The city of Chicago has nearly 600,000 renters, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But how many of those renters know their way around the Chicago Resident Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO)? Knowing some basic tenant rights can help you navigate unexpected circumstances in your Chicago apartment.
1. Landlords can’t make surprise visits.
Visits for typical inspections or maintenance require a minimum two-day notice, but there are some exceptions, such as emergency maintenance problems.
2. And they can’t show your place whenever they want.
When you move out, your landlord has to fill the unit. But they can’t start showing your place until the last 60 days of your lease. Until then, enjoy your privacy.
3. Subletting is risky, but legal.
Your landlord cannot forbid you from subleasing — even if prohibited in the lease — and should accept a reasonable suggestion for a subletter, but legally you’re still on the hook for rent.
4. All lockouts are illegal.
If you get locked out by your landlord, call the police. This applies to all units in the city — not just those covered by the CRLTO.
5. Putting it in the lease doesn’t make it legal.
Renters have some rights that leases can’t override. For example, regardless of what the lease says, renters can’t be liable for landlord’s attorney fees or waive their right to a jury trial.
6. There are maximum late fees.
The restrictions are a on a sliding scale: a $10 maximum late fee per month for rent that’s $500 or less, plus 5% for the amount “in excess of” that $500.
7. The window for mandatory repairs is short.
For maintenance issues that impede your access to essential services, like water, you could potentially terminate your lease if your landlord doesn’t respond within 72 hours.
Worried About Your Security Deposit?
8. There is no maximum amount.
Security deposits in Chicago can range from a half-month’s rent to TWO months’ rent — there is no set maximum. The same goes for pet deposits.
9. There’s a deadline for getting your deposit back…
Your property manager has 45 days to return your security deposit, and they have just 30 days to provide an itemized list of deductions — and generalities like “cleaning” aren’t good enough.
10. …with interest.
Upon receiving your security deposit, your landlord is supposed to deposit the money in an interest-bearing account and pay you the dividends.
Most Chicago apartments are governed by the CRLTO, but there are exceptions, such as owner-occupied buildings with six or fewer units. For more assistance with the law, turn to the Center for Renters Rights or the Illinois Tenant Union. For assistance finding a Chicago apartment, go to ABODO.