By Attorney Conor Grealish
Good news for tenants residing in Cook County! The Cook County Board of Commissioners recently passed a new ordinance called the Cook County Residential Tenant and Landlord Ordinance (“CCRTLO”) that offers extra protections to most tenants in Cook County. The CCRTLO applies to most Cook County leases beginning June 1, 2021.
One of the more significant provisions of the CCRTLO are the additional protections to tenants' security deposits. First, a landlord may not demand a security deposit that is more than one-half of a tenant's rent. Next, upon the termination of the tenancy, a landlord must return a tenant's security deposit within 30 days, less any unpaid rent of valid deductions. If a landlord does make deductions to a tenant's security deposit, she must provide the tenant with an itemized statement of damages and paid receipts.
Additionally, a landlord must disclose the name of the financial institution where a tenant's security deposit is placed on the lease and then keep the security deposit in a federally insured account. Furthermore, a landlord must also provide a tenant a security deposit receipt that details specific information regarding the security deposit. A tenant may be entitled to two times her security deposit and reasonable attorneys' fees if a landlord fails to comply with these provisions regarding security deposits.
The CCRTLO also provides a tenant with additional protections from overbearing or intrusive landlords. A landlord may not unreasonably enter or make unreasonable demands to enter into a tenant's dwelling unit that has a harassing effect on the tenant. Furthermore, a landlord may not lockout or attempt to lockout a tenant from a dwelling unit under any circumstances.
A landlord also has additional obligations to maintain the dwelling unit in a habitable manner. First, a landlord must disclose whether the building where the dwelling unit is located has by cited by the municipality or other oversight body within the previous 12 months. Second, a landlord must supply and maintain essential services to the dwelling unit, such as heat, running water, and electricity. If a landlord fails to maintain these essential services within 72 hours after receiving the appropriate notice, a tenant may terminate the lease.
Finally, a landlord must provide certain disclosures to tenants to when they enter a lease so tenants better understand their rights. Specifically, a landlord must provide information on bed bugs, lead hazards, contact information about the ownership and management, and a summary of the CCRTLO to their tenants. Tenants are afforded certain remedies for a landlord's failure to provide these disclosures, including terminating the lease agreement, after providing written notice to their landlord.
It should be noted that some dwelling units that are located within Cook County are excluded from the requirements of the CCRTLO. For example, areas that have already established their own regulations with respect to rentals, such as Chicago and Evanston, do not have to follow the CCRTLO. Additionally, owner-occupied buildings with 6 units or less (commonly known as “mom and pop landlords”) are excluded from the CCRTLO. But in practice, the CCRTLO will apply to the majority of dwelling units and leases in Cook County.
These are just some of the additional protections afforded to Cook County tenants under the CCRTLO. If you are a Cook County tenant and feel that your rights have been violated, do not hesitate to contact CTM Legal Group at 312.818.6700 and we can assist you with your landlord issues.