By: Conor Grealish
These are truly unprecedented times and tenants in Chicago need to know their rights under law as well as how their rights are affected by the resulting executive orders and disaster proclamations issued by Governor J.B. Pritzker. Here are five crucial things that Chicago tenants should know during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Tenants Cannot Be Evicted.
Governor J.B. Pritzker recently extended an executive order through May 29, 2020, that provides no landlord may start an eviction case against a residential tenant, except in a few limited circumstances. The executive order also states that all state, county, and local law enforcement officials cannot enforce eviction orders through May 29, 2020. The sheriff of Cook County, specifically, will not enforce any eviction orders before June 1, 2020. That is great news for tenants so that they can continue to stay indoors during the pandemic. However, the executive order does not relieve a tenant of all of their responsibilities.
2. Tenants Still Need To Pay Rent And Comply With The Terms Of The Lease.
Governor Pritzker's order does not relieve any tenant of the obligation to pay rent or their obligation to comply with other terms of the lease. This applies even to tenants who already have an eviction order against them. While tenants still have to comply with their rent and lease obligations, that does not mean that landlords have free reign to do as they please during a tenancy.
3. Landlords Cannot Retaliate Against Tenants.
The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”) explicitly prohibits retaliatory conduct by landlords against tenants. For example, a landlord cannot increase a tenant's rent because the tenant requested the landlord to make repairs in the unit. If a landlord does knowingly retaliate against a tenant, a tenant may recover two months' rent. In addition, landlords must also give tenants their space, which is crucial during this time.
4. Landlords Must Respect Your Privacy.
While the city navigates through the COVID pandemic, tenants' privacy rights still remain intact. Chicago landlords cannot simply enter into any apartment they own unannounced and expect to be let in. Under the RLTO, landlords are required to give tenants 48 hours' notice of entry unless in the case of an emergency. Towards the end of a tenancy, many landlords are eager to show the apartment to new potential tenants and oftentimes do not provide 48 hours' notice to the tenant still living in the apartment. This is especially important to the residing
tenant's health when social distancing is imperative; frequent interruptions by a landlord and other tenants only endanger a residing tenant's health further. That said, a tenant cannot bar a landlord from entering the apartment if the landlord gives the appropriate notice. The best way to ensure that tenants stay safe during the crisis and continue to stay safe after this initial wave passes is to continue to maintain open communications with your landlord.
5. Keep An Open Dialogue with The Landlord
This may be the most important thing to remember during the continuing crisis. As these unprecedented times persist, it is important to remain flexible so both tenants and landlords can come out of this financially secure and most importantly, healthy and safe. Tenants who
recognize they may not be able to meet their rental obligations for the month, should reach out to their landlord early and try to work out a compromise. If there are problems within the unit, tenants should contact their landlord immediately and also insist that the landlord take the proper safety measures (i.e. wear masks and practice social distancing) while making those repairs. While these are just a few issues that may come up during a tenancy, it is important to address these issues with landlords quickly and in writing.
For Chicago tenants, it is essential to recognize that although these times are unparalleled, you still have rights. If your landlord makes unreasonable demands, insists on changing terms of the lease, or is just negatively impacting your quality of life in your apartment, CTM Legal Group can help. CTM Legal Group is an experienced tenant's rights firm and can expertly guide you through the rigors of the COVID crisis, as well as other issues that frequently occur between tenants and landlords. Feel free to call 312-818-6700 for a free consultation.