Planning to sign a lease in Chicago? If so, make sure you’re up to date on all the applicable laws. Tenant rights in Chicago are governed by the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, which has been in place since 1986. It’s designed to protect you as a tenant. Hopefully, here you’ll learn something that could save you time and money down the road.


Basic services you’re entitled to

First and foremost, your apartment should be up to the standards laid out in the Chicago Building Code. Meaning, your place needs running water, electricity, heat, and certain safety necessities such as working smoke detectors. Essentially, everything that is required to make the apartment habitable and safe. Your landlord is also required to disclose important information, such as whether any major health hazards have been discovered at the property.

A view of the city of Chicago by night. There are lots of tall buildings all lit up and the streets are lit from the cars buzzing by. There is a view of the water as well that lines the coast

Naturally, sometimes things happen that are out of you and your landlord’s control. In case anything stops working, you should tell your landlord immediately. They will have 14 days to remedy the situation. If for some reason your landlord is unwilling or unable to fix whatever is causing the issue, you have a few different options for how to proceed. If the cost of repairs is less than $500 or half the monthly rent (whichever is more), hire a professional to take care of it yourself and then bill the amount back to your landlord. If the estimated cost is more than $500, it’s one of your tenant rights in Chicago to deduct a reasonable amount of rent to make up for the loss in value.

An additional service you’re allowed by law is a lock change upon move in. You should always request this from your landlord if they don’t bring it up. There’s no way to know who the previous tenant might have given keys to. So, don’t assume that your landlord will automatically change the locks between tenants. Blueground offers fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments in some of the world's most sought after cities. If you’re someone who requires a service animal, it means you are entitled to renting a property even if the landlord has a pet policy that prohibits animals. You absolutely can’t be denied the apartment on the basis of your animal. However, you are responsible for keeping the animal under control. Consistent issues with a poorly behaved service animal could be grounds for removal.


Rights regarding your security deposit

Nearly all apartments require a security deposit when moving in. Chicago has some pretty specific laws regarding exactly how a deposit should be handled. For instance, your landlord should keep the full sum in an interest-earning account that is separate from the personal finances. Believe it or not here you’re actually entitled to the interest accrued over your lease period. Although keep in mind that it probably won’t be more than a few cents for a one-year lease.

woman holding cash at the bank ready to deposit

The purpose of the security deposit is to cover the cost of any damage that might occur while you’re living in the apartment. If you have been taking excellent care of the property, you should get the full amount back at the end of your lease.

However, if your landlord does decide to keep some or all of the deposit, they must follow a set of rules. The deposit must be returned within 30 days of the end of the lease, and any amount withheld must be justified by an itemized receipt.


Your landlord’s rights to enter

Your landlord might need to enter your apartment from time to time for various reasons. In most cases, you should receive notice of this 48 hours in advance. In case of a serious emergency like a burst water pipe, your landlord can, of course, enter immediately. However, he or she must let you know in the following two days. If you’re ending your lease, your landlord is also allowed to show the property to prospective new tenants, although this can only be done in the final 60 days of the lease period.


Tenant rights regarding subletting

Only sign a lease if you can commit to staying for the full rental period. Life is unpredictable though, so if for some reason you find yourself needing to move out before your lease is up, tenant rights in Chicago dictate that your landlord must allow you to sublet the property. Once you’ve found a new renter, your landlord gets to review the application. If they decide to reject the candidate, it’s on them to find someone else.


Month-to-month leases

Month-to-month leases can occur when dictated by a written lease, when no written lease is in place, or when the rental period on a written lease has expired. If this is the case, you’re still under the same rules and protections outlined in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. The only difference is that both the landlord and the tenant can terminate the lease at any time and for any reason (as long as 30 days’ notice is provided).

A spacious and furnished apartment in Chicago. There is a grey couch and a large glass bay window with a chair in front. There is an almost empty black bookshelf against the wall

This type of lease is tricky to navigate, especially since your landlord could theoretically ask you to move at any time. Don’t panic – there are a few better alternatives if you can’t commit to a standard year lease. Companies like Blueground provide fully furnished apartments in Chicago with flexible lease periods, so you can avoid the uncertainty of a month-to-month lease. When renting with Blueground, you are able to set an initial lease period of under a year and renew as often as you like from as little as one month at a time. Blueground apartments all come equipped with the utilities and amenities already hooked up so you can easily show up and start living. 


Your responsibilities as a tenant

The laws that govern renter rights in Chicago are designed to protect you as a tenant. However, you’ll also have a few responsibilities to keep in mind. You’re required to keep the property relatively clean and in good condition. While you’re allowed guests, you are responsible for their behavior and any damages they might cause. Make sure you are following the rules that have been set out in the lease and always pay the rent on time. If you hand rent over late, your landlord can charge a late fee of $10 plus 5% for any amount over $500.

A man on the floor wearing glasses and a buttoned up shirt is smiling while playing with his child on the floor with toy cars. There is a small child next to the father wearing a white shirt and pushing a red car.

If you fail to uphold your tenant obligations, your landlord can terminate the lease early. A notice of at least 10 days is required for lease violations while only five days notice is required for nonpayment of rent. No matter what, your landlord can’t lock you out without an official eviction notice from a court.

You certainly have plenty of tenant rights in Chicago. Even so, you shouldn’t rely on your landlord to know exactly what you’re entitled to. By learning the laws, you’ll be informed and equipped to protect yourself once you’ve signed the lease for your new spot.

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