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Renter's Rights in Chicago

With more than 60% of the people living in Chicago as renters, the city government has launched an awareness campaign to teach both landlords and tenants about their rights. Along with landlord and tenants organizations, the city of Chicago has created the Rents Right campaign to offer resources and education.

In Chicago, the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance applies to almost all rental agreements, but Chicagoans in rental properties all too often don't know how to exercise their rights or what their responsibilities are. In some cases, landlords either willfully ignore or simply don't know their legal obligations, either.

The new campaign is designed to resolve conflicts by offering resolution services, along with education and training about this powerful law. Renters who need information about how to stand up for their rights can also get referrals to programs and services. Most importantly, Rents Right provides training about the law to help prevent misunderstandings and avoid conflicts. If you don't know your renters' rights in Chicago, take this opportunity to get familiar with your legal rights and responsibilities.


It's called the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, but it is best known by its acronym: RLTO.

It covers the vast majority of rental properties in Chicago, including condos, apartments, houses and other units. It has rules for both landlords and tenants that regulate the relationship, from the security deposit process to the lease contract, rent control and eviction.

The lease: By design, the RLTO protects landlords from renters who move out before the lease is over. If a tenant breaks a lease, s/he will owe the landlord the rest of the rent outlined in the contract.

The security deposit: Outside of normal wear and tear, security deposits in Chicago must be refunded to tenants who have kept the property in good condition.

The landlord has 45 days after the tenant vacates the apartment to return the security deposit, and may also be required to pay interest, as outlined by the city comptroller in cases of security deposits that have been held for more than six months. If you want more tips for how to get your security deposit back from an unscrupulous landlord, visit here.

The repair process: All Chicago renters deserve a safe and livable property, and the RLTO protects renters from landlords who refuse to make repairs. Under the law, renters can pay less in rent until repairs are made. This is a unique local law, and the process for reducing rent is spelled out in Chicago's city ordinances. If tenants have complained in writing or in court about maintenance or repair issues, they are legally protected.

The landlord cannot retaliate against them by evicting them.

The eviction process: Landlords can't evict tenants in Chicago without a court order. They also can't force tenants to leave before going through the proper eviction procedure for doing things like turning off the power or changing the locks. Only the police can physically remove a tenant from the property once an eviction has been legally authorized - not the landlord.

Should any part of the landlord-tenant relationship become contentious, the city of Chicago can help. With informal mediation services provided through the Rents Right campaign, the city strives to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords in a non-adversarial way.

Even if your rental agreement is not subject to RLTO, the Chicago Municipal Code provides powerful protections for renters.

Renters can get help from the Rents Right initiative or from renters' advocacy organizations in Chicago, such as the Illinois Tenants Union.


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