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Kevin O'Flaherty

It is important for landlords and tenants alike to understand what is landlord-tenant law in Illinois, including their rights, responsibilities, and regulations. Landlord-tenant law includes items such as property description and lease duration, payment terms, landlord and tenant obligations, handling the security deposit, and more. This blog post aims to provide clarity in these matters by addressing the updated information necessary for effective landlord-tenant negotiation.

Essential Components of Lease Agreements in Illinois

A lease is a contract for renting the real property between the landlord and tenant. It describes the relationship between the landlord, the real property, and the tenant. The landlord owns the property that is leased to the tenant. A lease can be written or a verbal contract. It is suggested that leases be memorialized to avoid any confusion of the lease terms.    

The lease terms should include several essential terms—the start date of the lease and when the lease expires. The duration of the lease should also be listed to avoid any confusion—basic information such as the landlord’s address and the tenant’s address and description of the property. The lease should include the amount of rent due each month and where to direct these fees. If any late fees are assessed to the tenant, the landlord must add this clause to the lease.     

The lease agreement should also have a clause concerning a security deposit. A security deposit can be for any amount that the landlord deems reasonable. Landlords generally use the security deposit to repair damages done by the tenant during the rental period that exceed normal “wear and tear” usage.

Property Description and Lease Duration

When signing a lease agreement, it is important to clearly define the duration of the lease as well as provide an accurate description of what exactly is being leased. This can include factors such as: address and unit number (if applicable), type/style of property, how many bedrooms or bathrooms are included with the rental and any additional amenities which come along with it.

Rent and Payment Terms

The terms of a lease agreement between tenants and landlords are essential. These involve the agreed-upon rent amount, payment terms, due dates for rental payments as well as any applicable late fees or penalties imposed when rent is paid after its stipulated date.

In Illinois, there exists a five-day grace period where no financial penalty can be applied if Rent remains unpaid after this time frame. An overdue fine may not exceed $20 plus 20% of the total monthly cost wherever that figure would make up a larger portion than Twenty Dollars itself.

This grace period affords leasers additional protection while holding them accountable to their obligations by enforcing pre-determined consequences in response to tardiness concerning scheduled payments on accounts associated with tenancy contracts they’ve previously signed off upon prior to taking residence at said addresses.

Landlord and Tenant Obligations

A written lease agreement that exceeds 12 months should be provided by landlords in accordance with the landlord tenant laws, which also requires a 30-day notice for termination of tenancy. Both parties need to comprehend their individual roles and are legally protected when responsibilities between them have been explicitly specified. The landlord is accountable for making sure tenants reside on rental premises meeting all pertinent housing codes and regulations regarding habitability set up locally.

What are My Rights If the Landlord Refuses to Return the Security Deposit?

If the repairs to the rental property are excessive of the standard “wear and tear” or there remains unpaid rent, the landlord can legally withhold the security deposit. However, suppose neither of the situations is true. In that case, the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenants within 45 days after vacating the rental property. Suppose the landlord decides they will keep part of the security deposit. In that case, the landlord must send a carefully itemized list of damages the tenant has caused. This list must be sent to the tenant within thirty days of leaving the rental property.  

The landlord must use the withheld portion of the security deposit to make the needed repairs within thirty days. Suppose the landlord does not make the necessary repairs. In that case, the landlord must return the withheld portion within forty-five days of the tenant moving from the rental property. Also, note that the Chicago RLTO has additional requirements to the Illinois Security Deposit Act.  

The Security Deposit: Handling and Return

When renting a property, the tenant pays an amount of money to the landlord as a security deposit. This is done prior to taking up residence in the unit and can be used for any damage that occurs while living there or if rent payments are not received on time. Landlords have 45 days after tenants vacate before they must return this sum under legal obligation. It’s important to note that renters should make sure to pay all due rents so as not to forfeit their own payment.

For landlords in Illinois, there are specific procedures to be followed when collecting a security deposit. This includes keeping comprehensive records of the date and amount collected, providing a written acknowledgment for it, as well as abiding by any state or local laws regarding maximum allowed amounts.

Returning the Security Deposit

Refunding a security deposit to the tenant requires more than simply giving back the money. It involves carefully inspecting for any property damage, deducting expenses due, and promptly returning whatever is left over.

The landlord can legally hold onto part of it if there’s been destruction caused by the renter: they must present an inventory detailing what has occurred with estimated or actual repair costs within thirty days of their departure from the premises.

Security Deposit Interest

Landlords are obligated to disburse interest for security deposits stored beyond a period of six months, with certain regulations pertinent specifically to Chicago. In Illinois, the applicable interest rate on these funds is set at 0.01%.

Disputes Over Security Deposits

Conflict between landlords and tenants often arises over the issue of security deposits. In Illinois, renters have the privilege to oppose any deductions taken by their landlord from a deposit. Consequently, an itemized list specifying damages is needed for justifiable withholding on behalf of said landowner.

What are Landlords’ Responsibilities?

There are no specific laws that dictate exactly what a landlord must do. However, the landlord is responsible for following local housing codes local housing ordinances and providing a rental unit in habitable condition. Find out what your rights are as a tenant in Tenant Rights 101

What is the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance?

The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, or the “RLTO,” is a Chicago law that imposes additional restrictions on landlords and grants further protection for tenants.  

How do I know if the RLTO applies to me?

If you live in Chicago, the RLTO covers most apartments except for apartment units of six or less, and the landlord occupies it.    

What are the added duties to landlords and tenants under the RLTO?

Under the RTLO, tenants and landlords are expected to comply with specific duties. Some of these are listed below:

  • If the tenant notifies a landlord of needed repairs to the rental unit and the landlord fails to make the needed repairs, the tenant can submit the requested repairs in writing to the landlord.  
  • Late fees are capped at $10.00 for the first $500 of rent and then only 5% on the remainder of the rent.  
  • A landlord cannot include a clause that prohibits subletting. The sub-tenant, however, must meet the exact requirements as set forth for the tenants to rent the property.  
  • A landlord cannot add a clause to the rental agreement waiving the tenant’s right to a jury trial. A tenant in Chicago (and suburban Cook County, which will be discussed later) will always have the option of a jury trial.  
  • Terminating a tenant’s lease in Chicago will depend on the length of period the tenant has resided in the rental property.  
  • Landlords must provide at least 60-day notice if the tenant has lived in the property for more than six months but less than three years.  
  • The landlord requires one hundred twenty-day notice to terminate a lease for three years or greater.    
  • Terminating a month-to-month tenancy under the RLTO also has different procedures.  
  • The landlord must serve the tenant with a written 30-day notice, and the termination of the lease must fall at the end of the rental period.  
  • Landlords are required to attach specific notices to the rental agreement. The most important one is a copy of the RLTO. Suppose a landlord does not attach a copy of the RLTO. In that case, a tenant has the right to terminate the rental agreement upon giving the landlord notice.    

What if I don’t pay rent and my landlord changes the locks to my rental property?

Public policy dating from the English law to 2022 in Illinois discouraged landlords from taking such self-help remedies as it promoted a peace disturbance. In this situation, the landlord did an illegal lockout, and such actions are not permitted in Illinois, with the RLTO having heightened tenant protection. The Illinois Evictions Act, which is the statute that dictates how evictions are to proceed, is also rooted in common law from medieval England. For a landlord to evict, they must follow the Evictions Act. Only the sheriff can physically remove tenants from the rental property.  

How does the eviction process work in Illinois?

The Evictions Act lists eight statutory circumstances that qualify for the eviction process. According to the statute, they are:  

  1. When a forcible entry is made on real estate;  
  1. When a peaceable entry is made on real estate and possession is withheld;  
  1. When an entry is made into vacant or unoccupied land with right or title;  
  1. When a lessee (tenant) or anyone holding under a lessee holds possession without right after the lease term or tenancy ends by its terms or after notice to quit;  
  1. When a vendee (purchaser) under a contract remains in possession after a breach of the contract and demands possession;  
  1. When a grantor remains in possession after-sale or an owner stays in possession after a court-ordered sale or after a sale pursuant to a mortgage or trust deed and the time redemption has expired, both after the demand for a possession;  
  1. When a condominium owner fails to pay assessments or fines; and  
  1. When a unit owner in a common interest community fails to pay assessments for the maintenance and repair of common areas.  

Serving the Eviction Notice

The next step in the evictions process is for a landlord to serve written notice upon tenants. The type of notice and duration of the notice period depends on the circumstances. If a tenant has failed to pay rent, a five-day notice is required unless the lease agreement has a clause for more than five days. If a tenant has violated the terms of the lease, such as playing loud music all night, the tenant will receive ten days' notice. The RLTO has additional steps for a ten-day notice, which is essential to note. If a landlord does not want to renew a year-to-year lease, sixty-day notice is required that must be given four months before the sixty-day notice is issued. If a condo owner fails to pay assessments, a thirty-day notice is required.    

Service of the notice may be accomplished by the following methods:  

  • Notice may be delivered personally to the tenant; or  
  • Or it was delivered to a person 13 years or older who resides or is in possession of the property. Note that this is not the same as the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, which has more stringent requirements.  
  • The notice can be mailed by certified mail or registered mail with a valid return receipt (the “green card”).  

Eviction Complaint and Summons

Once service has been achieved, the next step is the service of the complaint and summons. An eviction complaint is either a “single-action” for possession only or a “joint-action” for money damages, such as past-due rent, attorneys’ fees, and court costs. The complaint only requires a few allegations: the landlord “is entitled to possession” of the property, the premises must be described with reasonable certainty, and the tenant is “unlawfully withholds the possession” of the property. 735 ILCS 5/9-106. The summons is the document that informs the tenant when to appear in court for trial and is a relatively short time period depending on the court’s dockets.    

Eviction proceedings are summary in nature and very narrow in scope. The only issue to be determined is who has the greater right of possession. Assuming the service of the complaint and summons is successful, the case will be set for trial. Thus, the pace of an evictions case will move around faster than a case in the Chancery Division.

Court Proceedings and Judgement 

On the first day of court, if the defendants appear and do not have an attorney, the judge will grant a short continuance for the defendants to obtain counsel. Even if the defendants opt to appear pro se (without an attorney) and did not acquire counsel on the next court date, they should be prepared to go to trial.    

For more specific questions about eviction in Illinois such as evicting a tenant without a lease, read another one of our eviction articles.

Hardship Stay of Eviction

A hardship stay of eviction is a legal provision that allows tenants facing eviction to request a temporary delay in the eviction process due to significant hardships. This can include situations like serious illness, sudden loss of income, or other extraordinary circumstances that temporarily prevent the tenant from relocating or finding alternative housing. The purpose of a hardship stay is to provide temporary relief to the tenant, allowing them some additional time to either remedy the situation leading to the eviction or to find new accommodations.

What should I expect from an Evictions Trial?

As mentioned above, an evictions proceeding is a summary procedure. In a typical residential case, prolonged discovery is strongly disfavored, and other traditional litigation tactics delay the trial. An eviction trial in front of a judge (a bench trial) will usually only last a few minutes. The judge will ask the plaintiff, who has the burden of proof, to “prove-up” his or her case, and then the judge will usually ask a few questions to the defendants, under oath. The judge will then make a decision after hearing both parties’ testimonies. If the judge ruled in the plaintiff’s favor, an Eviction Order would be entered with a stay date (how long the plaintiff must wait before filing the order with the sheriff) that gives possession to the plaintiff.    

Once the stay date expires, the plaintiff will place the Eviction Order with the local sheriff. Depending on the county, the sheriff can take several weeks or months to physically remove the person, and in some counties, the property of the occupants, from the rental property. This serves as a brief overview of the eviction process and is not meant to be exhaustive.   For an extensive review of the eviction process, check out our article on The Eviction Process Explained

Have Landlord and Tenant Laws Changed?

There have been some developments in Landlord-Tenant Laws in 2024 in Illinois, although most of the changes went into effect in late 2021.    

One of the most noteworthy changes in Illinois Landlord-Tenant Laws is the creation of the Cook County Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance, or the CCRLTO. It includes all of Cook County, except Chicago, Evanston, and Mount Prospect, which have their own local ordinances. The CCRLTO took effect in June 2021. The CCRLTO mirrors the Chicago RLTO with the added tenant protections and landlord responsibilities.    

If that defendant appears on the next court date, it will be continued for another week so that the defendant can consult with the free legal services provided by the ERP program. If the defendant does appear on the first court date, a continuance for a week will usually be granted so the defendant can review his or her case with the ERP attorney. The goal is for the ERP to provide a resolution for the plaintiff and landlord. DuPage County also has a similar mediation program established pursuant to Article 14 of the DuPage County Local Rules.    

If you need help with eviction or Landlord-Tenant Laws, please contact one of our experienced Landlord-Tenant attorneys at 630-324-6666 or fill out our confidential contact form and a member of our team will be in touch.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much notice does a tenant have to give in Illinois?

Tenants in Illinois need to give a 30-day written notification when they are planning on vacating, unless their lease specifies that it should be longer. This requirement applies to all tenants who wish to end the tenancy period with due notice.

When can a landlord evict you in Illinois?

In Illinois, tenants must receive 5-10 days of notice before eviction proceedings can begin depending on the reason for eviction. Tenants in Chicago RLTO or Cook County RTLO properties are also provided the right to cure any non-criminal violation within this term of notice.

Can a landlord come in without notice in Illinois?

A tenant in Illinois must be notified by the landlord before any non-emergency entry, and that would usually have to take place during reasonable hours (9:00 am - 8:00 pm). Unless it is an emergency situation, advance notice from the landlord to their tenant has to be given.

What are the key elements of a lease agreement in Illinois?

In an Illinois lease agreement, obligations must be detailed for both landlord and tenant including the property description, rent amount to be paid as well as payment terms associated with it along with the length of the tenancy. Both parties are expected to fulfill their respective roles so that this arrangement can go smoothly.

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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