BERNSTEIN, ESQ., ON CHICAGO TENANTS' RIGHTS
By: Paul Bernstein, Attorney At Law
© Paul Bernstein, Esq. 1998, All Rights Reserved
Chapter 17: AVAILABLE RESOURCES TO HELP TENANTS ABOUND
There are many resources available to tenants who believe their rights are being violated by their landlords. As these chapters have demonstrated, it is very important for you to be an "educated consumer" when it comes to knowing about your rights. However, if your rights are being violated and you have done your homework, the Chicago Ordinance on Landlord and Tenant provides many powerful remedies for aggrieved tenants. Here are some resources I highly recommend.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers, The Fund for Justice and The Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago publish the definitive handbook on the topic of Landlord-Tenant law in Chicago. If you believe your rights are being violated by your landlord, having and reading a copy of this handbook is imperative. The handbook costs Ten Dollars. Call the Chicago Council of Lawyers at 312-427-0710 about ordering a copy.
If you have or obtain your own lawyer and they are hesitant about their ability to represent you because of lack of knowledge, hopefully, these articles will get your lawyer on the right track. Perhaps the very best reference for lawyers who represent tenants in Chicago is the publication "Representing Residential Tenants", published by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education. IICLE can be contacted at: 1-217-787-2080. I have used this publication over and over again and highly recommend it. A new version was just released in January, 1998. Copies of the publication are also available to lawyers and non-lawyers alike in the Cook County Law Library on the 29th floor of the Daley Center in downtown Chicago.
If you want to hire a lawyer but just can't seem to find one, then visit or call the Chicago Bar Association, Lawyer Referral Service at 321 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL 60604, 312-554-2001. The bar association maintains lists of lawyers who are expert in various areas of law and who accept referrals, even from those with limited or no means of payment.
Indeed one of the most valuable parts of the Landlord-Tenant Handbook published by the Chicago Council of Lawyers, etc., is an appendix that lists many Community and Civic Organizations in Chicago, many resources for legal assistance, such as the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and the Legal Aid Bureau of Chicago, law clinics at various law schools in the Chicagoland area, and government offices dealing with Tenant-Landlord relations. Examples of the latter are: the Chicago Department of Buildings; Corporation Counsel - Building Violations Division; the Mayor's Office of Inquiry and Information, and many other agencies.
There are usually tenants' rights organizations in most communities in Chicago. You should also contact your alderman (or alderwoman) and tell them about whatever problems you may have. As elected officials, I am sure they will be interested in what you have to say.
Finally, read your local newspapers. Both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times have excellent columnists who write regularly on landlord and tenant issues. In what I have read, they seem to be very even handed and fair in their application of the Chicago Ordinance to various factual situations.
If you have a right, there is more then likely a remedy under the law. Become an informed consumer and then pursue whatever avenues of recourse seem best for you. They are there, but in most cases it will take your "foot-work" and effort to start the ball rolling.
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