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Repairs neglected by landlord? Tenant has rights under new Cook County apartment ordinance

By Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale LTD
July 11, 2021
repairs neglected by landlord

By Michael DeSantis

A newly enacted Cook County residential tenant-and-landlord ordinance includes Section 42-806, which focuses on various tenants’ rights that you should know.

Cook County commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 28 to pass the Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (No. 20-3562), which went into effect on June 1 and has been the topic of our blogs in recent weeks. Section 42-806 covers tenant remedies for a violation of the ordinance or rental agreement.

First, this section addresses when a tenant can withhold rent if a landlord fails to repair the property. If the landlord is not in compliance with the rental agreement or with section 805 of the ordinance, the tenant can give the landlord a written notice specifying the noncompliance. The notice must state that the tenant will withhold rent on the next due date if the landlord has not fixed the issue within 14 days after receipt of the written notice. The tenant can withhold an amount of rent that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the property. However, they cannot withhold money for issues caused by their deliberate or negligent actions.

In another option, a tenant could terminate the lease. If there is noncompliance, like previously mentioned, the tenant may deliver a written notice saying they will terminate the rental agreement and vacate if the landlord does not fix the issue within 14 days after receiving the written notice. If the tenant does not vacate the property within one month after the expiration of the 14-day period or the end of the next rental period, whichever is longer, then the lease will remain in full force and effect. If the tenant properly terminates the lease, then the landlord must return the security deposit immediately upon the tenant giving back possession.

The tenant may file a lawsuit if the landlord is not in compliance. However, the landlord shall have an affirmative defense to the lawsuit if the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent acts of the tenant.

Next, if the landlord failed to supply heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas, plumbing, or Internet (if the rental agreement requires a landlord to provide this) the tenant must deliver written notice to the landlord specifying the service to be restored. If the landlord fails to correct the issue within 24 hours after being notified, the tenant may do any of the following: withhold an amount from the monthly rent that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the property; procure reasonable amounts of the missing utility service and deduct the charges from the rent after providing receipts to the landlord; recover damages based on the diminished fair rental value of the property plus reasonable attorneys’ fees; or obtain substitute housing, whereby the tenant would be excused from paying rent during the time of noncompliance and the tenant may recover the cost of the reasonable value of substitute housing equal to the monthly rent and reasonable fees.

Additionally, for not providing the aforementioned services, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement by written notice to the landlord if the landlord fails to provide the services for more than 72 hours after the tenant notified the landlord. If the rental agreement says the tenant must deliver possession of the property to the landlord within 30 days after expiration of the 72-hour time frame specified in the notice or at the end of the next rental period, whichever is longer, the landlord must give the security deposit back once the tenant delivers possession. If the tenant does not leave the property within the proper time frame, then the notice of termination will be withdrawn and the rental agreement will remain in full force.

The next part of this section discusses when the property has been damaged or destroyed by fire or another casualty. We will not go into details regarding that, but there are specific procedures outlined in this section that every landlord and tenant should be aware of if this occurs.

Lastly, this section addressed when a tenant may withhold rent for the landlord’s failure to undertake minor repairs. If the landlord fails undertake minor repairs, which they are supposed to do and the reasonable cost of compliance does not exceed $500 or half of the monthly rent, whichever is greater, the tenant may notify the landlord in writing that if the landlord does not fix the condition in 14 days from receipt of the notice, or as promptly as required in case of emergency, the tenant will correct the condition and withhold the cost of repair from the next rental payment. The tenant must submit to the landlord a paid bill from an appropriate contractor or tradesperson at the time of deducting from their rent.

If you have any questions regarding changes in your lease, contact the offices of Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale LTD and we will be able to guide you. Request a free case evaluation below.

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