Rent Smart in Chi-Town: 4 Frequently Asked Tenant Questions

View of Chicago and Lake Michigan from city apartment

From high-rise condos in Lincoln Park to bungalows in Beverly, more than 60 percent of Chicagoans live in rental housing, according to the city of Chicago. If you’re in the market for a new apartment or your existing lease is simply up for renewal, now’s the time to become familiar with Chicago renters rights. The following questions and answers, with links to more information, are a good place to start.

Can my landlord keep my security deposit?

Be sure

Be sure to leave your apartment how you found it to lessen potential deductions from your security deposit.  Photo by: ramsey beyer, via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Your landlord has 45 days from when you move out to return your security deposit, according to the Illinois Tenants Union. However, your landlord may withhold money from the security deposit for unpaid rent or to repair damages. In that case, the ITU says your landlord has 30 days from when you move out to notify you, in writing, of any deductions to be made from your security deposit.

The ITU is a non-profit organization whose motto is “tenants’ rights before property rights.” The ITU has a full-time professional staff and offers advice and services in the four areas that affect renters most: breaking a lease, security deposit, repairs and eviction.

I’m ready to sign a lease, but some of the terms contradict what the landlord told me during the showing. What should I do?

Be sure to read your lease thoroughly and ask your future landlord direct questions about any items you don’t understand before signing it. Domu advises that you should ask to have contradictory provisions removed from the lease, and never rely on an oral agreement with your landlord.

Domu a website built by Chicagoans for Chicagoans, offers tips for tenants and landlords, along with Chicago neighborhood guides, and the ability to search for and list apartments.

Do I still have to pay rent if my building has gone into foreclosure?

If your lease is still valid, you must continue to pay rent or document your attempts to pay rent, in order to be eligible for legal protection, according to the City of Chicago.

Rents Right is an initiative sponsored by the city, along with tenant and landlord organizations. The goal is to educate Chicagoans about the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance. One of the program’s offerings includes helping renters navigate foreclosure procedures through online tips and hotlines for legal and financial advice.

How can I get my landlord to make requested repairs?

A tenant may request in writing that the landlord make repairs within 14 days or the tenant may withhold an amount of rent that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the unit, according to the Center for Renter’s Rights.

The Center is a not-for-profit dedicated to “the fair and equitable exercise of both Illinois tenants’ and property owners’ rights, duties, remedies, and obligations under the law.” On the site, be sure to take a look at the page devoted to frequently asked questions, and there’s another one devoted to a list of agencies that can assist you.

Recommended by the Editors:

Whether you’re renting a new place or staying put, renters insurance can help protect your stuff. Contact an Allstate Agent near you to learn more.

Join the Conversation


Tools & Resources

Tools & Resources

Contact Us

Contact Us