As a renter in Chicago, you’re subject to a tough apartment market place and some of the highest rents in the nation. Vacancy rates have been dropping for a decade — meaning apartments are becoming less available, which pushes rents higher for remaining listings. But even in a city like Chicago, landlords don’t have all the power. The Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance has you covered in ways you might not know. Learn about these five tenant rights to protect yourself from finding yourself in a renter horror story.
1. Your Security Deposit Should be Making You Money
Forking over a half-month’s rent or more at the beginning of your lease is no easy feat. But it’s a little easier to swallow if you know that your security deposit is making you money, just like it would if it would be sitting in an interest-yielding savings account. As soon as your landlord takes your security deposit from you, they’re required to put it into an interest-bearing account and keep it separate from their other business assets. Every year, you’re entitled to receive your returns, even if it’s only pocket change. That’s your pocket change.
2. No Surprise Visits
The CRLTO ensures (with few exceptions) that your landlord can’t pop by unannounced like a nosey parent. Visits for maintenance or inspections require a minimum two-day notice. And if they’re showing your apartment to new prospective tenants, they’re only allowed to do so in the last 60 days of your lease term.
3. Your Landlord Has A Deadline for Your Security Deposit Return
After you vacate the apartment, your landlord as 45 days to return your security deposit, even if there are deductions and repairs involved. If there are deductions, vague descriptions like “general cleaning” aren’t quite good enough. Within 30 days, your landlord is required to send you an itemized list of any deductions coming out of your deposit. No more waiting anxiously by your mailbox for months on end.
4. Your Landlord Has Just 14 Days for Maintenance Requests
If your apartment requires minor maintenance due to “material noncompliance” that would amount to less than $500 (or half of the monthly rent, whichever is larger), you might be able to take matters into your own hands after 14 days. Following building regulations and codes, you can have the repairs done yourself, and present your landlord with the bill and deduct it from your rent payment.
For larger maintenance issues, 14 after giving your landlord written notice, you can deduct money from your rental payment to reflect the lower value of your apartment until the issue is repaired.
If the maintenance issue is severe enough to impede your access to essential services, you would potentially even be able to terminate your lease if your landlord refuses to respond within 72 hours.
Tenant-landlord laws are riddled with exceptions and loopholes — for example, the CRLTO doesn’t apply to all apartments in the city, such as owner-occupied buildings with six or fewer units — but knowing your basic rights as a renter is a must. For more information on your rights as a Chicago renter, turn to the Center for Renter Rights or the Illinois Tenant Union.