Landlords and tenants have many responsibilties to one another under local Chicago law.  A Chicago landlord's obligations fall into a few major categories: the landlord must maintain the premises; the landlord must stay out of the premises, except in certain circumstances; the landlord must safeguard and return the security deposit, the landlord may not engage in illegal housing discrimination; the landlord must inform the tenant about certain rules and opportunities, like recycling; the landlord is also limited in its abilty to pressure a renewal of a lease too early. Most likely, the apartment lease provides additional obligations beyond those imposed by law.

Does My Landlord Have to Do Maintenance on the Rental Property?

In most cases, the Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance requires a landlord to maintain a rented property to a certain standard. Among a long list, Section 5-12-070 of the Municipal Code requires landlords to:

  • Protect against damage to the structural integrity of the building
  • Keep the floors, walls, stairwells, porches, windows, elevators, and ceilings in good repair
  • Maintain bathtubs, showers, and sinks
  • Furnish hot and cold running water
  • Supply heat in the winter
  • Exterminate as necessary to prevent infestation by rodents and vermin
  • Supply locks and deadbolts
  • Maintain and repair all appliances and equipment furnished under the lease
  • Keep the premises water tight and free of leaks, and (perhaps most importantly)
  • Maintain the dwelling unit and the common areas of the building in a “fit and habitable condition."

A Landlord's Obligation to Stay Out of a Rented Apartment

A rented apartment, no matter how cozy or uniquely furnished, would not feel like home if the landlord were free to barge in whenever he or she wanted. When you rent a Chicago apartment, the Chicago residential landlord tenant ordinance protects your right to quiet enjoyment of your apartment. At a minimum, the landlord must provide at least two days' notice before entering to make repairs, supply services, conduct goverment inspections, to show the unit to prospective renters, buyers, or contractors. The law also protects the landlord, though, and allows for unexpected visits in case of emergency and to determine whether the renter is complying with the lease (for example, if the landlord has reason to believe that tenant has adopted a pet without permission, or has been using the apartment as an illegal air bnb rental, the ordinance would allow the landlord to make a surprise inspection). 

Landlord's Responsibility to Provide Information

Landlords have to keep their tenants in the know. At the time a lease is signed, the CRLTO requires landlords to make many types of disclosures (listed below) and, in some cases, to supplement as circumstances change. A separate law, the Chicago Recycling Ordinance, also requires the landlord to inform tenants about the availability of recycling at the property. Landlords facing foreclosure  must also let their tenants know if a forclosure complaint has been filed against the property. The Chicago landlord tenant ordinance requires the following disclosures at the time of leasing:

  • Notice of Conditions Affecting Habitability for Chicago Apartments
  • Identification of Owner and Agents
  • A summary of the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance
  • The current Chicago Security Deposit Interest Rate Summary 
  • Chicago Security Deposit Receipt 
  • Chicago Bed Bug Disclosure Form
  • Chicago Heating Cost Disclosure
  • Lead Based Paint Disclosure Form
  • Radon Gas Disclosure Form
  • A summary of the Chicago Recycling Rules

Read more about the required disclosures for Chicago apartments here.

A Landlord's Responsibilities at Renewal and Lease Termination Time

Chicago landlords cannot ask tenants to sign a lease renewal letter more than 90 days before the rental agreement terminates, assuming that the rental property is regulated by the Chicago landlord tenant ordinance. The purpose of the law is to protect tenants who might want to evaluate other opportunities before renewing.

Additionally, Chicago's "Fair Notice Ordinance" requires landlords to provide a certain amount of notice to tenants if the landlord has chosen not to renew the lease or to raise the rent.  How much notice is required? It depends on the length of the resident's tenancy.  Specifically, if a renter has lived at the property for three years or more, the landlord must provide at least 120 days' advance notice of the non-renewal or increase in rent, whereas only 60 days' notice is required for tenants who have occupied a unit for six months but less than three years, and tenants of less than six months are entitled to merely 30 days' notice.  Consider utilities, too – if the current lease provides that any utilities are included in the monthly rent, but you intend to transfer responsibility for utilities to your tenant at lease renewal, you need to give adequate notice of that change, too (see Illinois Rental Property Utility Service Act, 765 ILCS 735/1.2).  Note that the Fair Notice rules apply even if there is no written lease. 

Landlord's Obligations About Security Deposits

The Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance imposes many obligations on landlords relating to security deposits. You can read about those here

Landlord's Obligation to Refrain From Retaliation

Unfortunately, when there is a breakdown in the landlord-tenant relationship, the stakes are awfully high for the tenant: no tenant should have to fear eviction solely for pressuring the landlord to make repairs required by building code, or for alerting the authorities to a good faith claim of housing discrimination.  

Recognizing that threat of eviction is a powerful one, fair housing law  prohibits landlords from retaliating against a tenant for registering a discrimination complaint with HUD. And the Chicago landlord tenant ordinance states that landlords may not terminate a tenancy, increase the rent, decrease services, or bring or threaten to bring a lawsuit against a tenant for possession or refuse to renew a lease because of a tenant's good faith complaints about code violations, or requests for repairs as required by building code, or engaging in other tenants rights activities like joining a tenant's union, testifying in court about the condition of the building, or exercising any right or remedy provided by law.  

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.