120 days

If the apartment building has 6 or more units and the landlord lives there, the notice periods are:

  • 5 days notice for non-payment of rent
  • 10 days notice for violating a lease term

Rent Increases

Landlords in Chicago have to give renters written notice before any rent increase. The amount of notice required depends on the length of the lease.

  • 30 days notice if the lease is month-to-month
  • 60 days notice if a renter has lived in the property for more than six months but less than three years
  • 120 days of notice if a tenant has lived in the property for more than three years

Entry

Landlords in Chicago have to give renters reasonable notice before entering their apartment. The amount of notice required depends on the reason for entry. For example, if the landlord needs to make repairs, they must provide the tenant with at least two days’ notice before entering the apartment. However, in case of an emergency, the landlord may enter the apartment without notice.

Other Required Notices in Chicago

Landlords in Chicago are required to give renters a written summary of the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. This summary must be provided to renters before or at the time of the lease signing.

Under the federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, landlords must disclose lead-based paint or hazards in properties built before 1978. They are required to give renters a lead hazard information pamphlet and include a lead warning statement in the lease. Also, landlords must provide a disclosure form detailing any known lead hazards and records of lead hazard reduction measures.

Can I end my lease early in Chicago?

If something comes up in your life, you may find that you need to end your lease early. This can be stressful and expensive, with most leases including steep penalties and fines for early termination. Here are some potential options. Before ending a lease early, renters should talk to an attorney. 

Military

If you’re active military, you may be able to terminate your lease early under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides certain protections for active-duty military members, including the right to terminate a lease early if you receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) or deployment. To terminate your lease early under the SCRA, you must provide your landlord with written notice and a copy of your orders. The notice must be provided at least 30 days before the date on which you intend to terminate the lease. 

Subleasing

Subleasing, or “subletting” is when someone who is renting an apartment rents it out to someone else. That way the landlord is still collecting rent, but someone else is paying it. 

In order to sublease in Chicago, tenants must first get written permission from their landlord. The sublease agreement must also comply with the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. It’s important to note that tenants will be responsible for any damages or unpaid rent caused by a subtenant. 

Seniors and Those with a Disability

In Chicago, a renter may be able to terminate their lease early if they are either a senior citizen or an individual living with a disability. To qualify, the renter must be 60 years of age or older or have a disability that requires them to move to a different type of housing. Renters who qualify may terminate their lease early by providing written notice that they want to move out along with a doctor’s certification of their disability. These renters may still be responsible for paying rent until the end of the notice period or until the landlord can find a new renter.

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, landlords are required to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. In some cases, that could mean allowing a renter to end their lease early. If a renter has a mental or physical disability that requires them to relocate because of a need for care or treatment that cannot be provided in the rental unit, they may be able to terminate the lease early without incurring penalties. Renters interested in terminating their lease on this basis should consider consulting legal counsel first to ensure they are eligible.

Survivors of Domestic Violence

In Chicago, a renter may be able to terminate their lease early if the renter or a member of their household is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Renters may terminate a lease in this way by providing their landlord with written notice and documentation of the abuse, such as a police report or court order of protection. Qualifying renters may also be able to terminate their abuser’s lease if both the renter and the abuser signed the lease. Tenants who terminate a lease in this way may still be responsible for paying rent until the end of the notice period or until the landlord finds a new renter.

What should I know about eviction in Chicago?

Only the Cook County Sheriff’s Office can carry out an eviction. It is illegal for a landlord to try to remove a tenant from their home. 

Where can I get help if I’m being evicted in Chicago?

Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt is a free resource to help landlords and tenants resolve housing and debt issues. Contact CookCountyLegalAid.org, or 855-956-5763. Legal support for renters is also available at rentervention.com, or text “hi” to 866-773 6837.

Get Financial Help.

Renters may be eligible for up to 15 months of assistance. Visit Chicago.gov/RentHelp.

What can I do if my landlord harasses me or discriminates against me in Chicago?

Under the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance, housing discrimination is denying someone equal access to housing because of that person’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, age (over 40), disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, parental status, military status, and lawful source of income. It is also a violation of the Ordinance for the landlord or property manager to retaliate against a renter because they previously filed a complaint against the landlord.

If the housing at issue is located in the City of Chicago, and the conduct a tenant is complaining about occurred within the previous 300 days, for incidents of discrimination occurring on or after January 23, 2019, tenants may file a discrimination complaint with the Commission on Human Relations.

SixFifty can help!

 

Now that you know your rights as a renter in Chicago, what can you do? Take action! SixFifty built HelloLandlord with the University of Arizona and Brigham Young University as a free resource for people who can’t afford legal help. You can use HelloLandlord to:

Tens of thousands of Americans have used HelloLandlord to assert their rights. It only takes 5 minutes to generate a high quality letter—the kind of letter a lawyer would write. And we offer discount codes so you can send your letter by mail, right from your computer. 

SixFifty is building more tools to help renters all the time. For more information, email probono@sixfifty.com

Sources

https://www.chicago.gov/content/dam/city/depts/dcd/general/housing/RTLOEnglish.pdf, https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs2.asp?ChapterID=29, https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/doh/provdrs/renters/svcs/rents-rights.html, https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/doh/provdrs/renters/svcs/know-your-rights–fair-notice-ordinance.html https://www.chicago.gov/content/dam/city/depts/bldgs/general/CodeModernization/Title%2013%20as%20of%207-31-2020.pdf