Illinois Landlord Tenant Laws You Should Know

Knowing state landlord-tenant laws is important to being a landlord. It’s difficult to read through the laws and understand them, as they are all written in “legalese.” This guide breaks them down for you. These laws apply to the entire state of Illinois. Cities and townships may have additional regulations.

The following explains the laws regarding commercial and residential landlords and tenants in Illinois. For laws regarding other states, please view our page for Landlord and Tenant Law.

Finding a Tenant

Finding good tenants to rent your unit is one of the most difficult parts of being a landlord.

The Fair Housing Act

You are not allowed to ask a potential tenant questions about or deny an application because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, any disability, age, or medical history.[1] The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from discrimination in any process pertaining to finding a home.

Landlords are restricted from the following:[2]

  • Refuse to rent or sell a home.
  • Make housing unavailable.
  • Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for sale or rental of a home.
  • Provide different housing services or facilities.
  • Falsely deny that a home is available for inspection, sale, or rental.
  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on national origin, religion, sex, disability, or the presence of children.
  • Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with someone exercising their fair housing rights.

Additionally, if your tenant has a physical or mental disability, you must:

  • Pay to make reasonable modifications to the property so that the tenant can use the home. You can require that the tenant change it back at the end of the lease.
  • Make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices or services, if the tenant needs them to live in the home.

If your property qualifies as housing for the elderly, you can restrict tenants to those that meet the age requirement.

Disclosures

According to federal law, you must tell your tenant certain information. You also must keep certain information quiet.

Nondisclosure

You cannot tell another landlord that a tenant exercised their rights under the Safe Homes Act. Meaning, if a landlord calls you about your past tenant, you cannot tell the landlord that your tenant left or asked you to change the locks due to a threat of sexual violence. However, your tenant can waive this right in writing.

If you do disclose this information, you are liable for actual damages up to $2,000 resulting from your action. You may also owe the tenant attorney fees and court costs.

Lead-Based Paint

While you’re not required to remove lead-based paint, you are required to let the tenant know that it is there. If your property was built before 1978, you need to tell the tenant that it’s very likely that the unit is painted with lead-based paint before they sign the lease. As a landlord, you are obligated to tell your tenants about this before they sign the lease. You need to provide the tenant with:[3]

Radon Gas

The law does not require you to test for radon gas in your units. However, if you do test for radon gas in your units and you discover that it is present, you need to inform prospective tenants about it.[4] Also, if your tenant tests for radon gas in your unit and discovers its presence, you have to tell all future tenants about the discovery.

You do not need to disclose anything about radon gas if your unit is on the third story above the ground level. You also do not need to disclose anything if a later test indicates that there is not radon gas inside the unit.

Security Deposit

Each state has different laws regarding how long you can keep a security deposit, where you have to keep it, and how to refund it.

Returning the Deposit

To be able to keep part of a tenant’s security deposit, you must deliver an itemized statement of the damage caused to the property and the estimated cost to repair or replace the damage to your tenant, if you are renting a unit in an apartment building. The document must be delivered within 30 days of the tenant leaving the property and include receipts or copies of receipts. If the costs are only estimates, you must deliver receipts within 30 days of delivering your estimates. You can deliver the documents by mail or email.[5]

If you do not have any damages to deduct from the security deposit, you must refund the security deposits within 45 days of the tenant moving out.

If a circuit court finds that you did not give the tenant the itemized statement with receipts or did not return the deposit, you will owe the tenant double the security deposit, court costs, and attorney fees.

Interest on the Deposit

If you own 25 properties in a single building or complex, you need to pay your tenant interest on the deposit within 30 days of the end of the 12-month rental period.[6] You can pay your tenant by cash or credit it to rent that is due.

You pay your tenant whatever the interest the largest commercial bank in your state is currently paying. You can determine what that bank is by looking at the bank’s minimum deposit passbook savings accounts as of December 31 of the last calendar year. If your tenant lives in one of your properties for less than six months, then you do not need to pay them interest.

If the amount is less than $5, you do not have to pay it until the end of the lease. When the lease is over and not renewed, you must pay the tenant the full amount, even if it is less than $5.

Purchasing a Property with Tenants

When you buy a foreclosed property that already has a tenant, you are responsible for collecting the tenant’s security deposit from the previous owner.[7] Within 21 days of getting the security deposit, you must post a written notice on the main entrance of every unit you acquired with your name and confirmation that you have received the deposit.

Collecting Rent

How you collect rent is important because a misstep could cost you its value in court. It’s better to know the laws and follow them so you can keep all of your money.

Rent Concessions

You cannot promise your tenant a discount on rent or the ability to stay in your property for free or cheap without putting it in the contract.[8] This practice, called concessions, gives a tenant the false impression that your property is worth a higher rental rate than it is. So, they might be more comfortable paying more money because of a verbal promise you gave. However, if your promise is not in writing, your tenant has no guarantee that they will be able to collect on it.

You can put a concession or discount in writing within the contract. However, you must then use a 1.5 inch tall stamp to mark the document with the words “Concession Granted” and write in the margins how much the concession or discount is worth.

If you fail to follow the Rent Concession Act, you will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Utilities

Illinois statutes break down utilities into two acts, the Tenant Utility Service Act and the Tenant Utility Payment Disclosure Act.

Tenant Utility Payment

If the electricity and/or water from the entire apartment complex or multiple units runs through one meter and you want to charge your tenant for utility payments, you need to give your tenant a written breakdown at the beginning of the lease of how you calculate which apartment pays how much. The breakdown can be in the lease or in another written document.[9]

When you add up what all of your tenants are paying for rent, it should not be more than what the utility company is actually charging you. All of your tenants must be paying their part. You should be taking into account unit size and occupancy. If a tenant asks you for a utility bill for a month you’re requesting payment for, you must provide it.

The same is true for association fees. The association must provide a property owner with the formula used to calculate each unit’s fair share of the utilities.[10]

Landlord Utility Payment

Whenever a contract requires you to pay for utilities, you must pay for the service to keep it available to the tenant. You must pay for the utilities in a timely manner so the tenant’s services are not interrupted.[11] If you do not, your tenant can cancel the lease or pay for the utilities.

Anything your tenant pays for utilities that you were required to pay should be deducted from the rent.

You cannot make a tenant responsible for payment of utilities directly to the utility company, if the utilities cover areas other than those within the unit. However, there is an exception to this rule. You can charge the tenant for common space utilities, if you do all of the following:

  • Before giving your tenant a lease or collecting a security deposit, you gave your prospective tenant a written document stating that they will be paying for utilities in the common spaces. You must include documentation of what the space is used for and any possible changes that will increase the space’s utility cost, like a new tenant or washer/dryer installation.
  • You give the tenant copies of utility bills for the past 12 months, unless the tenant waives this right, in writing.
  • You cannot ask your tenant to collect money from other tenants to pay for the common space utilities.
  • You give the tenant a written statement that indicates how much you will be lowering their rent to make up for them paying the common space utilities.

You cannot transfer the payment of utilities from you to your tenant during a lease unless you amend the lease in writing. You can legally transfer payment at the end of the lease or for tenants who do not have a lease. However, you must give your tenant notice 30 days in advance of the change.

Problem Solving

Throughout most tenancies, problems arise. These problems can be as minor as a tenant needing a lock changed to as major as a tenant not paying you rent. Regardless, the state of Illinois has certain protocols you need to follow when solving problems.

Retaliation

You cannot evict a tenant or refuse to renew a lease of residential property because your tenant complained to a governmental authority about a true violation of an applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation.[12] Your lease cannot waive this rule.

Repairs

Tenants can deduct repairs from rent.[13] If you do not make a repair that is required by your lease or the law in less than two weeks, the tenant can make the repair themselves and fine you, so long as it does not cost more than $500 or half a month’s rent (whichever is less). The tenant must notify you by mail of their intent to make the repair.

Emergency situations may cause you to need to make the repair in under two weeks. These situations include conditions that will cause irreparable harm to the unit or any conditions that pose an immediate health or safety threat to the tenant.

The tenant’s repair must be made by a workman at a reasonable price. The tenant must then submit the paid bill, including the name, address and phone number of the workman used to make the repair, to you. Then, the tenant can deduct the bill from their rent.

Your tenant cannot make a repair at your expense if the problem was caused by the tenant’s negligent behavior including if the problem was caused by someone on the property with the tenant’s consent.

This act only applies to private, residential tenancies. It does not apply to tenants in mobile homes.

Your tenant is responsible for making sure:

  • Repairs are made legally.
  • The workman is licensed.
  • The workman is insured.

Also, the tenant is financially responsible for any damages the workman makes to the property.
If your tenant meets all the requirements of this act, they can claim this as a defense against eviction. Meaning, you cannot evict your tenant because they did not pay you if the nonpayment is caused by a deduction from rent for repair.

Utilities

Your tenant can take you to court if you do not pay their utilities and they are cut off as a result.

Terminating Utilities

You cannot pause or stop utility service to your tenants because you did not pay a utility bill that the lease says you will pay or because you messed with the equipment.[14]

However, you can turn off utilities in cases of emergencies or to make repairs if you give the tenant written notice seven days in advance.

Petition for Receivership

Tenants and utility companies can petition the court to appoint someone responsible for collecting rent. Tenants can petition the court twice per year per building. The petition must first be sent to the landlord’s home address with the utility company’s notice of termination of utility services.

If the court finds that tenant utilities were terminated because of money the landlord owed, the court can appoint a responsible person. The court will design a payment plan through which this person will give part of the rent to the utility company to pay for utilities. The court will direct where the rest of the rent goes.

You will be responsible for paying any excess money (12 months of your tenant’s rent) owed to the utility company.

If you pay off the amount due to the utility company that was causing the petition at any time, the receivership ends. Meaning, the person is no longer responsible for collecting rent.

Within 10 days of when the court appoints a responsible person, that person must determine if rents due that month are enough to pay current bills and any security deposit that the utility company requests. If the court determines that the amount will not be enough, receivership will be ended. Meaning, the person is no longer responsible for collecting rent.

If utilities have stopped for your tenants and they then file the petition for receivership, their service will be restored as soon as a receiver is appointed.

Remedies

Your tenants can win money from you in court if you do not pay for their utilities when the lease says you’re supposed to. The Rental Property Utility Service Act mandates that you cannot increase their rent to be able to pay for the fees you owe them.

Billing the Tenant Incorrectly

If you do not follow the the Rental Property Utility Service Act, your tenant can recover damages from you.

Your tenant needs to prove to the court that they were billed an amount for utilities that violate the act. Once the tenant proves that you violated the act, you will be liable for the full cost of the utility bills minus the costs you have established can be attributed to the tenant’s unit. The tenant can recover these damages by filing against you in court or as a defense when you file against them in court.

If the court finds that you knew about this law when you violated it or that you violated it on purpose, they can triple the amount you have to pay the tenant in damages.

The tenant can also recover costs and fees, like attorney fees, if the court awarded them more than $3,000.

Termination of Utilities

If your tenant’s utilities are terminated, your tenants will not have to pay you rent for the full amount of time that there were no utilities. This amount is prorated for partial months.

If you deliberately terminated utilities or just did not seem to care about your tenant’s rights, you may be liable to pay $300 to each of your tenants or $5,000 divided by all your tenants, depending on which is less.

Petition for Receivership

If your tenants successfully file a petition for receivership, you will be liable for costs, fees, and expenses the tenant had while taking you to court.

Safety Obligations

Illinois requires you to take certain precautions to protect your tenants from threats. The law also stops you from taking actions the government believes will be harmful to your tenant.

Changing the Locks

When a tenant leaves a unit, and on or before the day that the next tenant moves in, you need to change and replace the lock or the door combination so that the previous tenant can no longer enter the unit.[15] If you do not change the locks at the right time and your new tenant is robbed, you are responsible for any damages or theft that occurs.

You must change the locks for your unit when you receive written notice from all tenants on the lease saying that there is a credible imminent threat of domestic or sexual violence on the property.[16] If the person causing the threat is not on the lease, the tenant must also provide medical, court or police evidence of domestic or sexual violence or a statement from a victim services, domestic violence, or rape crisis organization employee.

If the threat is from someone on the lease, the written notice should be accompanied by a plenary order of protection[17] [18] or a plenary civil no contact order. [19] These plenary notices would provide the tenant with the exclusive right to live on the property.

The tenant does not need to obtain written notice from the tenant who poses the threat.

Once you have received this type of request, you must change the locks within 48 hours. You must make a good faith effort to give the tenant the new set of keys within 48 hours of changing the locks. You’re not liable for any damages caused because the tenant could not get back into the unit during that time. However, if you do not make a real attempt to change the locks within 48 hours, you are liable for damages that could have been prevented should you have given the tenant the key in a timely manner.

You also need to let the tenant change the lock themselves. If you stop the tenant, they can take you to court and you’ll have to pay the tenant’s attorney fees and court costs. They then need to provide you with a key within 48 hours. If the tenant does not do so and damage is done to the apartment that you could have prevented should you have a key, the tenant is liable.

Ending or Renewing a Lease

While most leases end in traditional ways (i.e. the tenant moves at the end of the lease), it is important to know about other ways your tenants can legally end their leases. Knowing the relevant laws will help you avoid arguments with your tenants and pointless court hearings.

Military Tenants

Service members and their immediate families may end a lease if they have done service for at least 29 days after signing the lease or if they receive military orders for a permanent change of station or deployment for a period of 90 days or more.

Your tenant needs to give you their orders for service for 29 consecutive days or more and any other orders that extend service, The lease ends 30 days after you receive the paperwork.[20] If rent is paid in monthly increments, the lease ends 30 days after your tenant’s next payment is due. If your tenant paid you in advance, you must return any part that you were not owed plus the security deposit minus any deductions stated in the lease.

If you do not accept your tenant’s lease termination, it is considered a civil rights violation.[21] All civil penalties imposed will go toward the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund.

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking

The state of Illinois passed Safe Homes Act to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. A tenant who has been a victim of the above can leave your unit and not be liable for any rent owed for dates after they leave. The following conditions apply:

  • When the tenant left the unit, they were under a credible and imminent threat of domestic or sexual violence at your unit.
  • The tenant gave you written notice three days before leaving the property and listed the threat as the reason.

The court must also find that the tenant was a victim of sexual violence on your property; that your tenant left the property because of the violence; and that the violence occurred less than 60 days before they left.

Criminal Charges

If your tenant is charged with a Class X felony in Illinois during their lease and the court finds probable cause in a preliminary hearing or your tenant is indicted by a grand jury, you can choose to void the lease or contract for your property.[22] You can notify your tenant by posting a written notice on the property requiring them to move out on or before a date five days after you posted the notice. You can get the forms from your county’s circuit court. You must include why you are evicting the tenant on the forms. You can take back the property in the same way you would a lease that’s ending.

Your tenant does not lose their security deposit because of this kind of eviction. You can only evict the tenant if you have added a lease addendum to your contract for drug-free housing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sources

  1. The Fair Housing Act
  2. The Department of Housing and Urban Development
  3. Environmental Protection Agency Regulations
  4. Illinois Radon Awareness Act
  5. The Security Deposit Return Act
  6. The Security Deposit Interest Act
  7. The Code of Civil Procedure Section 15.508
  8. The Rent Concession Act
  9. The Tenant Utility Payment Disclosure Act
  10. Section 18.5 of the Condominium Property Act
  11. The Rent Concession Act
  12. Retaliatory Eviction Act
  13. The Residential Tenants’ Right to Repair Act
  14. The Rental Property Utility Service Act
  15. Section 15 of the Landlord and Tenant Act
  16. The Safe Homes Act
  17. Section 219 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986
  18. Section 112A-19 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963
  19. Section 215 of the Civil No Contact Order Act
  20. Landlord Tenant Act
  21. The Illinois Human Rights Act
  22. Landlord and Tenant Act

Natalie Calvo