Tenants in Illinois have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must properly notify the landlord in writing and allow 14 days for the repairs to be made.
Illinois Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs
Landlords in Illinois are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:
Hot and cold water.
Roof and structure.
Anything required for local code compliance.
Anything impacting health, safety, or habitability.
If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Illinois?
Illinois tenants are responsible for repairingany damage they deliberately or negligently causeto the premises.
Requesting Repairs in Illinois
Illinois tenants must request repairs by notifying the landlord of the issuethrough registered or certified mail only.To reserve the option to repair and deduct, the tenant must state this intention in the repair request.
An example of language a tenant might use to state this intention is: “If the issue isn’t fixed, the renter may in 14 days exercise his right to have repairs professionally done and deduct the cost from rent.”
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Illinois?
Illinois landlords usually have14 daysto make repairs after getting a written request through registered or certified mail, although a shorter time period may be reasonable for emergencies.
Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Illinois?
Illinois landlordscan’t refuse to make repairsin most cases. The law isn’t clear on the landlord’s obligations when property is uninhabitable by code due to damage caused by the tenant, because landlords have to keep property habitable but don’t have to pay for repairs to damage the tenant causes.
Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Illinois?
Illinois landlords arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile they conduct repairs.
Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Illinois
Illinois tenants have the option torepair and deductcosts up to half the monthly rent or $500 (whichever is less) when repairs aren’t made. For situations where this isn’t applicable or practical, the tenant’s primary option is toreport the landlordto local code compliance authorities.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Illinois?
Illinois tenants arenever permitted to completely withhold rentpayments. In some rare cases, the tenant may be able to withhold a percentage of the rent, but without getting a signed rent settlement from the landlord, this usually risks eviction.
Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Illinois?
Illinois tenants mayarrange for repairs and deduct up to $500 or half the monthly rent(whichever is less). The tenant must give notice of this intention through registered or certified mail and wait 14 days. After that, the tenant can have repairs professionally done.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Illinois?
Illinois tenantsusually aren’t allowed to break a lease.The only exception is when a landlord’s failure to keep his obligations under the rental agreement substantially prevents the intended use of the property, and the tenant subsequently moves out. This is calledconstructive evictionand breaks the lease.
Can the Tenant Sue in Illinois?
Illinois tenantscan sue for repairsthat don’t fall under the repair-and-deduct statute, assuming they are current on the rent. Paying rent is the tenant’s obligation, so a tenant keeping his promise to pay rent can sue the landlord for breach of his obligations if he fails to repair.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Illinois?
Illinois tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could sue to force repairs.
Reasonable notice in Illinois is case by case but generally determined off the baseline provided in the right to repair statute: “If a repair is required under a residential lease agreement or required under a law, administrative rule, or local ordinance or regulation… the tenant may notify the landlord in writing by registered or certified mail or other restricted delivery service… If the landlord fails to make the repair within 14 days after being notified by the tenant as provided above or more promptly as conditions require in the case of an emergency, the tenant may have the repair made in a workmanlike manner and in compliance with the appropriate law, administrative rule, or local ordinance or regulation.”
“[T]he implied warranty of habitability applies to all leases of residential real estate regardless of the existence of housing or building codes… the existence of housing code violations is only one of several evidentiary considerations that [enter] into the materiality of the breach.” Glasoe v. Trinkle, 107 Ill. 2d 1, 10-11 (Ill. 1985)See also Rotheimer v. Arana, 384 Ill. App. 3d 569, 582 (Ill. App. Ct. 2008) (“A tenant is entitled to raise the landlord’s breach of the warranty of habitability as a defense in a residential eviction action, because each residential lease implies a warranty of habitability which can be fulfilled by compliance with the local building ordinances.”)
No statute or case lays out exact requirements for habitability in Illinois. However, guidance provided by a prominent tenant advocacy group describes the general expectations: “Generally, ‘livable condition’ means that the unit you are renting should be free from housing code violations. If you are living in an area that does not have a housing or building code, the unit you are renting should at least have heat, hot and cold water, no leaks in the roof, and a solid structure; be free from bugs, rats and mice; and be safe from hazardous conditions.”
Requirements are detailed in the statute, but smoke detectors are required in all dwellings without exception: “Every dwelling unit or hotel shall be equipped with at least one approved smoke detector in an operating condition.”
“Every dwelling unit shall be equipped with at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in an operating condition within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes.” 430 ILCS 135/10(a) (2022) Case by case exceptions are allowed, as approved by the local building commissioner; see430 ILCS 135/20 (2022).
Landlords need not pay for repair where “the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent act or omission of the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family, or another person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.”
“If a repair is required under a residential lease agreement or required under a law, administrative rule, or local ordinance or regulation… the tenant may notify the landlord in writing by registered or certified mail or other restricted delivery service to the address of the landlord or an agent of the landlord as indicated on the lease agreement; if an address is not listed, the tenant may send notice to the landlord’s last known address of the tenant’s intention to have the repair made at the landlord’s expense.”
“If the landlord fails to make the repair within 14 days after being notified by the tenant as provided above [that the tenant will deduct for a repair amounting to the lesser of $500 or half monthly rent] or more promptly as conditions require in the case of an emergency, the tenant may have the repair made in a workmanlike manner and in compliance with the appropriate law, administrative rule, or local ordinance or regulation. Emergencies include conditions that will cause irreparable harm to the apartment or any fixture attached to the apartment if not immediately repaired or any condition that poses an immediate threat to the health or safety of any occupant of the dwelling or any common area.”
The sole statutory remedy at the statewide level for a failure to repair is the repair-and-deduct remedy specified in 765 ILCS 742/5 (2022). For more expensive repairs, the tenant has very limited options. Rent withholding is occasionally permitted by courts but is not a consistent or dependable remedy. As such, the tenant’s only other reliable option is to report violations to the government, since this is a protected act under 765 ILCS 720/1 (2022). A lawsuit is possible, but almost always risks eviction.
“Constructive eviction is something of a serious and substantial character done by the landlord with the intention of depriving the tenant of the enjoyment of the premises. There need not be an express intention on the part of the landlord to so deprive the tenant, for persons are presumed to intend the natural and probable consequence of their acts. A tenant is justified in abandoning the premises if the landlord’s breach of the covenant to repair makes them unfit for the purpose for which they were leased.
“It is declared to be against the public policy of the State for a landlord to terminate or refuse to renew a lease or tenancy of property used as a residence on the ground that the tenant has complained to any governmental authority of a bona fide violation of any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation. Any provision in any lease, or any agreement or understanding, purporting to permit the landlord to terminate or refuse to renew a lease or tenancy for such reason is void.”