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This article explores Illinois landlord responsibilities related to tenant safety and security. Safety and security can encompass a wide range of concerns within the rental unit itself and outside the rental unit or common areas. Not only is a tenant concerned about the condition of his unit, but a tenant may be concerned about issues including fire safety, theft, assault, damage to property, and foreseeable criminal acts.  

What Is Reasonable to Expect From A Landlord?

Illinois law does not explicitly outline a landlord’s responsibilities to tenants. A landlord has a “general” responsibility to ensure a rental unit is “habitable” and fit for living.  

Does A Landlord Have To Protect Against Each Possible Scenario?

A landlord must maintain dwelling units in good condition and follow all fair housing laws and local and state health codes.  

If a landlord breaches his duty to a tenant or is “at fault” for injuries or damages sustained by a tenant, the tort law of negligence may apply, or a breach of contract may occur.  

Suppose a tenant is injured or sustains damages to his person as a result of the failures of the landlord. In that case, the tenant should consult a personal injury lawyer. Personal Injury lawyers obtain financial damages for clients who can prove that another person breaches a duty of care and the client subsequently suffered injuries. If the tenant sustains financial damages only or “contract” money damages, then an attorney who handles contract law should be retained.  

 

The City of Chicago has an ordinance, a law, that spells out the duties of both landlord and tenant. The ordinance specifically lists the general duties of a tenant and the general duties of a landlord. It also provides important issues like porch safety, security deposits, and rent and landlord and tenant remedies. A copy of the “Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance Summary must be attached to every written rental agreement. (Mun.Code Ch. 5-12-010 & 5-12-020)  

   

Before signing a rental agreement with a landlord, you should know the local laws that affect your rights as a tenant. Your lease contract may not fully disclose all the rights and responsibilities of a tenant and/or landlord.  

Duties as to Property/Dwelling Unit

 

A landlord owes a duty to protect a tenant from harm or injury caused by defects in common areas under which the landlord controls.    

However, the landlord also may have “responsibilities” inside the tenant’s apartment. The City of Chicago, the City of Aurora, and the City of Naperville all have ordinances that protect tenants. If a tenant is injured or sustains damages from the failure of a landlord to comply with an ordinance, the tenant could sue the landlord based upon the duty spelled out in the ordinance.    

 

The local government and fire departments require smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. These are the responsibility of the landlord. However, the tenant is responsible for keeping the batteries charged.  

 

Other concerns of the tenant may include foreseeable criminal acts of third parties like being assaulted by a stranger. Does the landlord provide a safe and secure building where tenants feel safe? Does the landlord provide adequate lighting in and around the apartment building? Is there security staff on the premises?  

 

Illinois has a Landlord and Tenant Act, 765 ILCS 705. Still, it does not specifically list the “duties” of a landlord to a tenant regarding “safety and security,” except regarding the changing or rekeying of the dwelling after the prior lessee vacates it. Under section 15(c), “if a lessor does not change or rekey the lock as required by this Section, and a theft occurs at that dwelling unit that is attributable to the lessor’s failure to change or rekey the lock, the landlord is liable for any damage from the theft that occurs as a result of the lessor’s failure to comply with this Section.” 765 ILCS 705/15(c).  

The statute further provides that a landlord cannot exempt his liability for injuries to a person or property caused by or resulting from the landlord's negligence. 765 ILCS 705/1. If a landlord adds language to his lease agreement that specifically provides an exemption for “negligent” acts of the lessor, the law provides that said provisions are wholly unenforceable. 765 ILCS 705/1(a).    

 

A landlord is negligent if he fails to exercise reasonable care or breaches his duty of care. The “duty” owed by a landlord to a tenant is based on the tort of negligence. If an injury occurs to a tenant, the tenant must prove that it is related to the breach of care or duty that is required of the landlord.  

What Possible Safety And/Or Security Measures Can A Landlord Be Held Responsible For?

If a tenant is injured, he/she should consider whether the landlord failed to act reasonably or take necessary action to prevent the injury.  

 

A tenant who is worried about their security or safety in an apartment dwelling should consider whether the landlord acted reasonably to keep them safe. There may be many reasonable steps a landlord can take to keep their tenants safe. The tenant must prove that landlord failed to take reasonable measures to keep them safe and free from injury.  

 

Possible safety measures that a landlord can take to keep a tenant safe from foreseeable criminal acts of third parties include:  

 

A) employing security staff  

B) require badges for staff  

C) emergency phone or panic button  

D) adequate lighting  

E) limited access to parking facilities  

F) background checks for all potential tenants  

 

 

Additionally, a landlord should provide the following to ensure that the tenant is safe and secure from injury on the property:  

 

  1.  Install smoke detectors  
  1.  Install carbon monoxide detectors  
  1. Change or rekey locks  
  1.  Clean asbestos/mold from premises  
  1.  Maintain porch/patio to withstand the weight  
  1. Provide fire extinguisher(s) in every unit
  1. Maintenance review and repair of dwelling  
  1. Provide emergency evacuation plan(s)  

 

 

The duties owed to a tenant by a landlord arise from their contractual relationship. The duties also arise from both common law and statutory law. Whether the responsibility or duty is about the property itself or the tenant’s person depends upon the circumstances of each case.    

 

The landlord is responsible if he failed to act reasonably, if he failed to exercise reasonable care in his actions or lack thereof, and if a tenant is injured. The landlord is responsible if he fails to follow the terms of the contract, local laws, and any rules and laws.  

If you have questions or need legal help, an experienced Landlord Tenant lawyer can assist you whether you are a landlord or tenant.  Please call 630-324-6666 to discuss your options with an experienced Landlord Tenant lawyer today.    

Posted 
May 17, 2022
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