Chicago Tenants: You Have Rights Before You Even Step Into Your Apartment (And After You Step Out Too!)

June 19, 2020

            By Attorney Conor Grealish

            As Illinois begins to lift its COVID restrictions and Chicago tenants begin to transition to new apartments, it is it is important to remember your rights under the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”).  Specifically, that the RLTO provides protections for tenants both before they occupy an apartment as well as after the tenant has vacated that apartment.

            Frequently, landlords will try to take advantage of tenants either before the tenant moves in or after a tenant moves out, a time when tenants are generally at their most vulnerable and don’t have the resources or time to enforce their rights. Oftentimes, landlords and their representatives will argue that the tenant is not really a “tenant” because they are no longer living in the apartment and therefore do not have to comply with certain provisions of the RLTO. This is a misinterpretation of the law and runs directly contrary to how the RLTO defines “tenant.”

            First, it is useful to review the definition of tenant under the RLTO. The RLTO defines a “tenant” as “a person entitled by written or oral agreement, subtenancy approved by the landlord or by sufferance, to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others.” Nothing in that definition requires that tenant must be physically living in the dwelling unit at the time to enforce his rights under the RLTO. In fact, upon further reading of the RLTO, is clear that it offers protections to tenants both before and after they live in an apartment.  

            Under the RLTO, an individual can enforce his or her rights even before they occupy the apartment. For example, if a landlord fails to deliver possession of the apartment in accordance with the lease, the “tenant” may enforce their right sunder the RLTO. While it’s clear that the prospective “tenant” does not actually live in the apartment, that individual is nonetheless still considered a tenant under the RLTO and may assert his or her rights.  Similarly, the RLTO uses “tenant” to describe individuals who no longer reside in an apartment. For instance, the RLTO uses the “tenant” to identify an individual seeking the return of a security deposit after that individual has vacated an apartment. In addition, the RLTO uses “tenant” to describe an individual who is attempt to regain access to their apartment, after their landlord improperly locked them out.

            As Chicago tenants start to move during these summer months it is important to remember that the RLTO affords protections for tenants that extend past the time they walk through the door of their apartment. If you’re a Chicago tenant and feel that your rights were violated, then CTM Legal Grroup may be able to help you. CTM Legal Group is an experienced tenant’s rights firm and can expertly guide you through issues that frequently occur between tenants and landlords, including issues that arise before and after a tenant steps through the apartment door. Feel free to call 312-818-6700 for a free consultation.