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Getting back a security deposit | City counsel

Landlords must return your money in 45 days.

I moved out of my apartment after two years. My old landlord hasn’t returned my security deposit yet and says he’s “waiting for some checks to clear.” What are my rights as his past tenant?—Lincoln Square resident

There are a few guidelines in Chicago’s municipal code regarding security deposits that every renter should be aware of. For one, security deposits must be held in a different account from the landlord’s operating account—which means that whole checks-to-clear excuse is not valid. The lessor also must return your security deposit (plus any interest owed) within 45 days after move-out. However, the landlord can deduct any reasonable expenses—repairs to holes in the walls or significant cleaning—as long as you’re given a detailed list and receipts. If the landlord doesn’t follow the rules, you might be able to recover twice your security deposit plus interest and attorney’s fees. But sometimes, gently reminding Mr. Roper that you know your rights can get the matter resolved.

Ken Levinson is a trial lawyer at the Chicago firm Joseph, Lichtenstein & Levinson. Send your legal queries to

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