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Kevin O'Flaherty

What are your rights as a landlord? What are your rights as a tenant? From the beginning to the end of a tenancy, questions will arise regarding a tenant’s and landlord’s rights. Navigating the landlord-tenant relationship can be complex and stressful, mainly because the law varies between states, and local ordinances can further reinforce state laws. A landlord-tenant attorney can help guide you through the many different situations that can arise. This article addresses the frequently asked questions of landlord rights and tenant rights.  


  1. Can a Landlord Terminate a Lease Early?  

No. A lease is a binding contract. A landlord cannot terminate a lease early unless there is a mutual agreement between the parties or the landlord has grounds for eviction and has gone through the proper legal channels.  

  1. Can a Landlord Evict Without a Court Order?  

No. In order for a landlord to evict the tenant from the residence, they must go through the court system. They must give the tenant notice, file a complaint, and notify the tenant of the court date. Any attempts to evict a tenant without the court system are illegal and grounds for suing your landlord.  

  1. Can a Landlord Increase Rent During a Lease?  

When and how a landlord can increase rent depends on the tenancy type. If the tenant is renting the residence month-to-month, the landlord can increase the rent at any time. However, in most states, a written notice to the tenant is required at least fifteen to thirty days before the rent increases. If there is a lease, typically, a landlord cannot increase the rent until the end of the lease unless otherwise specified within the lease.  

  1. How do I Notify My Landlord that I am Leaving?

The most effective way for a tenant to notify their landlord that they are leaving the residence is by providing a dated, written notice to the landlord within 30 days of the moving date. However, a lease may specify how the landlord would like to be notified of the non-renewal of the lease.  

  1. Can a Landlord Evict You Without Reason?  

No. A landlord cannot evict a tenant without reason. Typically, evictions may only occur for failure to pay rent, a lease violation, failure to leave after the expiration of a lease, damage to property, and if the tenant is using the property for illegal purposes. If the tenant has a month-to-month lease, the landlord may provide a thirty-day notice and not give a reason. However, this is not an eviction but a refusal to renew a lease.  

landlord-tenant attorney explaining landlord rights

  1. Can a Tenant Break a Lease?  

Yes. In most states, there are certain circumstances where a tenant may break a lease. Typically, the tenant may break a lease if they are active-duty military and are relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station if the unit is uninhabitable as defined by local laws and health and safety codes or if the tenant is experiencing harassment or a privacy violation from the landlord. In some states, there are also laws to protect victims of domestic violence. Illinois enacted the Safe Homes Act, which allows victims of domestic violence to request that their name is removed from a lease.  

  1. Can a Landlord Evict You in the Winter?  

Yes. Evictions can occur during any time of the year as long as the landlord evicts a tenant using the proper legal channels.  

  1. Can a Landlord Change the Locks?  

A landlord cannot change the locks due to non-payment of rent. Changing the locks due to non-payment is constructive eviction. A tenant can only be evicted if a landlord goes through the proper legal channels. If a landlord needs to change the locks for another reason, the tenant cannot lose access to their residence. They must be given a new set of keys.  

  1. Can a Landlord Refuse to Renew a Lease?

Yes. A landlord can refuse to renew a lease as long as proper notice is given and a lease extension is not addressed in the lease. The amount of notice required varies from state to state. In Illinois, if there is no lease or if the lease does not specify a move-out date, the landlord must give at least 30 days notice to a tenant that they are required to move.  

  1. Can a Landlord Kick Me Out to Sell the House?  

A landlord cannot evict a tenant simply because they want to sell the house or apartment building. The landlord must wait until the lease expires or provide sufficient notice that they will not be renewing the tenant’s lease. If the landlord does decide to sell the house or apartment building, the new landlord or building owner must assume the existing leases.  

  1. Can a Landlord Show My Apartment?  

Yes. Once a tenant notifies a landlord that they will be moving out of the residence, a landlord will want to find a new tenant as soon as possible. A landlord is permitted to show an apartment if notice is given. Some states require that “reasonable” notice is given; other states specify that notice must be given twenty-four to forty-eight hours in advance. Often, a lease will specify how much notice the landlord will give the tenant.  

  1. Can a Landlord Have an Open House?

Yes. A landlord can host an open house as long as proper notice is provided as dictated by the lease and local and state law.  

  1. How Much Can a Landlord Raise Rent?  

In many states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, there is no limit to how much a landlord can raise the rent. However, rent is naturally controlled by the real estate market and the landlord’s desire to encourage good tenants who pay their rent on time to remain in residence.  

  1. Can a Landlord Prove that a Tenant is Smoking in the Residence?  

A landlord can include a no-smoking provision in a lease agreement. However, it is challenging to enforce a no-smoking provision unless a tenant is observed smoking on the property.  

  1. How Long Can a Landlord Wait to Fix Something?  

The timeframe varies from state to state, with some states requiring that repairs be made in seven days and other states giving the landlord thirty days from the first repair request. In Illinois, a landlord has fourteen days to make repairs from the day that a tenant makes a request. However, the fourteen-day timeframe may be shortened depending on the urgency of the repair and the habitability of the residence.  

  1. Can a Landlord Charge Me for An Eviction?

Often, a lease addresses how and when the tenant must cover legal costs. Typically, if an eviction suit is dismissed by law, the landlord is typically not entitled to filing fees or other legal costs.  

  1. Can a Tenant Ignore a 30-Day Eviction Notice?  

A 30-day notice will provide the tenant with a date that they must move out of the residence. If the tenant fails to move out of the residence by the specified date, the landlord is still not permitted to force you out of the residence. The landlord must next file a complaint with the court and serve the tenant with the complaint and the first court date. A tenant cannot be evicted until the court orders the tenant out of the residence.  

  1. Can a Landlord Come on My Property Without Notice?  

A landlord is only allowed on a tenant’s property without notice in the case of an emergency, such as a broken pipe or suspected gas leak. Otherwise, the landlord must provide notice to the tenants that they will be entering the property.  

  1. Can a Landlord Wait to Return a Security Deposit?  

State laws specify the amount of time a landlord has to return a security deposit to the tenant. Illinois state law specifies that the landlords have forty-five days to return a security deposit if the security deposit is being returned in full. If the landlord decides to deduct from the security deposit, they must provide an itemized statement of damages and copies of the paid receipts to the tenant within thirty days.  

  1. Can a Landlord Sue a Tenant?  

A landlord can sue a tenant. Some of the reasons a landlord can sue a tenant are unpaid rent, damage to the property, unapproved alterations to the property, if the tenant owes more than the amount of the security deposit, and other breaches of the lease agreement.  

Landlord handing over keys

  1. Can a Landlord Break a Rent-to-Own Contract?  

There are very few situations where a landlord can break a rent-to-own contract. A landlord should be fully committed to the rent-to-own situation before entering into such a contract. However, a landlord can still evict a tenant in a rent-to-own contract if the tenant is violating the lease.  

  1. Can a Landlord Apply for Unemployment?  

The qualifications for an individual to receive unemployment benefits vary from state to state. In some states, landlords do not qualify for unemployment benefits. In other states, the amount of unemployment benefits is dependent on whether owning and managing properties is a supplemental income or a primary income. Other states require that landlords apply for self-employed assistance if owning or managing rental property is their primary form of income.  

  1. Can a Landlord Evict One Tenant, But Not the Other?  

Typically, a landlord cannot evict one tenant but not the other because when two tenants sign a lease, they are liable for the entirety of the rent. If a landlord attempts to evict one tenant, it is likely that the tenant being evicted will ask the court to add the other tenant to the eviction complaint.  

  1. Can a Landlord Turn Off the Water Without Notice?  

No. Landlords are not allowed to turn off a tenant’s water supply unless there is an emergency or if notice is provided. Water cannot be turned off for non-payment of rent. The water supply can only be turned off in cases of plumbing, building, or repairs.  

  1. Can a Landlord Turn Off the Heat Without Notice?  

In most states, it is illegal for a landlord to turn off the heat for lack of rent payment. Heat is considered a vital service. However, a landlord may control the heat in residence so long as they comply with local regulations. Some states or cities will specify the lowest temperature that a landlord must maintain. In Chicago, the temperature must be at least 68 degrees between 8:30 AM and 10:30 PM and at least 66 degrees at all other times.  

  1. Can a Landlord Make a Tenant Pay for Repairs?  

Yes. A landlord can make a tenant pay for repairs if specific maintenance responsibilities are outlined in the lease. However, no matter what is stated in the lease, the landlord still has a duty to maintain the property at a standard of habitability.  

  1. Can a Landlord Charge for Painting After You Move Out?

There are two situations where a landlord can charge a tenant for painting after the tenant has moved out of the residence. The first situation is if the lease states that the tenant will be charged for repainting the residence. The second situation is if the tenant caused damage to the property requiring the walls to be repainted. In this case, the cost of repainting would likely be deducted from a security deposit.  

  1. Can a Landlord Leave You Without a Refrigerator?  

In most states, a landlord is not required to provide a refrigerator. A refrigerator is considered an amenity, and a lack of a refrigerator does not make a residence uninhabitable or illegal.  

  1. Can a Landlord Refuse to Make Repairs?  

No. All tenants are protected by the implied warranty of habitability, meaning that the reasonable person would find a residence to be safe and sanitary. In many states, a tenant may make the repair themselves and then deduct the cost of the repair from their future rent. In Illinois, a tenant must provide notice of the repair to the landlord before and after the repair. The repairs must be $500 or half the monthly rent, whichever is lower. The tenant must hire someone who is a licensed and insured professional.  

  1. Can a Landlord Evict You While You are Waiting on Rental Assistance?  

To apply for most rental assistance programs, the landlord has to fill out their portion of the application and agree to accept the assistance provided by the rental assistance program as the tenant’s rent. In many cases, the application review and approval process can take many months. If a tenant falls behind on rent during that review period, the landlord cannot evict the tenant because, if approved, the rental assistance program will be paying the missing rent.  

apartment building owned by a landlord

  1. Can a Landlord Require Renter’s Insurance?  

Yes. In most states, a landlord may require a renter’s insurance in their lease agreement.  

  1. Is a Landlord Required to Have Insurance?  

This varies from state to state. Illinois does not require a landlord to have insurance. If a landlord does have insurance, it does not protect the tenant’s personal belongings. Landlord insurance is meant to protect the landlord against events like severe storms and fire.    

  1. Can a Landlord Refuse to Accommodate a Disabled or Handicapped Individual?  

No. Under federal law, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the landlord must make reasonable accommodations so that a tenant can enjoy the residence the same as a non-handicapped individual. Most states also have laws that reinforce and reiterate the ADA. Illinois has the Illinois Human Rights Act, which also protects disabled or handicapped individuals.    

  1. Can a Landlord Require the Covid Vaccine?  

Given how recent the covid vaccines were approved, the law surrounding vaccine requirements is still developing. As of right now, some states have dictated that landlords cannot inquire about a tenant’s vaccine status. Other states allow vaccine requirements, but they can only be enforced when a lease has expired, or a new lease is being signed. Landlords can enforce a mask policy in public areas of their buildings.

If you’ve ever thought your landlord or tenant’s behavior was grounds for legal action, you’re likely right. Review your state and local law or hire an attorney to investigate the situation. If you’re a tenant worried that your state favors landlords, make sure you’ve properly documented your issues and have proof.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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