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5 Chicago tenant rights your landlord doesn't want you to know

Written by
Clayton Guse

Have you ever had a truly awful landlord? One that never fixed anything and seemed to be born to make your life miserable? They might have been breaking the law.

Tenants have a lot of rights in Chicago, but most people are completely oblivious to ordinances put in place to protect renters from landlords who make Mr. Potter look like a saint. Here are five tenant rights that your landlord probably doesn't want you to know.

Landlords must give 48 hours notice before entering your apartment: Ever have a landlord that casually enters your apartment for a showing or to "check in?" It's a dirtbag practice, but it's also illegal. Landlords must give at least two days notice in writing or by phone before entering your place, which is necessary if you're the kind of person who leaves your "blown glass collection" out on the coffee table. If there's an emergency such as a burst pipe, your landlord is permitted to enter, but must notify you within the following two days.

You're supposed to get a receipt for your security deposit: Upon receiving a security deposit, a landlord is required to provide signed receipt that includes the owner's name, the date received and a description of the unit. They're also required to deposit it into an interest bearing account, and notify you of the institution within 14 days of the deposit. 

If you're moving out early, your landlord must help you find a subletter: In the case that you need to move before the end of your lease, your landlord is required to make a "good faith effort" to find a new tenant. However, if the landlord doesn't find a tenant, you'll have to pay for the cost of advertising.

You can withhold your rent if your apartment isn't up to code: If there's any part of your apartment that isn't up to City of Chicago code, provide a written request for repair to your landlord. If the problem is not fixed within 14 days, you can fix it yourself and withhold $500 or half of the month's rent (whichever is more), assuming that you weren't responsible for the problem. If the problem makes the apartment uninhabitable and isn't fixed within 14 days after the request, you can terminate the lease without penalty. 

You can talk shit about a bad apartment: You can complain to the police, media and pretty much anyone about how awful your landlord is (so long as you're not lying). If you do stir a fuss, landlords are not allowed to retaliate by decreasing service, increasing rent or threatening to not allow you to renew your lease.

Check out the City of Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance Summary for more information about your renting rights.

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