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FAQ Summary of ELTO

Evanston Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance


The Evanston Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance is enforced by the Evanston Human Relations Commission.

The Human Relations Commission was created to foster, encourage, and stimulate the improvement of human relations among and between citizens of all races, colors, creeds, national origins, and economic and educational levels so as to provide all individuals with an equal opportunity to grow, participate, and share to best of their ability in our economic, educational, political, social, and judicial systems.

The Commission is comprised of 9 members who are appointed by the Mayor. The Commission meets the 4th Wednesday of each month at 7pm at the Civic Center. Visitors are welcomed and encouraged.

Staff to the Commission are located in the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Avenue and are available to assist you in the following areas:

  • Landlord/Tenant inquires or problems.
  • Fair Housing issues, e.g., denial of housing based upon race, gender, disability, marital status, familial status, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.
  • Mediation and conciliation services relative to problems, issues, and disputes to include landlord/tenant, employment, neighbor, consumer/merchant, etc.

Office Hours are 8:30am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

Any additional questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact Human Relations Department by calling (847)866-2920.



Building Security

Do the doors to my building and my apartment have to have locks?

Yes, certain locks are required by law. Read the questions and answers that follow to learn what types of locks are required..

Does my landlord have the right to keep a key to my apartment?

Yes, your landlord may keep a key to your apartment.  However, your landlord may not enter your apartment except in the case of a true emergency or in any manner that is not specifically provided for in your lease.  If you change your locks in an attempt to prevent your landlord from having a key to your apartment, he has the right to demand that you either replace the old lock, provide him with a key to the new lock or to replace your new lock with another new lock to which he has a key.  If he must change your lock to obtain a key, he does not need your permission to do so and he has the right to deduct this expense from your security deposit.  If you replace a lock, the old lock and keys will remain the landlord's property and must be delivered to him.  You may not create an additional lockset hole in the door or the doorframe where a suitable lockset hole exists. Only a professional locksmith may make this determination.

What kinds of locks must be on the front and rear doors of my building?

The front and rear entrance doors to the building should each have a DEADLATCH LOCK.  This type of lock automatically locks when the door is shut, and can be opened from the outside only with a key, not with a plastic card, knife, or other object.

If my building has a vestibule or lobby, with an outside door and an inside door, which door should have the lock?

If the front entrance has two doors, then at least one of the doors must have a working deadlatch lock. This can be either the inside door or the outside door. If both doors have a deadlatch lock, your landlord is only required to ensure that one latchlock is functional.  Door buzzers and/or intercoms are not required by ELTO but may have been provided by your landlord as a tenant convenience. Your landlord is not required to keep any existing door buzzers or intercoms in working order.

What kinds of locks must be on the doors to my own apartment?

The front and rear doors to the apartment must each have a DEADBOLT LOCK. This can be a "vertical drop" type lock, or a horizontal bolt that projects at least one inch.

Should I be able to look out of my apartment door without opening it?

Yes, City law requires that the front door to each apartment must have a viewing source, such as a window, open hole or peephole viewing device.

Should my windows have locks on them?

If your window is within 20 feet of the ground, or within 10 feet of an adjacent roof, outside stairway, fire escape, ramp, or porch which can be reached from the ground, then the window must have a SASH LOCK.  These windows must also have a lock which allows them to open four to six inches, and then lock in that position. This is called a VENTILATION LOCK.

Who must pay for putting in these locks?

The landlord must pay for locks that are required by law.  If you want more security than the City law requires, then you must get permission from your landlord. Your landlord does not have to pay for the additional locks.

What about burglar bars?

You must have the consent of your landlord before installing burglar bars. Get this agreement IN WRITING. Once installed, burglar bars are the landlord's property, because they become a permanent part of the building. Landlords are not required to pay for installing bars. It is legal to install burglar GATES on the entrance or exit doors of a building or apartment but it is illegal to install fixed burglar BARS on the entrance or exit doors of a building or apartment.  In addition, some types of burglar bars are not legal, so contact the fire or police department before you install burglar bars.

What if I do not have the right kind of locks on my doors and windows?

You should tell your landlord IN WRITING, and ask to have the correct locks installed.  In some cases you can install the locks yourself, but before you do this please review the remaining few questions and answers.

Can I use my rent money to have the locks installed, if my landlord refuses to put them in?

If you live in a building that is covered by the Evanston Landlord-Tenant Ordinance, then you do have the right to use rent money to have the locks installed.  Your building is covered if the owner of the building does not live in the building, OR if the building is larger than 6 units. If you live in one of these types of buildings, then you do have the right to use rent money to install the correct locks. BUT, you must follow the right steps before doing this.

If you live in a building that is NOT covered by the Evantson Landlord-Tenant Ordinance, then you do not have the right to use rent money to pay for new locks, unless your landlord agrees to it in writing.

What steps do I have to follow to use rent money for installing the correct locks?

This is called "repair and deduct." Read the previous question to find out if you are allowed to do this.

First you must give your landlord written notice at least 14 days in advance. This notice should ask for the correct locks required by the law, and say that you will "repair and deduct" if the locks are not installed within 14 days.  Then you must wait for 14 full days. After this time is up, you have the right to have the correct locks installed by a professional locksmith.  You may not create an additional lockset hole in the door or the doorframe where a suitable lockset hole exists. Only a professional locksmith may make this determination.  You may deduct the cost from your next rent payment if you give a copy of the receipt to your landlord. REMEMBER that tenants in owner-occupied buildings of 6 or less CANNOT use this process.

How much can I spend on putting in the locks, if I "repair and deduct?"

You cannot "repair and deduct" for a cost of more than $500, or one-half (1/2) of your monthly rent, whichever is greater, but not to exceed your monthly rent or the actual cost of the locks with installation.  

Can I "repair and deduct" for the locks on the entrance door to my building?

You must notify your landlord of your plan to have locks installed in the common areas. Then you must follow the steps for "repair and deduct."  Please see the previous three questions and answers.

What can we do as tenants to stop crime in our building?

If tenants work together, there are ways to fight crime in a building. One way is to organize a Crime Watch. If there is a group of tenants in your building or neighborhood that want to work together against crime, your group should call the City of Evanston Police Department at (847) 866-5000 to find out how to start a Crime Watch for your building or neighborhood.

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Leases

Do all leases have to be written?

No. Whether or not you get the lease in writing is a matter of choice.  The advantage of a written lease is that you have proof of your specific agreement, and it makes clear the duties of both you and your landlord.   You cannot demand that a landlord rent an apartment to you where you and he cannot agree on whether to use or not use a written lease.  A landlord has the right to change the terms on any lease renewal he may offer to you at the expiration of you present lease.  You have the right to either accept or reject the new lease.  If you reject the new lease however, you may be required to vacate the apartment.

Does the lease have to be in the language we used to make the agreement?

Yes. If you made the agreement in Spanish the lease must be written in Spanish. Do not sign anything you cannot read or understand.  As a matter of policy, all Lee Street Management business is conducted in English and all Lee Street Management leases are both negotiated and written in English.

After I move in can the landlord change the amount of my rent?

This depends on your lease. Your landlord can put in the lease that rent can change, so read the lease carefully.   If you are uncertain about any of the terms of your lease, you should get professional advice before you sign so you will understand the rights and obligations of both you and your landlord..

What if the lease says things I do not want?

Do not sign a lease that includes terms you cannot accept.  Once you sign the lease it will be impossible for you to claim that your understandings or intentions were otherwise.. You may cross out the parts you do not want, but the landlord is not required to accept your modifications.  If you do this both you and the landlord must sign at every place the words are crossed out or added so that you can show that both of you agreed to the changes.. Get a copy of the lease after you sign it.  If anything was changed, make sure your copy is also changed, signed and dated..

Is there anything a lease cannot say?

The lease cannot make you give up any of your rights under the ELTO. The lease cannot:

  • let your landlord get an order of eviction from the court without serving you with a summons and complaint informing you of the court case (this is sometimes called a "confession of judgment clause"); or
  • allow the landlord to file an eviction case without first giving you a written 5 or 10 day notice terminating your lease; or
  • charge a late fee or give a rent discount of more than $15 for the first $500 in rent plus 5% per month for any amount of rent over $500; or
  • allow your landlord to make you responsible for the landlord's negligence; or
  • make you pay for your landlord's lawyer's fees, unless allowed by law.

It is not illegal for a landlord to put these terms in a lease, but they are irrelevant and cannot be enforced..

What if my lease has one of these illegal clauses?

If you have a lease with illegal clauses, it does not invalidate the entire lease. It just means the landlord cannot legally try to enforce those particular illegal clauses. If the landlord tries to enforce one of these clauses, outside of a court order, you can sue for any actual damages, two months' rent and lawyer's fees.

If I am living with someone, must I have their name(s) on the lease with me?

Yes and No. You may enter the lease agreement in your name only (which means that no other occupant is legally obligated by it's terms) but the body of the lease must contain the full names and birth dates of all other occupants of the unit, regardless of their age or relationship to you. If you want to add or remove someone from your household, you must get the landlords permission, and both you and the landlord must make an amendment to the lease to reflect this change.. You may avoid this particular ordinance requirement by having an oral agreement.

How many unrelated persons may live in an apartment?

Evanston ordinance forbids no more that three unrelated persons to occupy any individual apartment, regardless of the size or number of bedrooms.

Can my landlord charge me for paying rent late?

Yes. But only if there is a provision in your lease for late fees, and then the landlord can only charge you $15 a month for the first $500 in monthly rent, plus 5% per month for any amount in excess of $500 in monthly rent.  So, if your rent is $600 a month the landlord can charge a late fee of $20.  Any agreement giving a tenant a discount or reduction in rent, if the rent is paid before a specified date, may not exceed the limits set for late fees.

What if I want to get out of my lease early?

The lease can be ended early only by agreement with your landlord, or by using your right to end the lease for certain unfair landlord actions under the Landlord-Tenant Law.  If you fail to follow the specific procedures required by your lease and by the ELTO, you cannot get out of your lease early.

Can I be charged anything for moving out early?

If you move out early, your landlord must try to re-rent the apartment at a fair rent.  If the landlord is successful in re-renting the apartment, then your obligation is ended.  It is beneficial to both the landlord and the tenant to work out a mutually agreeable solution.  While the landlord is required to make a good faith effort to re-rent your apartment, he is not obligated to give your apartment priority over any other apartments he may presently have available.  Further, he may deduct any of his advertising or leasing agency commission expenses incurred from your security deposit.

If the landlord re-rents the apartment for less than what you were paying, you will have to pay the difference between the amount the new tenant pays and your rent.  For example, if you move out 3 months early and your rent is $400 a month and the landlord finds a tenant who pays only $350 a month, you will owe the difference between what you would have paid ($400) and what the next tenant is paying ($350), which is $50 each month for three months.

What if my landlord cannot re-rent the apartment?

If your landlord makes a good faith effort but cannot find someone else to rent the apartment, you will owe the amount of your rent just as if you had stayed until the end of the lease.  If you paid $400 a month and you leave three months before the end of the lease, you will owe the landlord $1,200. You will also owe the landlord any reasonable amount that the landlord spent advertising the apartment.

Can I sublet the apartment?

Yes. If you want to move out early and have found someone to sublet the apartment, your landlord must accept any qualified sublessee and may not charge you any unreasonable subleasing fees.  The landlord may require that your sublessee satisfactorily complete the standard application process that he uses for all other new applicants.  He may not hold your prospective sublessee to a higher standard of qualification or discriminate against the sublessee in any manner. See the Equal Housing Opportunity section of this website.

Remember, you are still liable to the landlord for rent if the sublessee does not pay the rent.  If you plan to move and not return to the apartment, it is better to get a written agreement with your landlord to end the lease early.  The landlord is not obligated to provide such a release.

What happens when my lease expires?

You have the right to move out, when your lease expires.  Some landlords and tenants agree not to sign another lease, and continue with a month-to-month rental agreement. Other landlords may want you to sign a complete new lease when your old one expires. Finally, some landlord's might renew the terms of the original lease simply by offering you a letter stating that the old lease will govern in it's entirety with exception of a new rent amount.  If the landlord requires you to sign a lease more than 90 days before your current lease expires, you can sue the landlord for one month's rent or actual damages, whichever is greater. Remember, requiring you to sign more than 90 days in advance and requesting you to sign more than 90 days in advance are not the same thing.

If your landlord does not want to have you live there after the end date of your lease, the landlord must give you a written notice at least 30 days prior to the end of the lease. If the landlord does not give you this notice 30 days before the end of the lease, you have the right to stay in the apartment 60 days from the time you do receive the notice, at the same rent and terms.

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Lockouts

What is a lockout?

A lockout is any action your landlord or his or her employees take that prevents you from living in you apartment or that forces you to leave.  For example, a lockout can be plugging, changing, adding or removing locks, blocking entrances, removing doors or windows, or turning off the utilities (gas, heat, electricity, water or telephone service).  In general, a lockout is anything that makes it impossible for you to get into or out of your apartment, or anything that makes it impossible for you to live in your apartment.  Your landlord cannot legally use any of the above methods, violence, or the threat of force to make you leave. If your utilities are disconnected by an official agent of any utility company for non-payment or other legitimate reason, you landlord cannot be held responsible.

Can my landlord evict me by locking me out?

No. Your landlord can only have you evicted by getting an "Order for Possession" from a Court.  After a Court has granted the "Order for Possession", only the Sheriff of Cook County may actually remove your personal property from your apartment. Once the Sheriff removes you possessions, he will present the landlord with an Order of "No Trespassing" that will give the landlord or the Police the right to place you under arrest if you attempt to return to the building or the apartment.  You will then be subject to criminal prosecution.

Can I be locked out for not paying rent?

No. Your landlord cannot lock you out even if you have not paid your rent.  But your landlord can bring an eviction court case against you.  See the question and answer above.

What can I do if my landlord locks me out?

Call the police and say that your landlord has illegally locked you out of your apartment.  It is illegal for your landlord to lock you out of your apartment prior to a proper Sheriff's eviction. Your landlord can be arrested or fined by the Court between $200 and $500 for each day you were locked out.

What if the police will not help me?

Get the badge numbers of the officers who are refusing you assistance.  Then call your local police station and ask to speak with the Watch Commander to report this problem. The police are required to investigate lockouts.

Can I sue my landlord for locking me out?

Yes.  If you can prove your landlord has wrongfully locked you out, you can regain possession of your apartment or property, get money from your landlord equal to two months rent or twice the damages caused by the lockout (whichever is more) and get reimbursed for reasonable lawyer's fees.

Can I get paid for damage caused by the lockout?

Yes. You can get money for damage caused by the lockout. For example, if you are kept away from your medicines or if your children cannot go to school because they are locked away from their clothes, you can get money damages. You may also be awarded money damages for temporary housing costs incurred while you were locked out.

Can my landlord take my property to evict me?

No. Only the Cook County Sheriff can remove your property to evict you.  If you move out and leave property, your landlord can dispose of it, but he must follow the ELTO rules.

What is retaliatory conduct?

Retaliatory conduct is any action your landlord takes to punish you for exercising your rights under the law.  For example, your landlord cannot prematurely end your lease, raise your rent prior to the end of your lease term, stop any service specifically provided for in your lease, sue or threaten to sue for eviction, refuse to renew your lease, or take any other action against you because you exercised your rights.

Can my landlord take action against me if I complain to someone about the condition of the apartment?

No. Your landlord cannot punish you for taking any action that you have a right to take.

What things can I do and still be protected?

The landlord cannot take retaliatory action against you because you:

  • complained about illegal living conditions or illegal landlord behavior to government agencies, elected representatives, public officials, community groups, newspapers, radio stations, or television stations; or
  • asked your landlord to make repairs required by the lease or city laws; or
  • testified in court or at a hearing about the conditions of the building or about the landlord's illegal behavior; or
  • did anything within your legal rights.

What can I do if my landlord tries to evict me because I complained?

You can defend against the landlord's eviction suit. You can also counter sue your landlord to obtain a court order that requires him or her to let you remain, or to ask the court to end your lease.  If the lease ends, your landlord must return any rent you do not owe and your security deposit, plus any interest owed. Before you engage in outright confrontation with your landlord, you may want to consider an organization named RADR (Resources for Apartment Dispute Resolution) at 312-922-6464. This service is provided by the City of Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution and they are very well trained to handle any type of Landlord/Tenant difficulties.

Can I sue for money because my landlord seeks to evict me for complaining or joining a tenant group?

Yes. If you win the suit you can get two months' rent or twice the costs caused by the landlord's action (whichever is greater) and reasonable lawyer's fees.

How can I prove my landlord's action is because I complained or acted in some other protected way?

If your landlord takes action against you within one year of the time you complained, testified in court, or asked for repairs, the court will require your landlord to show that the eviction is not because of your protected activity.  Your landlord will have to prove that the eviction court case is for a good reason other than complaining, testifying, etc. For example, your landlord might show that you have not paid rent or were in violation of some other covenant of the lease.

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Moving In

What should I get in writing from my landlord?

When you agree to rent an apartment, either by a written or oral lease, your landlord or the person making the agreement must give or direct you to the name, address and telephone number of the owner or manager of the building, and the name of the person who is to be given notices and demands from you.  If your landlord promises to fix anything, try to get this in writing.

What if the person making the agreement does not give me the name, address and phone number of the owner or manager?

If the person making the agreement does not give or direct you to the name, address and phone number of the owner or manager, then that person is responsible for accepting any notices or messages from you.  In addition, after giving 14 days written notice to the person making the agreement, if you have still not received the name, address and phone number of the owner or manager you may terminate the agreement and/or sue your landlord for one month's rent and reasonable attorney's fees.

Do all leases have to be written?

No. Whether or not the lease is written is a matter of mutual choice between you and your landlord. Some landlords insist on a written lease. The advantage of a written lease is that you have proof of your specific agreement with your landlord.  It also makes clear the duties of both you and your landlord. You cannot demand that a landlord rent an apartment to you where you and he cannot agree on whether to use or not use a written lease.  A landlord has the right to change the terms on any lease renewal he may offer to you at the expiration of you present lease.  You have the right to either accept or reject the new lease. If you reject the new lease however, you may be required to vacate the apartment.

After I move in can the landlord change the amount of rent?

Your rent can only be increased if your lease allows for it. The landlord can put in the lease that rent can change, so read the lease carefully. If you do not have a written lease the landlord can increase the rent or require you to move, by giving you a thirty day written notice.

How can I know if my landlord has been sued for an illegal physical condition of the building?

Your landlord must inform you in writing or in a readable/printable equivalent such as an internet website, of any suits brought against the landlord in the past 12 months to enforce the housing code. This must include a list of the code violations involved and the case name and number. If your landlord does not give you or direct you to this information, then you can sue for one month's rent or damages, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney's fees.

Should I get a summary of the Landlord-Tenant Law from my landlord?

Yes. Your landlord must give you a physical copy of the summary of the ELTO, whether your lease is written or oral. This summary must be provided with the written lease or given to the tenant when an oral agreement is reached. The summary is to be given to you at the time of a new lease and again upon renewal of an old lease.

What if my landlord does not give me the summary of the Landlord-Tenant Law?

You may send your landlord a written notice requesting the summary.  If you are able to prove that the ELTO summary was not given to you, you may elect to end the lease or sue the landlord for up to $100 damages plus reasonable attorney's fees. If you decide to end your lease, you must notify the landlord in writing and you must move out within 30 days of giving notice. You must be able to prove that you never received the summary.

What if my landlord sells the building?

You must be informed in writing of the name, address and telephone number of the new landlord/manager or person to be given notices from the tenants. Your lease agreement, including security deposit, must be honored by the new landlord.

Can my utilities legally be turned off without my knowing?

No. Both before and during your rental agreement, if the City of Evanston or any Utility Company plans to turn off any of the utilities in your building such as gas, water, electricity or any other service, the landlord has to tell you in writing. The notice must tell you what services are going to be turned off, when, and what part of the building is going to be disconnected. In order to hold the landlord responsible for this utility cutoff notice, you must be able to prove that the landlord was given proper written notice from the City or the Utility Company and failed, in turn, to give that written notice to you.

Do I have to pay a security deposit?

This depends entirely upon your agreement with your landlord.

What if my landlord will not let me move in?

The landlord must let you move in if you have a written agreement allowing you to move in on a specific date. If the landlord is keeping you out, you do not have to pay rent until you move in.

Can I sue my landlord for not letting me move in?

Yes. If you cannot move into the apartment after your landlord agreed to rent to you, there are two things you can do:

  • You can send a written notice to your landlord describing the problem and telling the landlord that the lease is canceled. If the landlord does not return your rent and security deposit, you can sue for this money; or

  • If you still want to move into the apartment, send a written notice to the landlord saying that you want to move in. If the landlord does not let you in, you can sue for possession of the apartment and costs of substitute housing not to exceed the monthly rental amount calculated on a daily basis.

If the landlord did not have a good reason for not letting you move in, you can sue and may get two months' rent, or twice the costs of your damages and reasonable attorney's fees.

What should I do if I think the landlord refuses to rent to me because of my sex, race, religion, etc.?

In Chicago it is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to you because of your sex, race, religion, nationality, disability (mental or physical), parental status, marital status, age, unfavorable military discharge, sexual orientation or lawful source of income, regardless of whether the landlord lives in the building or not. See the Equal Housing Opportunity section of this website. Complaints of discrimination can be filed with the Evanston Human Relations Commission at (847) 866-2920.  In some cases a complaint can also be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights or HUD.  Through the complaint process or court the landlord may be ordered to rent you the apartment, pay fines, pay you damages and attorney's fees.

Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because I have children?

Federal, State and Evanston laws make it illegal for a landlord to deny someone housing based on the fact that you have children living with you. You have the same right to pursue a complaint as described above.

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Responsibilities of the Tenant

What conditions in my apartment am I responsible for?

You must keep the apartment as clean and safe as possible. You must not intentionally or carelessly destroy, deface, damage or remove any part of the apartment or building. You must also ensure that your guests do not cause any damage.

Must I keep the apartment clean?

Yes. You must keep the apartment as clean as possible by throwing away all garbage, rubbish, and other waste cleanly and safely. You have a duty to monitor and report any infestations of mice, roaches or other vermin to your landlord.

Am I responsible for appliances that do not work?

If your landlord supplied the appliance, you are not responsible to repair them unless you, your family, or guests used it in an unreasonable way.

Am I responsible for what other people do to the apartment or building?

Only if you invited the people into the building. When you have guests over, you are responsible for their behavior and can be held liable for any and all damages they may cause. You must protect against any theft or duplication of your apartment or common area keys. If another tenant is harmed or suffers a loss as a result of your negligence, you may be held liable.

What duty do I owe my neighbors?

You, your family and guests must not disturb your neighbors or damage any of the areas in the building you share with them. You must not negligently cause or create a hazards that could cause or create and injury or loss to your neighbors or your landlord.

What if I do not meet my duties as a tenant?

If you do not meet your duties under your lease or the City law, the landlord can end your lease, sue you for damages caused to the building, or have the problem fixed and deduct the expense from your security deposit.

What can I do if my neighbor is so noisy that I want to move?

Noisy neighbors can create a very difficult living environment. There are a number of steps you may take to try to resolve the problem. 1) Talk to the neighbor; 2) Complain to the landlord; 3) Call the police and file a complaint; 4) Seek a third party to mediate between you and the noisy tenant. Remember, your landlord is not your parent.  He cannot be held responsible when you and a neighbor do not get along.

How much notice do I get if my landlord wants to evict me for bothering my neighbors?

If you have a lease, your landlord has to send you a written notice detailing your lease covenant violation. The notice must give you 10 days to resolve the problem. If you have not resolved it within the 10 days, your lease is automatically terminated and the landlord can sue you for eviction. You must be able to prove that you resolved the problem.

If you disturb your neighbors again within 60 days after the notice, your landlord can cancel your lease by giving you a written 10-day notice. After this 10-day notice expires your landlord can sue for eviction. Your landlord can also get a court order to make you stop the conduct that is causing the disturbance.

Should I be notified if my landlord ends my tenancy?

Yes. If the landlord is ending your tenancy, you must first receive a written notice. For lease violations you would receive a notice giving you 10 days to resolve the problem. For non-payment of rent, you would receive a notice giving you 5 days to pay rent. In a month-to month situation, you would receive a 30 day notice to move. If you do not comply with the notice, the landlord can sue for eviction.

If I am evicted can my landlord also sue me for money?

Yes. Even if your landlord ends your tenancy you can be sued for the costs caused by your failure to fix the problem. Your landlord can also get an order from the Court to make you fulfill your duties. If the Court decides that you knew about the problem and could have fixed it but did not, your landlord can also get lawyer's fees.

Do I have to let my landlord know when I plan on moving out?

If you are a month-to-month tenant, you need to give the landlord notice a full rental period (one month) in advance of your moving.

If you have a lease that will expire soon, you are not obliged to tell the landlord you will be moving out at the end of the lease. Beware that if you do not respond to your landlord's request to renew a lease, the landlord can find someone else to move in at the end of your lease.

When must I let my landlord in my apartment?

You have to let your landlord in:

  • to make or provide necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, changes, services or improvements: or
  • to show the apartment to a possible tenant if it is less than 60 days before the lease ends; or
  • when it is necessary to make repairs or maintenance in your apartment or other parts of the building that unexpectedly require that the landlord enter; or
  • to conduct inspections by government agencies; or
  • to determine if you are living up to your rental agreement; or
  • in case of emergency.

How much time do I get before my landlord can come into my apartment?

Your landlord has to give you at least two (2) days notice before coming in, except in case of an emergency, or when repairs to other parts of the building make it necessary. Your landlord can tell you by telephone or by written notice. Unless you agree otherwise, your landlord must set a time to enter between 8:00am and 8:00pm.

Can my landlord come in if there is an emergency?

Yes. Your landlord may come in because of an emergency without a prior warning, but the landlord must tell you about being in the apartment within two (2) days after entering.

What if I think my landlord is coming into my apartment to harass me?

You can either sue to get an order to make the landlord stop, or you can seek to end the lease. If you want to end the lease, you must give your landlord a 14 day notice to stop the harassment. If your landlord does not stop with the 14 days, the lease is ended. You may be able to sue and get one month's rent or twice the amount of damage suffered (whichever is more) because of your landlord's actions and reasonable lawyer's fees.

What if I do not let the landlord in?

If you do not let the landlord in, even after receiving proper notice, the landlord can take legal action against you.  The landlord can go to court and get an order telling you to let them in, or choose to end your lease.  If your landlord ends your lease you must be told why and given 10 days to let your landlord into the apartment. If you do not let your landlord in, the lease is ended and you can be evicted.  Also, your landlord can sue for any costs caused by your refusal to let them in and for lawyer's fees.

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Security Deposits

What is a security deposit?

A security deposit is a payment that the landlord may ask you to pay for potential future damage you may cause to the apartment, or for unpaid rent that you might owe.  The security deposit is your money in the landlord's possession.  The landlord may not charge you for normal wear and tear to the apartment. Your landlord may not deduct late rent fees or any other fees from your security deposit. A security deposit is essentially the landlord's assurance that he will be compensated if you fail to uphold your end of the lease agreement.

How is a security deposit used?

The security deposit is used to pay for repairs that must be made for damage you caused, or for unpaid rent. If the security deposit does not cover the amount owed, your landlord may sue you for the balance of his damages..

What kind of repairs can I be charged for?

Your landlord cannot charge you for normal wear and tear that has occurred in your apartment. The landlord can charge you for any damage caused by you or by your guests. If the apartment was freshly painted before you moved in, then after you moved out one year later the walls were too damaged or dirty to clean, any repainting would not be considered normal wear and tear.

Does Evanston set a limit on the dollar amount of a security deposit?

Yes. In Evanston the maximum your landlord can receive for a security deposit or prepaid rent is one and one-half of the proposed monthly rental amount. If you volunteer to pay more, and the landlord accepts, the ELTO dictates that the landlord alone violated the ordinance and that you can sue him for double the deposit. The Ordinance prohibits you from waiving your right to sue. The Court's decision would be statutory and the landlord would lose. Most landlords are aware of this booby trap however and will not accept applicants who offer more. Please note that this rule can also work against you. The landlord's Tenant Screening Policy might state that because of your weak application or other factors, his financial interest can only be adequately protected by requiring a deposit equal to more than one and one-half month's rent. Since the ELTO prohibits him from accepting a deposit of more than one and one-half month's rent, he would probably be unwilling to rent to you. The Ordinance cannot force the landlord to take an unreasonable financial risk.
 
The Ordinance handicaps both parties in the following two ways:  The Ordinance violates your civil rights by denying you the freedom to negotiate in good faith on your own behalf. It also violates the Landlord's right to determine his own degree of financial exposure. His Screening Policy, if he has one, would be upheld if it were based on common, financially-oriented, non-discriminating business practice. Municipalities have been known to create such restrictive ordinances unwittingly, with the result being to redirect income-troubled families into other cities. You may consider speaking to your local alderman if you feel the Ordinance violates your rights. For further information, please read our Equal Housing Opportunity section.

What is the difference between rent and a security deposit?

A security deposit is to protect the landlord from potential future damage that may be caused by you or for rent that has not been paid by the end of the lease. Rent is a payment to the landlord for the right to live in the apartment and is not refundable after you live in the apartment. In most cases, rent is owed for whole monthly amounts only.  You cannot expect to pro-rate the monthly rental amount if you move into the apartment after the first day of the month or if you leave the apartment before the end of the month.

Can I use my security deposit as my last month's rent?

No, you cannot.  You cannot "live out" your deposit unless your landlord gives you express permission to do so. If you do not pay your last month's rent, your landlord will be able to sue you to get unpaid rent, reasonable attorney's fees and court costs..

What does my landlord do with the security deposit?

Your landlord must put your security deposit in a federally insured interest bearing account in a bank or other financial institution located within the State of Illinois.

Can my landlord use my security deposit money?

No. Your landlord must keep your money separate. The security deposit still belongs to you.

Do I get interest on my security deposit money?

Yes. Your landlord has to pay you interest on your security deposit. At the end of every 12 months that you rent, your landlord has 30 days to pay you the interest. You may agree to any form of payment arrangement such as the accumulation of interest in the form of an increased security deposit balance, payment in cash, by check, or by a credit toward your next month's rent. Remember, if you get a credit toward your rent due, be sure to use it. If you do not use the credit, and the landlord is unable for some reason to return the credit to you at the end of your tenancy, your credit balance must be turned over to the State of Illinois under the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act. You will then have no option but to recover the credit amount from the State.

If your landlord does not pay you your interest within those 30 days, send the landlord a certified letter stating that the landlord is obligated to pay the interest.  If the landlord does not answer or refuses to pay, you can sue for twice the amount of your deposit, plus interest, court costs and reasonable lawyer's fees.

Should I get a receipt for my security deposit?

Yes. Under the law the landlord or the person taking the money must give you a receipt, which must include the amount of the security deposit, the name of the person taking the money, the name of the landlord, the date the money was paid, and a description of the apartment. If you ask the landlord for a receipt and he refuses to give one, you can sue for the return of the deposit.

How long do I have to wait before I get my security deposit back?

After you move out, your landlord has 21 days to return your deposit plus any interest, minus any deductions that are made for repairs or rent owed. If a fire or casualty made the unit no longer livable and you gave proper notice to terminate your rental agreement, your landlord must return the security deposit within 7 days from the date of notice of termination. If you are a suspect in the fire or the casualty, the landlord may hold your deposit in escrow until the case is resolved.

What if some of my security deposit is used?

If your landlord takes money from your security deposit for repairs, then within 21 days from the time you move the landlord must send you a written list of the damage you are being charged for, and a copy of paid bills or estimates for the repairs of damage you caused. If you do not hear from the landlord within 21 days after you move, your landlord may not deduct money from your security deposit for damages. Your landlord may automatically deduct any unpaid rent from your security deposit without notification. To protect yourself, you should give your landlord your new address and telephone number as soon as possible so that the landlord knows where to send your deposit.

If your landlord sends estimated costs of repairs with the list of damages, within 21days of this notice you must be sent the paid receipts or proof of the actual costs of repair. Regardless of why money is being deducted from your security deposit, the remainder of your deposit must be returned to you within 21days after you move out.

Who gets my security deposit if the landlord sells the building?

The return of your security deposit becomes the obligation of the new landlord at the time of sale, regardless of whether the building's security deposits were actually transferred between landlords. If the landlord sells the building, you must be told in writing the name, business address and telephone number of the new landlord who will be responsible for your security deposit. If the old landlord does not provide this information, the old landlord can also be held responsible for your security deposit. In most cases, the new landlord will have an incentive to provide this information immediately. Without this information, you will be unable to pay him the rent.

How do I get my security deposit and interest from my landlord?

It is a good idea to notify your landlord in writing when you move out that your security deposit is due back to you within 21 days. Include your new address and telephone number so the landlord knows where to send the balance of your security deposit.

If you do not hear from your landlord within 21 days after you have moved out, send a certified letter asking for the security deposit and interest.

If the landlord still does not return your security deposit you can sue for twice the amount of your deposit, plus interest, court costs and reasonable lawyer's fees.

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Rent Withholding and Repair and Deduct

What is my landlord responsible for?

Your landlord has a duty to keep the apartment and the building habitable. The City of Evanston has an Existing Structures Code that specifies exactly how his building must be maintained. Your landlord must also do any work specified in your lease.

What repairs must my landlord do to keep the apartment safe?

Your landlord has a duty to keep the building in good repair and in a safe and livable condition. The following things must be in a safe condition according to city law:

  • building structure must be solid and in good condition;
  • foundations, walls, and the roof must be water tight;
  • the property must be protected against mice, rats, and other rodents and insects;
  • there must be signs for exits and fire escapes, except on the inside of your apartment;
  • smoke alarms must be provided, also sprinklers and fire extinguishers in mid to high-rise buildings;
  • hallways and stairways must be kept lighted;
  • windows, outside doors and basement doors must be safe and in good condition;
  • boiler, furnace and chimneys must be in good working order;
  • plumbing and pipes must be kept in good working order;
  • electrical wire and circuits must be safe and operable.

What other repairs must the landlord do to make my apartment fit to live in?

Your landlord must:

  • keep the flush toilet, bathroom sink, bath tub or shower, and kitchen sink in good working condition;
  • supply cold water if this is a part of your lease agreement,
  • supply hot water if this is a part of your lease agreement,
  • supply enough heat as required by city law if this is a part of your lease agreement;
  • supply screens between April 15 and November 15 where required by law;
  • prevent the collection of stagnant water;
  • provide adequate ventilation and light.

Must the landlord exterminate?

Yes. Your landlord must exterminate to prevent insects, rats, or pests in the building. You have an obligation to keep your apartment in clean condition and to keep all trash in sealed containers.

Must my landlord provide for trash collection?

Yes. Your landlord must provide a place for disposing of trash and garbage.

Does my landlord have to repair the appliances in my apartment?

Yes. If your lease requires your landlord to provide the appliance, such as the refrigerator, stove, or air conditioner, the landlord must keep them in good working condition.  Read your lease carefully.  If the lease does not state specifically that the landlord will provide these appliances, or if it states specifically that the landlord is not responsible to provide these appliances, he will be free to simply remove any offending appliance from your apartment without any further obligation.

Can I sue my landlord for failing to make repairs?

Yes. If your landlord does not fix the problem, you can sue for the amount of the costs caused by the failure of your landlord to fix the problem. Or you can sue and try to get an order from the Court requiring your landlord to obey the terms of the lease or maintain the building according to the law. If you sue and prevail, you can be reimbursed for reasonable lawyer's fees.

When can I repair the problem myself?

If it is a small problem and the reasonable cost of fixing it is less than $500 or one-half (1/2) of your monthly rent (whichever is greater, so long as the total cost is not more than one month's rent or more than the actual repair cost), you can have it fixed yourself and deduct the actual cost from your rent.

What must I do before I can have the repairs done myself?

First, you must give your landlord a chance to fix the problem. You must send a written notice telling your landlord about the problem and your plan to have it fixed, if the landlord does not make the repairs himself within 14 days.

What if my landlord does not do the repairs?

After 14 days you can have the work done yourself, but it must be done to the standards of the city law. Then you must give a copy of the paid bill to your landlord along with your reduced rent.

What if I caused the damage?

You cannot charge the landlord for damage that you, your family or your guests have caused by being careless.

What if the problem is in part of the building I share with other tenants?

You also have to give notice to all the other tenants of your plan to repair any of the common areas, like stairways or hallways.

What if I want to withhold rent?

You MUST let your landlord know four things IN WRITING:

  •   What repairs need to be made;
  •   That you intend to withhold part of your rent;
  •   The dollar amount of your rent you expect to withhold; and
  •   That you are allowing the landlord 14 days to fix the problem before you withhold rent.

When do I start to withhold rent?

If the problem is not fixed after 14 days you may legally withhold rent. If you want to withhold rent in the present month you must give your landlord the notice at least 14 days before your rent is due. Remember, this rule is called "repair and deduct" not just "deduct;" you may not do one without the other. If you deduct the money from the rent, you must use this money for the repairs. You may not simply pocket the cash.

How much should I withhold?

No matter how bad the problem is, you should not deduct 100% of your rent if you are still able to live in the apartment. It is best to deduct a conservative amount from your rent. If you withhold an excessive amount, you may run the risk of being evicted. The law leaves it up to you to decide what is the reduced value of the apartment. You can do this by deciding how much of the apartment cannot be used because of the problem. Remember that your landlord can sue you for the rent you withheld, and a Court will then decide if the amount you withheld was reasonable. If the amount you withheld is determined by the Court to be unreasonable, and the landlord properly gave you a 5-day notice, you are then eligible for eviction.

What if I withhold or deduct rent in the wrong way?

If you do not give proper notice, or do not carefully follow the correct "repair and deduct" procedure, you could be responsible for the entire amount of your rent, and you could then be evicted.  It is very important that you follow the four steps outlined in the answer above.

Can I end my lease because my landlord has failed to make repairs?

Yes. But the conditions must be more serious than those required to use the other remedies described above and you must be very careful to follow the correct procedure.

How bad do conditions have to be before I may end my lease?

The conditions must render the premises "not reasonably fit and habitable." This means that several of the repairs needed to keep the apartment safe (listed above) must not have been made by the landlord. The apartment must be dangerously unhealthy and not livable before you may end your lease. Remember, all apartments have inherent minor flaws that are above and beyond the coverage of Building Codes. You cannot hold the landlord to a standard of perfection. For example, if you suffer from a real or imaginary phobia such as Atelophobia (fear of imperfection), that you could reasonably expect to suffer no matter where you may live, the landlord cannot be held responsible and you cannot end your lease.

What procedure must I follow to end my lease if the apartment is not reasonably fit and habitable?

You must send your landlord a written notice that explains why you are ending the lease. This notice must state that your landlord has 14 days to fix the problem. If the landlord does not fix the problem in that time, the lease is ended. On the day the lease ends, you have 30 more days to move out. If you don't move out in 30 days, the lease goes back in effect. If you end the lease, your landlord must return all prepaid rent, security deposit, and any interest due.

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Eviction

What can I be evicted for?

You can be evicted for not paying your rent, damaging the apartment, disturbing your neighbors or violating your lease in some other way. If you do not have a written lease, you also can be evicted for no reason if the landlord serves you with a written 30 day notice.

What is a 30-day notice?

A 30-day notice can only be given to you if you have an expiring or expired lease, a month-to-month lease or if you have no lease and pay rent monthly. In this situation your landlord can end your lease by giving you a written notice at lease 30 days in advance of when your rent is due. When that time runs out your lease is over, and your landlord can sue for eviction.

If I have a lease can the landlord evict me?

Yes. If you have failed to do something required by your lease or have not kept your apartment in a clean, safe condition, the landlord can sue you for eviction. However, only a judge can order you to move from your apartment.

What if I do not pay my rent?

Before your landlord can sue to evict you, the landlord must give you a chance to pay your rent, regardless of whether or not you have a written lease. The landlord must give you a written notice telling you exactly how much rent you owe and a specific time in which to pay your rent. Your landlord must give you at least 10 days after you have been served with the written notice to pay your rent. This is known as a 10-day notice for rent. If you pay within the 10 days, the landlord must accept your rent. If you have not paid within the 10 days, your landlord may sue for eviction. If the landlord accepts your full rent after the 10-day notice expires, the landlord loses the right to sue for eviction. Only full payment of all past and present amount due will overcome the 10-day notice. Partial payments will still leave you subject to eviction.

What if my landlord will not take my rent money?

You must offer the total amount of money owed for rent to your landlord. If you think you owe less than your landlord is asking for in the 10-day notice you should pay the full amount you think you owe. You cannot be evicted if the landlord refused to take the rent when it was due or during the period of the 10-day notice.

What if I am withholding rent because my landlord will not fix my apartment?

To protect yourself against an eviction action by your landlord, you must follow the proper legal procedure for withholding rent. See the related questions and answers above.

What if I violate my lease?

If you break the lease or fail to live up to your duties, then your landlord must tell you in writing what you have done and give you 10 days to correct the breach. This is known as a 10-day notice for breach. After the 10 days, if you have not fixed the problem, then the lease is ended and your landlord can sue for eviction.

What is the proper way to serve one of these notices?

The notice must be given to you, or left with someone who lives in your household who is at least 13 years old, or sent by certified or registered mail. The landlord may only post it on the apartment door if you no longer live in the apartment.

What can I be sued for if my landlord takes me to court for eviction?

The landlord can sue you for one or both of the following: possession of the apartment and rent. When suing for possession, the landlord is only seeking the return of the apartment. When suing for rent, the landlord is seeking a money judgment in the amount of rent you owe. The landlord can sue for court costs and for attorney's fees, but does not automatically win them.

How do I know if I am being sued for eviction?

After the landlord files suit you must be given a summons to appear in court. The date of the trial is on the summons. Your court date will be between 14 and 40 days from the date on the summons. The summons must be given to you, or a member of your household over the age of 13, no less than 7 days before the trial. If the dates are incorrect, tell the judge when you go to court. Summons are served by the Sheriff, not by the landlord.

What does my landlord have to prove to get me evicted?

The landlord must prove:

  • that the landlord has a right to possession of the apartment; and
  • that you violated the lease or stayed in the apartment after the lease ended; and
  • that the landlord has properly ended the lease by serving written notice; and
  • that there is rent due (if the landlord is suing for rent); and
  • that the landlord has properly filed suit.

When I get to court will I be able to talk to the judge?

Yes. You will be able to tell your side of the story. You will have a very short time to speak. The best way to present your case is to introduce yourself, and then tell the judge the facts in an organized manner. There are usually many cases on the call so remember to keep your speech short or the judge will not let you finish:.

What kind of defenses can I use?

Obviously, you may only present one of the following defenses if it is true, and if it applies to your case:

  • You may tell the judge whether or not you paid or offered to pay the rent.
  • You may show the judge any written notice that the lease was to be ended so he can review it for correctness.
  • If you received a 10-day notice, you may tell the judge whether or not you corrected the breach.
  • You may tell the judge if you are withholding rent because of a problem with your apartment or that you have repaired a problem and are deducting the actual costs from the rent.

If the judge orders me evicted, how long do I have before I must move?

According to the law you must get at least 5 days to move but often the Court will give you a few more. After the Order for Possession is entered, the Court will immediately send you a letter giving you detailed information including the exact date by which you must move. If you are not out by that date, the Sheriff may come at anytime and remove your property, whether you are at home or not. Once the Sheriff leaves, you may be subject to arrest for trespassing if you attempt to re-enter the property or the apartment.

Who can remove my belongings from my apartment?

Only the Sheriff of Cook County can actually move your belongings from your apartment. The Sheriff can only do this after the landlord gets an Order for Possession from the Court for your eviction. If your landlord attempts to move your belongings, call the police.

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Heat and Other Utilities

Who pays for the utilities in my apartment?

This depends upon your lease and agreement with your landlord. You should always agree on who will pay for cooking gas, heating gas, electricity, water or other utilities before you rent.

What if the landlord is supposed to pay for the utilities, but does not?

First, give the landlord prior written notice specifying the problem. You must give the notice to the landlord or send the notice to the address stated in the lease or specified by the landlord as the address at which notices are to be delivered. If the landlord has not given you an address, then you may send it to the landlord's last known address. You may begin to correct the problem yourself 24 hours after you have given the landlord your written notice. Be specific about the action(s) you intend to take.

Second, you may:

  • pay the bill for the utilities, repair the problem, or get substitute service (such as space heaters), and deduct the money from the next month's rent. Remember if you deduct the cost of space heaters, then the space heaters will be the property of the landlord and must be delivered to him after the problem is corrected; or
  • sue your landlord for the damages for having no utilities; or
  • move out until the utilities are turned back on if you cannot live in the apartment.

In addition, you may also

  • withhold a reasonable amount of rent if the landlord fails to correct the problem within 24 hours of receiving your notice; or
  • end the lease if your landlord fails to correct the problem within 72 hours of receiving your notice; you must then move out within 30 days or the lease goes back into effect.

Note -- you cannot withhold rent, sue for damages or end the lease if the problem was caused by the inability of the utility company to provide service or by your own failure to provide the service if your lease states that you are responsible.

What if I must move out because of no utilities?

If the lack of utilities makes the apartment impossible to live in (like no heat in the winter), you can move out and live somewhere else until the utilities are restored. If you move out, you do not have to pay rent for that time. You can also sue your landlord and get paid for the amount it cost you, up to your monthly rent as prorated on a daily basis, to live somewhere else and you may ask the Court for reasonable lawyer's fees.

What if I just sue my landlord for not providing utilities?

You can sue for the amount of rent that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the apartment because the landlord is not supplying utilities as agreed to by both tenant and landlord, and for reasonable lawyer's fees.

Must my landlord tell me if the utilities are going to be shut off?

Yes. Your landlord must tell you if the City of Evanston or any utility company plans to turn off any of the utilities but only when the utilities are being shut off because landlord did not pay the bill. The landlord must give you a notice in writing before the utilities are turned off. Your landlord also has to tell you what service is going to be turned off, when, and what part of the building will be disconnected. This rule of notice does not apply when the City or any utility company is shutting off the utility to perform routine or emergency repairs.

What if my landlord does not give me notice of a threatened utility shut off?

If your landlord does not give you notice of a threatened shut off due to nonpayment, you can give your landlord a written notice giving the landlord 14 days to comply or you will end your lease in the same manner described above.

Should my landlord let me know how much my heating bills are likely to run?

Yes. Whether you pay your heat bill to Com Ed or Nicor, the landlord must supply you, as part of the lease agreement, an estimate of utility costs based on the prior tenant's usage. The landlord must supply a copy of a completed Heating Cost Disclosure Form for the apartment prior to making a rental agreement with you or accepting any money.

Can I get help paying the utility bills that are my responsibility?

Often your local community organization may know of an available fund to help you with your utility bills. Call them and ask about the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. Remember, there never is enough money to go around so get your application in early. Be careful too; if you exaggerate your financial predicament, you can be forced to repay the money and may be subject to prosecution.

If my utilities are shut off can I break my lease?

If the utility service is the landlord's responsibility, you can break your lease. If the utility service is your responsibility, you cannot break your lease. If the heat is your responsibility and you allow it to be shut off, then you will be responsible to the landlord for any damage such as frozen pipes. Let your landlord know immediately if you think your utilities may be cut off, regardless of whose burden it may be.

Can my landlord shut off my utilities to make me move out?

No. This is considered a lockout and it is illegal. If this happens call the police and say that the landlord has illegally locked you out of your apartment. If this happens, call your local police.

What if I do not get enough heat in the winter?

If your landlord is responsible for heating your apartment, and the heat is regularly below the City code regulations, then you should notify your landlord in writing that he must bring the heat up to the City's regulations. For Evanston the heating season has no fixed beginning or ending dates.  The minimum temperature that must be maintained in each unit is:

  • 65 between 6:00am and 8:00am
  • 68 between 8:00am and 10:00pm
  • 60 between 10:00pm and 6:00am.

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Moving Out

Do I have to tell my landlord I am moving?

If you have a month-to-month tenancy, you must give your landlord at least 30 days notice that you are moving out, or you could get charged for the rent to the end of the next month. You have a month-to-month tenancy if you do not have a lease with a specified end date and if you pay rent monthly. If you have a lease that states a specific length of time for you to live in the apartment, you cannot break that lease agreement by simply telling your landlord you are going to move. If your written lease has an expiration date, you do not have to tell the landlord you are moving out on that date. If the landlord wants to show your apartment to prospective new renters, you have to allow him access to your apartment. The landlord must give you reasonable notice that he wants to show your unit.

Can I live out my security deposit?

No, you cannot live out your security deposit. Your landlord does not have to let you use your security deposit for the last month's rent. If you do not pay your last month's rent, your landlord can sue you to for the unpaid rent.

Is there anything I can do before I move to make sure I get my security deposit back?

You should leave the apartment in the same general condition it was when you moved in. If a landlord illegally keeps your deposit the only way to get it back is to sue the landlord. You should also request the landlord to walk through the apartment with you when you are moving out to examine it's condition. Don't forget to return all the keys as soon as you are out.

Can the landlord lock me out of my apartment?

No. Your landlord cannot lock you out of your apartment to make you move or interfere with your apartment in any way, such as removing your doors, cutting off your utility services, or removing your property.

Can my landlord rent my apartment to someone else if I am not living in it?

As long as the rent is paid, the apartment belongs to you. Your landlord can retake possession of your apartment if:

  • you tell your landlord you are not returning; or
  • all the people entitled to live in the apartment have been gone for 32 days and the rent is not paid; or
  • most of your property has been moved out, and all of the people entitled to live in the apartment have been gone for 21 days (or one rental period if rent is paid more than once a month) and rent is not paid.

What if I leave my property in my apartment?

If you move out of the apartment or the lease runs out and you leave personal property there, the landlord must leave the property in the apartment or store it somewhere safe for 7 days. If the property is not worth the cost or storage or if the property would spoil, the landlord can throw it away immediately. If the landlord must pay for storage or moving, then you must immediately reimburse him for his storage or moving costs.

What if I want to get out of my lease early?

You can end your lease only by agreement with your landlord or if the landlord commits certain illegal actions under the Landlord-Tenant Law. If the landlord commits certain illegal actions, the law requires you to follow exact procedures before you can end your lease. Be careful, if you fail to follow these procedures exactly your lease will not end early and you will still be required to pay rent.

If you fail to give proper notice when terminating your lease or if you abandon the apartment, the landlord must make a good faith effort to find another tenant at a fair rent. If the landlord does find another tenant, you may still owe the landlord rent for the time the apartment was empty, plus any reasonable advertising or legal costs or rental commissions. If the landlord fails to find another tenant, you may still owe the landlord the remainder of the rent that was due through the ending date on your lease plus the landlord's reasonable advertising and legal costs. The landlord does not have to lower his screening standards or accept an unqualified new tenant just to help your financial situation. The landlord does not have to give priority to your apartment when he has other similar available apartments for rent, even if they became available after yours.

Can I be charged for moving out early?

If you move out early, your landlord must try to re-rent the apartment. If the landlord re-rents the apartment for less than what you were paying, you will have to pay the difference between the amount the new tenant pays and your rent. For example, if you move out 3 months early and your rent is $400 a month, you may owe the difference between what you would have paid ($400) and what the next tenant is paying ($350) which is $50 each month for three months. See the answer above.

What if my landlord cannot re-rents the apartment?

If your landlord makes a good faith effort but cannot find someone else to rent the apartment, you will owe the amount of your rent just as if you had stayed until the lease would have ended. If you paid $400 a month and you leave three months before the end of your lease, you will owe the landlord $1200. You will also owe the landlord any reasonable amount that the landlord spent advertising the apartment. See the answers above.

Can I sublet my apartment?

Yes. If you want to move out early and have arranged to sublet the apartment, your landlord must accept any reasonable subtenant without charging you any fees. The landlord does have the right to require any sub-tenant to enter whatever tenant screening process he may have and he may charge that prospective tenant a reasonable application fee.

If the landlord refuses to accept a suitable subtenant, you cannot be held liable for the rent past the time when the potential subtenant was willing to assume the lease. For example, if you find someone who meets all the criteria the landlord required of you at the time you moved in, then he is not required to rent to that person, but you can no longer be bound to the terms of the lease.

Remember, you are still liable to the landlord for rent if the sub-tenant does not pay the rent, if the sub-tenant damages the apartment or must be evicted.

What happens to my security deposit when I sublet?

The landlord may hold your security deposit until the end of the lease. You should either get the landlord to collect a security deposit from the subtenant and return yours or collect a security deposit from the subtenant yourself. The landlord cannot keep a deposit from you and the subtenant if the total amount exceeds the amount listed on the lease.

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