Lock Out a Tenant or Stop Utilities? Self Help Eviction is Forbidden

Attention, Chicago landlords! Never, ever lock out a tenant, re-key the lock on the apartment door or interfere with their utilities. Sounds drastic, yes. But if landlords even threaten to do these things before consulting with counsel or reading Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO) before acting, they could be headed for trouble.

Can Landlords Lock Out Troublesome Tenants?

Let’s say a tenant is creating major headaches and relations between the tenant and landlord are rapidly deteriorating. Landlords in this situation may be tempted to take matters into their own hands by turning off water, gas or electricity to the unit or re-key locks on the apartment door.

Interfering with utilities (including heating, air conditioning, plumbing and telephone), locking or removing windows or doors, blocking the entrance, removing personal property from a unit, or merely threatening to do any of these things without actually doing them is absolutely forbidden by the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.

How Can Landlords Deal with Difficult Tenants?

If landlords find themselves in a dispute with a tenant, no matter how bad, they may not take any steps to “oust or dispossess or threaten or attempt to oust or dispossess” the tenant, unless specifically authorized to do so by one of four exceptions listed in the ordinance. These exceptions are narrow, specific and hard to meet. Landlords who violate this law, which can be found at Section 5-12-160 of the Chicago Municipal Code, expose themselves to prosecution and expensive fines, as well as civil liability for which the tenant may recover double the monthly apartment rent or twice the actual damages sustained, whichever is greater, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.

Do not resort to self-help eviction remedies without calling counsel. 

The general information that Domu provides about Chicago landlord tenant law is not intended as legal advice. Domu endeavors to provide accurate information, but the law is subject to change, and Domu is not a law firm or provider of legal services. Questions about your particular leasing situation should be directed to a lawyer.