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Protecting Yourself While Enforcing Your Rights as a Tenant

October 13, 2022

By Attorney Rohail Salman

There are many laws that provide tenants with options if their landlord violates their rights. For example, if the tenant informs the landlord of a necessary repair and the landlord refuses to fix it within the required timeframe, the tenant can withhold a portion of the rent. However, the landlord may respond to the tenant’s good faith conduct by retaliating against them. Fortunately, there are several laws that penalize the landlord when they retaliate against the tenant for exercising their rights.

The Retaliatory Eviction Act, the Safe Homes Act (“the Act), and the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (“the RLTO”) all restrict landlords from engaging in retaliation against tenants for exercising their rights. Under the Retaliatory Eviction Act, a landlord cannot terminate or refuse the renewal of a residential lease because a tenant has complained to any governmental authority of a genuine violation of any applicable building code, health ordinance,
or similar regulation. Any reasons a landlord may attempt to use to force a lease termination related to a tenant’s complaint is considered void. 765 ILCS 720/1.

The RLTO provides extensive protections against a landlord’s retaliatory behavior. Under the RLTO, a landlord is strictly forbidden from engaging in any form of retaliation against a tenant for exercising their rights. 5-12-150. Specifically, retaliation by a landlord includes, but is not limited to, terminating a tenancy, increasing rent, decreasing services, refusing to renew a lease or tenancy, or bringing or threatening a lawsuit against a tenant, following a tenant’s good faith conduct. 5-12-150. The tenant’s protected conduct includes, but is not limited to: complaining of code violations to any governmental authority or to any community group or media charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building, housing, health or similar code; requesting the landlord make repairs as required by a building or health regulation, or the residential rental agreement; becoming a member of a tenant’s union or similar group; testifying in any court or administrative proceeding concerning the condition of the premises; or exercising any right or remedy provided by law. 5-12-150(a)-(g).

Tenants have a defense against the landlord in any retaliatory action, such as eviction, against them, and are entitled to receive remedies, which include recovering possession or terminating the rental agreement, and recovering an amount equal to two months' rent or twice the damages suffered by them, whichever is greater, in addition to reasonable attorneys' fees. 5-12-150.

Unfortunately, even though the law prohibits landlords from engaging in retaliatory conduct against tenants, some landlords will still do so. If you believe your landlord is violating your rights or retaliating against you for exercising your rights, call CTM Legal Group. We can answer your questions and help protect you and your rights.