BERNSTEIN, ESQ., ON CHICAGO TENANTS' RIGHTS
By: Paul Bernstein, Attorney At Law
© Paul Bernstein, Esq. 1998, All Rights Reserved
Chapter 11: RETALIATORY EVICTIONS PROHIBITED IN CHICAGO
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:
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 tenants 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.
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