BERNSTEIN, ESQ., ON CHICAGO TENANTS' RIGHTS
By: Paul Bernstein, Attorney At Law
© Paul Bernstein, Esq. 1998, All Rights Reserved
Chapter 12: SERVICE OF WRITTEN NOTICES
Ive covered this material in another chapter, but deem it of such very great importance that I here repeat essentially the same materials, for fear that without such emphasis, tenants who seek to represent themselves may overlook this very practical and very important part of the discipline and procedure essential to an enforcement of their rights under the RLTO.
Let's assume that: the apartment you live in is covered by the Chicago Ordinance on Landlord and Tenant; that your apartment or the building of which it is a part requires repairs; that you have called your landlord or the management company several times and requested those repairs, without results, and; that it is now time to notify your landlord in writing so that the corrective actions allowed tenants under the Ordinance can be obtained.
Under Section 5-12-110 of the Chicago Ordinance on Landlord and Tenant, you have the right to take certain actions (repair and deduct from the rent, reduction of your rent, termination of your lease) if your landlord does not take corrective action within a specified number of days after receipt of written notice from you. It is very important that you know the exact date your landlord received your demand notice. But, how do you do that?
Using certified mail, return receipt requested, is, generally, the best way to obtain proof that a landlord received your notice because you get back a "green card" with the landlord's signature on it. However, some landlords only provide you with a post office box address (certified mail, return receipt requested, cannot be served on a post office box) while others may not pick up certified mail at all or many days or weeks after the post office attempts to make delivery. Accordingly, this form of attempted service of a notice may not be the most effective.
If you send uncertified mail, the landlord may say they never got the mail or got it days after you assumed the mail would be delivered in due course. Because the time-to-fix provisions of the Ordinance start with the date the landlord receives the notice, you must be certain the landlord actually got your written notice.
Stronger evidence then regular mail (but not as good as a signed returned receipt) is paying a bit extra at the post office to mail your letter by a "Certificate of Mailing." A certificate of mailing is the post office's documented acknowledgment that you did mail a particular envelope to a particular person and address on a given date with the proper postage prepaid. In many cases, a certificate of mailing may be the best method available to you to prove service on the landlord, especially if you only have a post office box address for your landlord - and most judges in my experience will give a tenant the benefit of the doubt if the tenant used a certificate of mailing and allowed more then a day or two for the assumed delivery of that envelope.
The best method of service of the written notice is by personal delivery by you or your representative to the landlord or the management company. Be certain to make copies of the original notice and your demands and to note on your copy the exact date and place of service and also the person upon whom you served the notice. If you can, get the person you served to acknowledge receipt of the original notice by so noting on a copy of the notice you retain -- this can be something as simple as the following, written at the bottom of your notice to the landlord: "I acknowledge receipt of the original of this document on today's date, <<insert the date>>" Be certain to have that person sign their name and make certain their signature is legible - if not, ask them to spell their name and ask about their relationship to the landlord.
If you are hesitant to serve a notice personally by yourself, a community based tenant's organization or your attorney may be of assistance in this regard.
In any event, proving the exact date of service of the written notice is critical. Read the Ordinance carefully, follow its requirements and, if you can, make certain you know when the notice was received by the landlord.
Internet Home page: http://members.delphi.com/bernsteinp/