Here in Chicago, renting is a fact of life. It has long been a cornerstone of the city’s economy and culture – and many of the finer details of renting can be a major source of stress, confusion, and anxiety, for tenants and landlords alike. 

Just how significant is renting in Chicago? According to data cited by the City of Chicago, roughly 60% of Chicagoans live in rental housing. According to a report from the DePaul Institute for Housing Studies, roughly 44% of households in Cook County were renter-occupied, as of 2016. Rental service Domu reports that, as recently as mid-2019, Chicago ranked “second among major metro areas in the United States in quarterly demand for apartments,” with a total of 7,418 units. And per rental information and resources site RentCafe, the average rent in Chicago currently hovers around $1906 – a 6% increase, year over year, from 2018. At the same time, however, RentCafe points out that 38% of apartment rents fall above $2000. Chicago’s average rent is also well above the national rate, which clocks in at $1430, per RentCafe. 

Millions of people rent apartments and homes here in Chicago. Some rent directly from a homeowner; others work with a rental company. In any case, it’s quite common for tenants and landlords to have conflicts and disputes, both major and minor, stemming from any number of causes – late rent payments, poor communication, conflicts over security deposits, disagreements over property maintenance, and so on.

For landlords and tenants alike, it’s crucial to understand the rights afforded to renters here in Chicago. In many cases, that’s going to mean understanding our area’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, or RLTO. 

What governs rental agreements in the city of Chicago?

The Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) governs the majority of rental agreements in Chicago. Originally passed in 1986, the RLTO establishes the rights and obligations of both landlord and tenant when it comes to the rental of a Chicago apartment. 

The RLTO applies to most rental housing in Chicago, with some exceptions. For instance, it’s important to keep in mind that the RLTO generally doesn’t apply to employer-provided housing; owner-occupied buildings with six units or fewer; most boarding houses/rooming houses/dormitories; or properties occupied pursuant to a real estate purchase contract. 

In cases where it does apply, the RLTO broadly touches on many aspects of the rental agreement, including detailing what a landlord must provide and maintain in the unit and building, and the remedies available to the tenant if the landlord does not fulfill their obligations. On the flip side, it also outlines tenants’ responsibilities (such as making timely payments and not disturbing other residents), and details the remedies available to landlords if tenants do not comply. Other key considerations of the RLTO include important aspects of renting like…

  • security deposits and prepaid rent
  • subleasing 
  • rights of access
  • acceptable lease terms
  • disclosures and notices

… and more. To peruse a full text of the RLTO, you can read on here, via the City of Chicago, or here, via the American Legal Publishing Corporation.

Are there any resources that can help me?

For landlords and tenants alike, it’s important to understand the terms set down by the RLTO, which detail the rights and remedies for both parties in a typical rental agreement. It’s also important to understand the limits of the RLTO. 

In many cases, however, it can be difficult to parse the language of the RLTO all alone. It’s also crucial to remember that your specific situation may not always be so “cut and dry.” Life is complicated, and it’s important to get a handle on the unique variables of your situation, so you understand all of the details and can pursue the right path forward for your needs, whether you’re a landlord or a tenant seeking a remedy. 

With that in mind, in many cases it may prove important to consult with an expert in local lease and rental laws, such as an experienced local real estate attorney. Working with an attorney can help clarify your options and allow you to pursue the right course of action for your unique circumstances. A legal expert can be an invaluable resource, providing specialized financial and legal insights and allowing you to find a solution that suits your situation. 

For renters, there are also a variety of resources available that can provide crucial education, including the city’s Rents Right campaign, as well as local tenant and landlord organizations. 

Want to Continue the Conversation?

Whether you rent or own, your home is an incredibly important place – and you deserve to enjoy it to the fullest.

With that said, it’s also important to recognize that the laws and regulations that affect owners, tenants, and landlords here in Chicago can be complex, multifaceted, and ever-changing. Our area has some unique local rules, impacting lease and rental agreements, security deposits, property development, and so much more.

The attorneys and staff of The Gunderson Law Firm specialize in helping individuals and businesses throughout Illinois find tailored solutions insightfully, promptly, and professionally. We’re here to field any additional questions or address any concerns that you may have, with specific answers for your unique situation.

Have any more questions about the RLTO, or any other aspect of renting or being a landlord in Chicago? Curious about any other aspect of real estate law in Chicagoland, including… 

  • Residential Real Estate
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Purchases and Sales
  • Mortgage Conveyancing & Advice
  • Litigation
  • Title Examinations & Disputes; Title Insurance
  • Estate Planning and Asset Protection
  • Condominium Law
  • Foreclosures
  • … And More?

We’d be happy to continue the discussion. Drop us a line or give us a call to get the conversation started, learn more, or set up your free initial consultation.