Landlord & Tenant Rights and Laws

...... from Illinois Attorney General, Jim Ryan          

There are many state laws and judicial decisions that give landlords and tenants specific legal rights and responsibilities. Consult the local municipality for ordinances regulating other landlord and tenant rights.

Tenant's Rights and Responsibilities

  • Tenants should demand a written lease to avoid future misunder- standings with your landlord.
  • Tenants must pay rent on time.
  • Tenants must keep the rental unit clean and undamaged.
  • Tenants must pay the utility bill if the lease makes them responsible.
  • Tenants may not alter the rental unit without the landlord's approval.
  • Tenants must give written notice when you intend to move if you don't want to lose your security deposit. Normally, a 30 day notice is sufficient.

    The Illinois Retalitory Eviction Act prohibits the landlord from evicting you for complaining to any governmental authority (housing inspector, human rights commission, etc.)

    Landlord' Rights and Responsibilities

  • Landlords must keep the rental unit fit to live in.
  • Landlords must make all necessary repairs.
  • Landlords must keep the rental unit compliance with state and local health and housing codes.
  • Landlords may charge a late fee for late rent. The late fee must also be reasonable.
  • Landlords make reasonable rules and regulations.
  • Landlords may not enter a rental unit without tenant's prior consent unless an emergency exists.

    Security Deposits
    The landlord can require a security deposit which may be used to cover unpaid rent, repair damages to the unit, and clean the unit after you move. The amount of the security deposit is normally equal to one month's rent, however, there is no legal limit on the amount the landlord can require.

    Interest on Security Deposit
    State law requires the landlord to pay 5% interest on the security deposit if it is held for at least six months and there are at least 25 units in the building or complex. The landlord must pay the interest or apply the interest as a credit to the rent every 12 months. The tenant can sue the landlord for willfully failing to pay interest and recover an amount equal to the security deposit, court costs, and attorney's fees.

    Return of Security Deposit
    The Illinois Security Deposit Return Act requires the landlord to return the security deposit in full within 45 days of the date the tenant moves if:

  • The building or complex consists of 5 or more units.
  • No back rent is owed.
  • There is no damage to the unit.
  • The unit is cleaned before you move.
    If the landlord refuses to return all or any portion of the security deposit, he/she must present an itemized statement of the damages along with paid receipts within 30 days of the date the tenant moves. Suit can be brought against the landlord to recover security deposits. If a court finds that the landlord violated the security deposit law, he/she could be liable for damages in an amount equal to two times the security deposit, court costs, and attorney's fees.

    Rent Increases
    In a week-to-week or month-to-month tenancy, the landlord can raise the rent by any amount by giving a 7 day notice for week-to-week lease or 30 day notice for a month-to-month lease. The landlord cannot raise the rent if there is a fixed-term lease. Illinois does not have rent control law. therefore the landlord can raise the rent as much as he/she deems necessary. If the municipality in which the property is located has a rent control ordinance, consult the local units of government.

    Terminating a Lease
    The landlord must notify the tenant in writing that he/she intends to terminate the lease. Leases running year-to-year require a 60 day written notice. The landlord does not have to give any reason for termination of the lease.

    Withholding Rent for Repairs and Payment of Utilities
    Rent may be withheld if the rental unit has substantial building code violations or if the landlord has failed to make repairs which were agreed upon. However the tenant should first:

  • Request the City Inspector to inspect for code violations
  • Document all defects with pictures, videos, and statements from reputable contractors.
  • Request the landlord to make the repair in a specified time.
  • Consult an attorney about legal rights.
    If the landlord fails to pay a utility bill for which he is responsible, the tenant may deduct this amount from the rent.

    A landlord may not refuse to rent to or lease an apartment or house to potential tenants or have different rental terms, on the grounds of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex and marital status or disability. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act it is illegal to discriminate against families with children when leasing a rental unit. Complaints about discrimination may be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

    The Eviction Process
    A landlord must file a lawsuit in order to evict a tenant. The landlord cannot make a tenant move by turning off the utilities. Also, a landlord may not evict a tenant by locking the tenant out, changing the locks or removing personal property from the rental unit. The eviction process is detailed below:

    The landlord must give written notice stating the reason for the eviction. If the reason is for non-payment, the landlord must give five days to pay the rent. If the eviction is for violating a provision in the lease, the landlord must give ten days notice. If the tenant remains in the rental unit after the eviction notice, the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict the tenant.
    The Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act requires the landlord to serve the tenant a summons and complaint. The summons will require the tenant to appear in court. The tenant must be in court on the scheduled day and has the following rights:

    1. Legal representation at the tenant's cost
    2. Trial by jury
    3. Present evidence
    4. Call own witnesses
    5. Ask questions

    The burden of proof is on the landlord. The judge will make a decision. If the tenant loses the case, the judge will order the tenant to vacate the rental unit. However, the judge normally will give some time (generally 15 days) to move. The tenant has the right to appeal the decision. This must be done within 30 days after the trial. If the tenant does not move out, the landlord may ask the Sheriff's Office to physically evict the tenant.

    Remember, only a sheriff can physically evict a tenant. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant by locking the tenant out.

    If you need further help If there are further questions about landlord and tenant law or a specific problem contact:

  • An attorney for legal advice Legal aid services to determine if you are eligible for free legal services The Illinois Lawyer Referral Service for the name and telephone number of a private attorney. The attorney will charge a moderate fee for an initial interview.
  • The Illiniois Department of Human Rights, (217) 785-5112 or (217) 785-5113, if you have a housing discrimination complaint.

    Office of the Illinois Attorney General
    500 South 2nd Street
    Springfield, IL 62706
    217-782-1090 or 1-800-243-0618

    100 W Randolph Street
    Chicago, IL 60601
    312-814-3000 or 1-800-386-5438

    1001 East Main
    Carbondale, IL 62901
    618-457-5509 or 1-800-243-0607

    Reprinted with permission from MELA
    Metro East Landlords Update, Columbia, IL

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