In a landlord/tenant situation, tenants can often feel at a disadvantage. The landlord's control and ownership of the home can cause a tenant to feel powerless. Tenants should become familiar with landlord/tenant laws to understand the privileges and responsibilities of both parties. Illinois provides detailed rights and protections for its tenants and consequences for landlords who do not comply with the laws.
In Illinois, a landlord has obligations to his tenant. He must keep the rental unit fit to live in and make all necessary repairs. If a landlord fails to pay a utility bill for which he is responsible, the tenant may pay the bill and deduct the payment from the rent.
Illinois law entitles tenants to receive interest on any security deposit paid if the property owner holds the deposit for at least six months and there are at least 25 units in the building or complex. The landlord must pay the interest directly to the tenant, or he may credit it to the rent every 12 months. A tenant may sue his landlord for unpaid interest and recover the amount of the original security deposit, in addition to court costs and attorneys fees.
A landlord must return the tenant’s deposit in full within 45 days of the tenant moving out if: 1.) the building has five or more units; 2.) no back rent is owed; 3.) the unit is not damaged; and 4.) the apartment was cleaned upon move-out.
A landlord who refuses to return all or part of the security deposit must provide the tenant with an itemized statement of damages to the unit along with paid receipts within 30 days of the tenant vacating. A landlord who wrongfully refuses to return a security deposit can be liable to the tenant for two times the deposit amount, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.
Rent Increases & Termination
A landlord cannot raise the rent during a fixed-term lease. If a tenant signs a one-year lease, the landlord cannot raise the rent until the lease ends. If the tenant is on a weekly or monthly lease, the landlord can raise the rent providing he gives seven days notice for a weekly lease and 30 days for a monthly.
A landlord does not have to give his tenant a reason for terminating the lease. However, he must notify the tenant of the termination in writing. A month-to-month tenant is must receive 30 days notice and a yearly tenant 60 days.
A landlord cannot refuse to rent or lease an apartment or house to a potential tenant, or apply different rental terms, based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, or disability. Additionally, a landlord may not discriminate against a family because it has children.
The only way landlords can evict a tenant in Illinois is to file a lawsuit. Landlords cannot turn off utilities, lock tenants out, change locks, or remove a tenant’s property from the unit as a means of eviction.
The landlord must provide written notice of the reason for eviction. If the reason is nonpayment of rent, the tenant must receive five days to pay. If the reason is violation of a lease provision, the landlord must provide 10 days notice to the tenant. Landlords cannot evict tenants in retaliation for complaining to a governmental authority.
There are defenses a tenant can present in an eviction suit. The tenant should inform the court if she paid the rent during the five day period. Alternatively, she should alert the court if the eviction was in retaliation for the tenant filing a complaint. Lastly, the tenant should notify the court if she withheld the rent because the landlord did not pay the utility bills. If proved, these defenses can help the tenant avoid eviction.