Rights and Responsibilities
There are laws that give landlords and tenants specific legal rights and responsibilities. Contact your local municipality if you have a question about what you and your landlord are each responsible for.
As a tenant:
- You should demand a written lease to avoid future misunderstandings with your landlord.
- You must pay your rent on time.
- You must keep the rental unit clean and undamaged.
- You are responsible for any damages beyond normal wear and tear.
- You must pay the utility bill if the lease makes you responsible.
- You may not alter the apartment (for example, paint the walls) without your landlord’s approval.
- You must give written notice when you intend to move.
- The Illinois Retaliatory Eviction Act prohibits your landlord from evicting you for complaining to any governmental authority (housing inspector, human rights commission, etc.).
Pay rent on time
Not paying your rent on time can result in late fees and, in the worst-case scenario, eviction. If you think you will be unable to pay your landlord on time, see if you can come to an agreement for repayment. If you do reach such an agreement, get it in writing, dated and signed, in order to protect yourself.
Pay utilities on time
Depending on your lease, you will most likely be required to pay for at least some of your utilities. It is important to pay your utilities on time. Late payments will result in a late fee, harm your credit and may make it difficult for you to transfer service if you want to move. If your budget is tight, pay what you can. Be proactive in seeking out financial assistance and changing your habits to reduce your energy consumption.
Keep your apartment in good condition
You are required to keep your apartment clean and undamaged. It does not have to be spotless, but you should clean and take out the trash regularly. Keeping your place clean is one of the best ways to keep insects and rodents out.
Be a good neighbor
You could be evicted for excessive noise or arrested for disturbing the peace. Almost as important, having a good relationship with your neighbors will be beneficial if you need to ask for help at some point.
If something in your apartment needs to be fixed, send your landlord a formal letter with a list of the repairs needed and request that they be made within 14 days. If it is an emergency and can threaten your health, safety or the apartment itself, ask that the repair be made within 72 hours. If your landlord does not fix the problem, under certain circumstances, the Residential Tenants’ Right to Repair Act allows you to hire a professional to make the repairs and then deduct the cost from next month’s rent. Whenever taking an action that may be against the terms of your lease, talk to a lawyer or a tenant’s rights organization.
In most cases, your landlord is responsible for extermination to eliminate pests, but there are some exceptions. If you are identified as the cause of the infestation, the landlord might refuse to exterminate or may charge you for extermination.
Bed bugs are one of the most common housing problems. Unlike most other pest control problems, they are not caused by a filthy apartment and they are very hard to exterminate. In 2013, Chicago passed a law to help with the growing bed bug problem. The law explains the responsibilities that tenants and landlords share to prevent and control bed bugs.
Need help or want to know more?
The Illinois Housing Handbook, available in English and en español, provides a wealth of information to help make obtaining and maintaining housing easier and less confusing, especially for first-time renters.