Paul Bernstein, Attorney at Law
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On Chicago Tenants' Rights - Chapters

By: Paul Bernstein, Attorney At Law

Paul Bernstein, Esq. 1998, All Rights Reserved


As noted in earlier chapters, the purposes and policy of the City of Chicago in enacting the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) in 1986 was to protect and promote the public health, safety and welfare of its citizens, and to establish the rights and obligations of the landlord and the tenant in the rental of dwelling units and to encourage the landlord and the tenant to maintain and improve the quality of housing in the City of Chicago. As noted in Section 5-12-010, the Ordinance is to be liberally construed and applied to promote its purposes and policies.

Consistent with those statements of policy, if your residential apartment is covered by the RLTO there is a prohibition on retaliatory conduct by your landlord if you have taken certain actions that are protected by the RLTO. The section provides very strong remedies against a landlord in violation of the RLTO.

Section 5-12-150 of the RLTO

Section 5-12-150 of the RTLO allows the tenant, if the tenant has acted in good faith, to take the following actions:

complain of code violations to a competent governmental agency, elected representative or public official charged with enforcement of building, housing, health or similar codes, or;

complain of a building, housing, health or similar code violation or an illegal landlord practice to a community organization or the news media, or;

seek the assistance of a community organization or the news media to remedy a code violation or illegal landlord practice, or;

request the landlord to make repairs to the premises as required by a building code, health ordinance, other regulation or the residential rental agreement, or;

become a member of a tenant's union or similar organization, or;

testify in any court or administrative proceeding concerning the condition of the premises, or;

exercise any right or remedy provided by law, which, in my view, includes all rights and remedies elected by a tenant under Section 5-12-110 of the RLTO.

These actions by tenants are protected under the RLTO

Your landlord must not try to evict you because you have taken any one or more of the protected actions noted above. Section 150 states that it is against the public policy of the City of Chicago for the landlord to take retaliatory action against a tenant (except for the tenant's violation of a rental agreement or violation of a law or ordinance). Thus, a landlord may not knowingly terminate a tenancy, increase rent, decrease services, bring or threaten to bring a lawsuit against a tenant for possession (file an eviction) or refuse to renew a lease or tenancy because the tenant has in good faith taken any of the actions referred to above.

Landlord Retaliation is often the result of tenant’s efforts to protect themselves

In my experience, landlords often file eviction actions against tenants who have taken protected actions under the ordinance, labeling such tenants who are only exercising their legal rights as "trouble makers".

This section of the RLTO, however, goes on to provide that if a landlord acts in violation of this section, the tenant has a defense in any retaliatory action against the tenant for possession and the tenant is entitled to certain remedies, including: retaining possession of the apartment (or at the tenant's option, terminate the rental agreement); and in either case, recover an amount equal to and not more than two months' rent or twice the damages sustained by him, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorneys' fees. In fact, the landlord may end up paying two sets of lawyers, the landlord's own lawyer and the tenant's attorney as well.

It is this section that assures tenants that they will have competent legal representation in the Chicago court system. However, as noted throughout, the law of landlord and tenant is complex, the law under the RLTO is still developing, and you are urged to seek the assistance of tenant's unions, community organizations and lawyers familiar with this area before taking action on your own.

In a subsequent chapter, I will discuss in greater detail my successful appeals in Metroplex vs. Powell and Metroplex vs. Stovall, in which the appellate court of Illinois makes it crystal clear that what the RLTO says about retaliatory evictions being prohibited is exactly what the RLTO says – landlords may not take retaliatory action against a tenant if the tenant has taken steps, under the RLTO, to enforce the landlords obligations and responsibilities.

Paul Bernstein
Attorney At Law
333 E. Ontario St.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 951-8451
Fax: (312) 280-8180


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