News / City Life

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

5 Chicago tenant rights your landlord doesn't want you to know
Photograph: Jaysin Trevino/Flickr

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.



city e

Our washer machine is in the public basement and is not draining, but the washer and dryer are not in the lease. This is an owner occupied building and I'm confused whether or not I can deduct the repairs from the rent because I read an Illinois law that said you can't deduct from owner occupied buildings with less than 6 units. Also the electric garage opener is not working so I have to manually open and close the door. The lease does state that 1/2 the garage is included in rent. Can I deduct for that repair too?

Angela B

My question is if your renting a house from a landlord and your rent is do on the first of each month after the first is the landlord supposed to charge you 25.00 a day after the first without a grace period

Brian P

I have no problem with tenants knowing any of this.  They should know their rights.   A lot of landlords in Chicago are not taking security deposits anymore.  

Teresa J

My son share apartment with other roommate and they share bathroom and his have to walk thru roommate bedroom but few weeks ago his roommate bring his friend who live there and bring Pitbull dog ,my son have problem use bathroom because dog it's nasty

Try complain to apartment mgr but his not doing anything

What its law about Pitbull in appartment

Angela C

I have no idea that I should get a receipt for security deposit. So,thanks that you mentioned this in your article. Here I found other good recommendations concerning security deposit. Topic explains under which circumstances tenants can get the security deposit back. It was also new ton me. I always thought if you end the tenancy earlier you have no right to require your deposit costs.

David H

One thing to keep in mind when renting in Chicago: laws that apply to some rentals DO NOT apply to owner occupied buildings or buildings with fewer than five apartments.


Informative & helpful.


Judges should but don't always uphold the laws of the justice system and that is the atrocity of manmade laws.

Craig M

I'm a landlord, and I have no problem with my tenants knowing this.

Anne S

Whatever you do, do NOT withhold rent. While you do have the right to do so, landlords routinely evict tenants for "non-payment of rent" and the courts will not support your right to do it!  The law needs to be changed so that, when a landlord takes a tenant to eviction court, the judge should be required to FIRST determine if the problems for which the tenant withheld rent have been fixed. If not, the judge should immediately throw out the eviction, charge the landlord with retaliation and order them to give the tenant 2 months rent (the penalty for retaliation). 


Agree 100%! Would surely support an online petition regarding this!

Joshua A

@Anne S  There are ways of doing this to protect yourself. Metropolitan Tenants' Organization has a form letter to send to your landlord in the event that you need to withhold rent. In addition, the money that was supposed to be for rent ought to be put away in a separate account, not spent. Providing documentation of all this saves a lot of time and headache in the courtroom. (I work as a social worker with homeless and formerly homeless individuals. This is pretty routine)

David H

Security deposits do not have to be kept in separate accounts or earn interest for owner occupied buildings or buildings with fewer than five apartments.