Chicago Tenant's Rights

May 20, 2017

By Associate Attorney Cassandra Voissem

Tenants make up the lion’s share of residents of the City of Chicago. In many instances, tenants are at a disadvantage in their relationship with landlords. Typically, landlords control the majority, if not the entirety of the terms within a lease agreement from day one. However, there are local ordinances that restore the balance between a landlord and tenant, namely, the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”) (5-12-010 et seq.) and the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (5-14-010 et seq.).

The RLTO governs multiple aspects of the Landlord-Tenant relationship in Chicago. This ordinance regulates the general responsibilities of landlords, such as how landlords are to handle security deposits and deal with repairs to a rental unit.  In addition, the RLTO explicitly makes specific lease provisions unenforceable, meaning your landlord cannot rightfully sue you, if you violate such a provision.

The Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (“KCRO”) governs how landlords and property owners are to treat a tenant if their residence is in foreclosure. The KCRO provides certain time limits for both the existing landlord and the new owner to give notice of the foreclosure lawsuit. It also requires the new property owner to offer an existing tenant either 1) a new lease agreement at no more than 102% of the current rental amount per month, for the next year following the foreclosure or 2) a relocation fee of $10,600.00 to vacate the rental unit.

If landlords (both old and new) do not follow either of these ordinances, the tenant is entitled to file a lawsuit against their landlord. Under the RLTO, if the landlord mishandles the security deposit (violating Section 5-12-080), then the tenant may be awarded the return of the deposit itself, plus two times the deposit in damages. If the new landlord under the KCRO fails to offer a lease or provide the relocation fee (violating Section 5-14-050), then the tenant is entitled to statutory damages of double that amount ($21,200.00).

Although these rights appear strong on paper, most tenants do not even know that they exist. How do you enforce your rights? Well, that’s what Illinois Advocates is here for. Because both of the ordinances provide for attorney fees (RLTO 5-12-180 and KCRO 5-14-070) to the successful tenant, we might be able to take your case at little to no cost to you. Feel free to call us today.