Common Legal Problems

Knowledge is power! The more you know about your rights and responsibilities, the sooner you can recognize a potential problem and take appropriate action.

The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance provides explicit self-help remedies that tenants should use when they discover defective conditions in their apartments. It is essential to contact an attorney to begin using these remedies, but because there exists the possibility of legal action by the landlord, tenants should document and keep records of their activities.

It is illegal to discriminate in any real estate transaction including rental, sale, terms and conditions of the rental or sale, advertising and lending. There are four major agencies in Chicago that handle housing discrimination complaints: Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR), Cook County Commission on Human Rights (CCCHR), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). You may also file suit in federal court under the Federal Fair Housing Act.

This page briefly describes the eviction process for Chicago renters who are in eviction court at the Daley Center. Going to court can be confusing and stressful. This is especially true of eviction court because someone’s home is on the line. Eviction court cases move very quickly and there is little time to prepare. Most trials happen on the first court date and last only a few minutes. Renters should find an attorney to assist them, if possible. Free legal aid is often available to lower income families and individuals.

Although your landlord is the owner of the property, you have legal possession of your apartment. The law prohibits your landlord from forcibly removing you from the apartment or from preventing your use of the apartment. If your landlord wants to legally evict you, s/he must terminate the tenancy by serving a proper notice, wait out the time period of the notice, commence an eviction suit, and obtain a judgment. The landlord can then have the sheriff remove your goods from the premises.

If you assert your rights, your landlord cannot retaliate by increasing your rent, trying to evict you, shutting off your utilities, or doing anything else that interferes with your tenancy.

To guarantee that the rights and remedies provided in Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) serve tenants well, the law prohibits landlords from retaliating when you, as a tenant, assert your rights in good faith. A landlord may NOT knowingly:

When you rent an apartment, the landlord almost always ask for a security deposit. This is a sum of money that the landlord holds to cover any damage that may occur while you are living in the apartment. Although the landlord holds it, a security deposit remains the property of the tenant. The security deposit may be used only for damages that make the apartment un-rentable. A landlord is not to use the tenant’s security deposit to redecorate the apartment.

You have the right to:

  • Live in a safe apartment with utilities.
  • Be notified in writing if your landlord or building’s management changes.
  • Receive written notice if you are asked to move.
  • Get your eviction court record sealed from the public view.
  • Recover your security deposit.

You may also have the right to:

  • Be offered a lease extension/renewal OR be given relocation assistance.
  • Be offered a replacement unit if you are living in an “unlawful conversion” or an “unlawfully hazardous unit” with substantial disrepair.

You also have responsibilities:

  • Continue to pay your rent.
  • Respond to the new owner’s offer to renew or extend your rental agreement or choice to provide the relocation assistance if you are a “qualified tenant.”

If your landlord fails to supply essential services, contact your landlord immediately. Essential services include heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas, and plumbing. Also contact your landlord immediately if conditions become an immediate danger to health and safety. If your landlord’s response to either situation is not helpful, report the problem to the City’s complaint line at (312) 744-5000. The City responds quickly to complaints about the lack of essential services.