Habitable Living Conditions
Landlords must provide habitable living conditions.
Landlord must keep the unit fit to live in, including making repairs in compliance with lease, law, local regulations, etc. They also need to make sure the facility is safe. Below are few examples of code violations:
- Insufficient heat, no water, no hot water
- Broken/missing locks on doors/windows
- Roof/ceiling leaks
- No lighting in hallways or stairwells
- Window screens missing or torn
- Doors or windows to not fit properly in frame or leak
- Floor, wall or ceiling deteriorated
- Plumbing leaks, toilet leaks, runs or is inoperable
- Missing or inoperable smoke detector
- Flooding, water seepage, or sewage backed up
- Other plumbing problems and electrical problems
- Roach infestation if it is in more than one apartment
Below are a few common tenant issues that are not considered code violations. If these are important to you, you may want to request them be completed prior to moving into the apartment and putting these requests into the lease.
- Walls that need painting
- Carpeting is worn and old
- No storm windows
- Broken furniture
- Blinds on windows that are broken
Repair & Maintenance Issues
Landlords should address repair or maintenance issues.
Any time you have a repair problem, or any property maintenance issue including pests or rodents, report it in writing to your landlord. Describe the problem in detail. Be persistent if you do not get a response to your initial request including:
- Call the landlord.
- Send a second written request through Certified Return-Receipt Mailing.
- File a complaint with the City Housing Inspector.
- File a complaint with Off-Campus Community Living.
- Consult with an attorney.
You should notify your landlord of any problems and give them a reasonable amount of time to make repairs before asking the city to inspect for code violations. When considering what is reasonable, keep in mind that if you do have to get the city involved, the city will typically give the landlord a minimum of 30 days to comply with any notice of violation.
The Residential Tenant’s Right to Repair Act (765 ILCS 742/1 - 742/30) enables tenants under certain circumstances to use rent money to pay for repairs that are required by law or by the lease if the landlord fails to perform the repairs within 14 days (except in emergencies) after receiving notice by certified or registered mail. If you are considering withholding rent or moving out of a place, because of repair problems covered by codes, consult with an attorney at Student Legal Services. You will want to consult with an attorney who can potentially represent you in court if the landlord chooses to sue you for nonpayment of rent.
"Emergencies include conditions that will cause irreparable harm to the apartment or any fixture attached to the apartment if not immediately repaired or any condition that poses an immediate threat to the health or safety of any occupant of the dwelling or common areas." (765 ILCS 742/5)
If a repair is an emergency, as defined above, the repair may be performed after notice is given to the landlord without waiting an additional 14 days. CAUTION: you must be absolutely certain that the repair need really is an emergency if you do not wait the 14 days. An error in judgment about what constitutes an emergency could cost you thousands of dollars, eviction and serious damage to your credit record. Many serious problems that a reasonable person would expect to be fixed within 24 hours do not constitute an emergency as defined above. For example, mold is not an emergency, even if you are allergic to it.
Responsibilities of the Tenant
The tenant is responsible for any damages to the premises caused by the tradesperson or supplier hired by the tenant.
The tenant will not be entitled to the remedies provided for in this law if the tenant does not comply with all of the requirements of the law. The tenant may not assert as a defense to an action for rent or eviction that the rent was withheld under this law unless the tenant meets all the requirements provided for in this law.
If you live in Urbana
If you live in the City of Urbana, Urbana law allows you to use up to two months rent for repair and deduct, and some properties exempted under state law are covered by Urbana law; however, Urbana's repair-deduct law applies only to code violations cited by the city inspector and the time period is different.
Under Urbana's law, a tenant may not use rent money for repairs until after the housing inspector's deadline for compliance or any extension of that deadline has expired. The deadline is usually 15 days, but for certain violations, the city gives shorter deadlines.
The Urbana city inspector will give no more than 3 days to correct:
- Defective, dangerous or nonfunctioning plumbing, electrical, gas or other utility
- No heat or a malfunctioning heating system
- Blocked or locked fire exits
- Burned out or inoperable lights in hallways, stairwells, entry ways, parking areas or common areas
- Serious structural problems that render the premises uninhabitable
- Unsanitary or unhealthy conditions of such a magnitude that they pose an imminent health threat to the occupants and/or nearby dwellings.
The Urbana city inspector will give no more than 5 days to correct:
- Broken or missing locks on windows or doors
- Broken door frame, door or window
- Lack of hot water
- Inoperable toilet
- Leaking pipes or plumbing fixtures
- Inoperable or missing smoke detectors
- Inoperable or missing carbon monoxide detectors
- Inoperable oven/range or refrigerator
- Leaking roof that poses a safety or health risk
- Torn or missing screens (in the summer and fall)
- Broken or malfunctioning air conditioning (in hot weather).
Before you repair and deduct under Urbana's law, you must have a city inspection, send the landlord written notice of your intent to repair and deduct and wait until the deadline date stated on the notice of violation issued by the city. For more information, go to the section entitled "Repair and Deduct" in the Urbana City Code (Chapter 12.5-23). If you live in Urbana, you may use either the Urbana city code provisions or the Residential Tenant's Right to Repair Act.
Security & Safety
Tenants are entitled to security and safety.
If you live within the city limits of Champaign or Urbana, your landlord is responsible for certain security measures. City codes require landlords to provide:
- Lighting in hallways, entryways, stairwells, and parking lots
- Operable locks on all windows
- Deadbolt-locks for exterior doors
- Viewfinder (peep-hole) for front door
- The most important safety tip for security in your rental unit is to always lock your windows, even during hte day, whenever you are gone for any amount of time and always lock your doors, at any hour of the day, even when you are home.
Many home invasions involve the intruder entering through a window or door that was left unlocked. Many second-story windows and balcony doors are accessible from the outside. Take note of any entry point for a potential intruder and treat it as though it were your front door.
Use this Checklist to assess the Safety of Your Home:
- Are the doors made of wood or metal? Are doors at least one and three eighths inches thick?
- Are all doors secured with a single-cylinder deadbolt lock having a minimum throw of one inch?
- Does the bolt penetrate the strike by not less than three-eighths inch (3/8")?
- Are all deadbolt locks the type that can be activated from the outside with a key and from the inside with a turnpiece?
- Are strikeplates firmly secured with at least two screws?
- Are the screws that secure the strikeplate a minimum length of two and one-half inches?
- Do the screws that secure the strikeplate penetrate framing members behind the jamb?
- Do all exterior swinging doors to individual dwelling units have viewfinders (peepholes)?
- Are viewfinders not less than four and one-half feet nor more than five feet above the threshold of the door?
- Do all patio-type or sliding doors have deadbolt locks?
- Are the mounting screws for the lock case for the patio-type or sliding doors made of hardened steel inserts?
- If the doors are of the single sliding type, and the sliding panel is on the inside, is there a permanently installed, self-storing security bar which may be used instead of the deadbolt lock?
- Are windows equipped with properly working locking devices?
- Are the entrance, hallways, stairwells and parking lot well-lit to allow visibility?
- If you have any questions or problems with these safety concerns, contact Off-Campus Community Living at (217) 333-0112 for assistance.
The SAFE HOMES ACT 765 ILCS 750 provides lease remedies for tenants who are victims of violence on the leased premises.
Some additional safety information is below:
The Illinois Carbon Monoxide Detector Act requires every dwelling unit to have at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in operating condition within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes. Alarms can be battery powered, plug-in with battery back-up or wired into the AC power line with a secondary battery back-up. The alarm can be combined with smoke detecting devices if the combined unit complies with specific standards and the alarm differentiates the hazard.
Violations of this act include:
- Willful failure to install or maintain in operating condition any carbon monoxide alarm required by this Act is a Class B misdemeanor.
- Tampering with, removing, destroying, disconnecting, or removing the batteries from any installed carbon monoxide alarm, except in the course of inspection, maintenance, or replacement of the alarm, is a Class A misdemeanor in the case of a first conviction and a Class 4 felony in the case of a second or subsequent conviction.
The Illinois Radon Protection Act (420 ILCS 46/25) requires disclosure of radon hazard to current and prospective tenants. However, it does not require a lessor to conduct radon testing.
Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence
Landlords must allow for the tenant remedies for sexual violence and domestic violence under the Safe Homes Act.
The Safe Homes Act 765 ILCS 750 is an Illinois law that allows victims of domestic or sexual violence to leave their rental housing early, before the end of their lease, to protect their physical safety and emotional wellbeing. In certain circumstances, victims can also request an emergency lock change to keep the abuser out of the home. This law does not apply to tenants living in public housing but it does apply to tenants renting privately-owned housing even if the tenant has a portion of rent paid by a Section 8 voucher or some other form of government assistance.
The victim must tell the landlord or their agent (such as the property manager) in writing that there is a real threat called "credible imminent threat" of future domestic violence or sexual violence happening on the premises. This may include inside the apartment unit, laundry room, backyard, parking lot, hallways, or the front and back entrances to the property. Other than the person's statement of a fear of future harm, no other proof, like a police report or court order, is necessary to give the landlord notice of leaving the apartment. This notice (pdf) must be given to the landlord or agent within three days before or after leaving the apartment.
Victims of sexual violence, including sexual assault or sexual abuse, can leave their apartment without showing the credible, imminent threat. They must provide written notice (pdf) within 60 days of the sexual violence and include evidence such as:
- a police report
- medical records
- court records
- statement from a victim service organization
Additional Information Related to the Act:
- If roommates are jointly, legally liable for the lease one roommate cannot exercise her or his rights under this law independent of the other roommates -- except when there are only two of you and the other tenant is the perpetrator of the domestic violence.
- Confidentiality and disclosure: Your landlord is not allowed to disclose to your next landlord that you exercised your rights under the Safe Homes Act. A landlord who discloses this information would be liable for actual damages up to $2,000.00.
- Your landlord cannot evict you by reason of your having been a victim of violence on the premises.
- Tenants may request that a landlord change the locks of the dwelling unit if they reasonably believe that one or more household members face a credible imminent threat of domestic or sexual violence at the premises from a person who is not a tenant under the lease. Written notice of the request signed by all tenants who signed the lease must be sent to the landlord with at least one form of evidence. The landlord must change the locks within 48 hours of receiving the notice or give the tenants permission to change locks. The landlord may charge a fee for the lock change. If the landlord does not change the locks within 48 hours of receiving the notice, the tenants may change the locks but they must give the landlord a key to the new locks. If the perpetrator of the violence is a member of the household, that person's signature is not required on the notice to the landlord requesting the lock change; however, you must provide to the landlord a copy of either a plenary civil protection order or a plenary civil no contact order granting the remaining tenants exclusive possession of the property.
Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants.
Landlords may not retaliate against tenants for exercising their tenant rights such as requesting a city inspection.
Landlords cannot discriminate.
It is against the law for a landlord to refuse to rent to you, to change the terms of an offer to rent, or to treat you differently during your tenancy for reasons that are considered discriminatory. The chart below indicates which laws protect people, depending on the reason for the discrimination.
|Discrimination Prohibited on the basis of:||Federal||State||Champaign||Urbana|
|Race or Color||X||X||X||X|
|National Origin or Ancestry||X||X||X||X|
|Physical or Mental Disability||X||X||X||X|
|Children in the Family||X||X||X||X|
|Military Status or Unfavorable Military Discharge||X|
|Political Affiliation or Activity||X||X|
|Source of Income||X||X*|
|Arrest or Conviction Record||X**||X|
* In Urbana, under the provision for "source of income" a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you solely on the basis of the fact that you will be paying rent with a Section 8 voucher or other rent assistance.
** In Champaign, a landlord may refuse to rent to you if you have been convicted of a forcible felony or a drug-related felony and have not lived outside of prison for at least 5 years without being convicted of an offense involving drugs or violence.
How do you know if you are a victim of discrimination?
Sometimes a manager or owner will be very blatant about discrimination. S/he might tell you directly, "we don't allow three children in a two-bedroom apartment," or "we require an extra deposit from international students." These are illegal practices.
Other times, particularly with discrimination based on race, the landlord might be more subtle. Perhaps you were told when you called that the place was available, but when you appeared in person, the story changed and the landlord said it was taken. A week later, you saw that the place was still being advertised in the newspaper. Or the landlord checks your credit, but rented to white tenants with no credit check.
Whether the practice is blatant or subtle, discrimination is against the law and you can do something about it. Get as much information as you can about the situation — the name of the company or owner of the property; the address of the property; the advertisement from the newspaper; the manager's phone number; and any other information you know about the place.
Filing a complaint does not cost you any money. You should file your complaint with Off-Campus Community Living and with every government office that has jurisdiction. If your problem is covered by federal law, file with HUD, the Illinois Department of Human Rights and with Champaign or Urbana human relations officials. If the problem is one covered only by local law, file your complaint with the local official and with Off-Campus Community Living.
The city in which the property is located, or the city in which the landlord's business is located, is the city where you should file your complaint. See contact information below.
Occupancy Standards for Families with Children
A landlord cannot refuse to rent to you on the basis of your having children or "too many" children unless the total number of people occupying the apartment or house, including the children, is greater than the number allowed by local zoning laws.
If you use a family room, parlor or dining room as sleeping space for family members, you can count the square footage of those rooms to determine whether the house is large enough for your family. A kitchen, bathroom or hallway may not be used for sleeping purposes.
|People Sleeping in a Room||Room Size – Champaign||Room Size – Urbana|
|1||70 square feet||70 square feet|
|2||100 square feet||80 square feet|
|3||150 square feet||120 square feet|
|4||200 square feet||160 square feet|
- City of Champaign Community Relations Office: 217-403-8830
- City of Urbana Human Relations Office: 217-384-2466
- Illinois Department of Human Rights: 217-785-5100
- H.U.D. Office in Chicago: 312-353-7776 or 800-669-9777
Landlords cannot increase rent during the lease.
Landlords may not raise the rent during a lease term, but they can raise the rent upon renewal. If you have a periodic rental agreement, they can raise the rent with notice. For month to month leases landlords must give 30 days’ notice. For week to week they must give 7 days’ notice.
Landlords cannot terminate the tenancy without notice.
Landlords must follow the terms of the lease. They must provide notice if they will not be renewing your lease. For month to month it is 30 days. For year to year it is 60 days.
Landlords can seek eviction for failure to pay rent (5 days’ notice) or lease violations (10 days’ notice). Formal eviction is by court order only.
A landlord must follow specific procedures required by law in order to evict a tenant. Those steps are:
- Service of Notice:
A notice must be served in person or by certified or registered mail. It can be served by posting it on the premises only if no one is in the actual possession of the premises (735 ILCS 5/9-211). That means the landlord knows the tenant has moved out. The notice should be signed and dated, but it does not have to be notarized or served by the sheriff.
For non-payment of rent, the notice must demand the rent, stating the amount owed and must allow a minimum of 5 DAYS to pay the rent. If partial payment will not be accepted, the notice must say so. (735 Illinois Compiled Statutes, Section 5/9-209)
For any other breach of the lease, the notice must be for a minimum of 10 DAYS and should state the provision in the lease that the tenant has allegedly violated.
- Payment of Rent:
If the eviction is for non-payment of rent, the tenant can solve the problem by paying the amount due within the 5 days of the notice. If the landlord refuses to accept payment, the tenant should be able to prove that s/he offered payment. Sending a money-order by receipt-return mail is a good way to prove payment was offered. If payment is offered and rejected in person, the tenant should have a witness along who will be available to testify in court that rent was offered. A spouse or roommate is not a witness because the unpaid rent is her/his responsibility too. An unrelated adult could be a witness, but certified mail is best.
If full payment is demanded and the tenant makes a partial payment, the landlord can still sue to evict the tenant for the balance due. If the landlord agrees to accept partial payment, the tenant would be wise to insist that the landlord sign a statement promising not to evict the tenant in exchange for receiving partial payment.
If the eviction is for some reason other than non-payment of rent, there may be no way to stop the landlord from proceeding with successful court action to evict, but it is always beneficial to see if the landlord will agree to settle the matter.
- Court Action:
After the period of notice has passed, the landlord can file suit against the tenant. Usually the suit is for "possession" and some amount of money. If the landlord and tenant have signed a lease, the landlord might sue for past due rent and late charges plus the balance of rent that will become due. Court costs can be added and, depending on the lease, the landlord might sue for attorney's fees.
The tenant will be served with a SUMMONS to appear in court on a specific date at a specific time. The tenant would be wise to be represented by an attorney. Whether or not the tenant has legal representation, it is very important to show up at the time and date stated on the summons. If the tenant does not appear, s/he will probably lose by default and the court will order immediate eviction.
- After Court Action:
If the landlord wins possession, the judge will order the tenant to move out by a certain date. In Champaign County, tenants are often ordered to move "immediately" or the next day after the court date. Some people assume they have 30 more days to move, but that is not the law. If the tenant does not move out after losing in court, the landlord can ask the Sheriff to enforce the court order and the tenant's belongings can be removed from the premises.
If you move after receiving a notice the landlord can still sue you for the rent owed and possibly for future rent. If you think the reason for the eviction is not justified, definitely consult with an attorney at law before you move out. Moving will not necessarily improve your situation. The most important point to remember about eviction is that you do not have to move out until a judge orders you to move.
In some cases, the landlord never bothers to file suit, but instead attempts to use force or intimidation to get the tenant out. The landlord might change the locks on the door, disconnect utility service, remove doors and windows, or take the tenant's personal property. All of these measures are ILLEGAL. If you are a victim of illegal eviction, try:
- Telling the landlord that his/her actions are not legal; in Urbana, you can sue the landlord for up to two months rent (or actual damages — whichever is greater) plus court costs and attorney's fees for illegally evicting you. Go to Chapter 12.5-25 of the Urbana city code for details
- Consulting with an attorney
- Calling the police — the police will not arrest the landlord and often, they refuse to get involved because this is a civil matter
- Avoid any confrontation that will lead to violence.
While being illegally forced out of your home can be traumatic, it's not worth personal injury or loss of your life to get back in. Most landlords who illegally evict are either ignorant about the law or trying to see how much they can get away with. Try to stay calm and get outside help if you need it. It might be helpful to show the landlord these sections of state law if you are trying to convince the landlord that his/her actions are unlawful. If you live in Urbana, definitely show the landlord the Urbana law and/or tell him or her that illegally evicting you automatically entitles you to two months' rent.
Forcible Entry Prohibited
Chapter 735, Illinois Compiled Statutes, Section 5/9-101 states:
No person shall make an entry into lands or tenements except in cases where entry is allowed by law, and in such cases he or she shall not enter with force, but in a peaceable manner.
Seizure of Property
Chapter 735 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Section 5/9-301 allows for seizure of property only under certain circumstances. In most cases, once you add up all the property that is exempt by law, there will be nothing left for the landlord to take.
When rent is not paid after 5 days' notice the landlord may seize property only if:
- The landlord immediately files suit against the tenant for the rent due
- The landlord files with the court an inventory of all property taken
- The property is not located in the City of Urbana
- The landlord does not take any property that is exempt from seizure as provided by Chapter 735 ILCS 5/12-1001 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes.
- Clothing, school books, bible, family photographs
- $4,000 of personal property
- The tenant's interest in one motor vehicle, not to exceed $2,400 in value
- The tenant's equity interest, not to exceed $1,500 in value in any professional books or tools of his/her trade
- Professionally prescribed health aids for tenant or tenant's dependents
- All proceeds payable because of the death of the insured and the total net cash value of life insurance and endowment policies and annuity contracts
- The tenant's right to receive social security, unemployment, public assistance or veteran's benefits; a disability, illness or unemployment benefit; alimony, support, or separate maintenance to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of the tenant and his/her dependents
- The tenant's right to receive or property that is traceable to an award under a crime victim's reparation law; a payment on account of the wrongful death of a person of whom the tenant was a dependent to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of the tenant; a payment under a life insurance contract of a person of whom the tenant was a dependent to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of the tenant; a payment, not to exceed $15,000 in value, on account of a personal bodily injury of the tenant or an individual of whom the tenant was a dependent; and any restitution payments made to persons pursuant to the federal Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the Aleutian and Pribilof Island Restitution Act.
If the landlord fails to comply with these requirements or takes property that is exempt, the seizure is unlawful.
Prohibition of Termination of Utility Service by Landlord
Chapter 765 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Section 735/1.4 states:
No landlord shall cause or request utility service to tenants to be interrupted, discontinued, or terminated in an occupied building (i) by nonpayment of utility bills for which the landlord has assumed responsibility by agreement or by implication (such as when the utilities are master metered) or (ii) by tampering with equipment or lines.
Landlords must follow the military release clause.
If you are called to active duty in the military, you can be released from your obligations under a lease; HOWEVER, your roommates will still be held liable for the FULL rent, including your share, unless you have a military release clause included in the lease.
A federal law, the Service Members' Civil Relief Act (SMCR) provides for a member of the armed forces to terminate obligations under a lease contract, after being called to active duty, by providing the landlord with notice, IN WRITING, which shall not be effective until thirty days after the first date on which the next rent is due. For example, if rent is due on the first of the month, notice given March 23 would terminate the lease on May 1.
If you want to protect against being liable for a roommate's rent after your roommate leaves for military service, ask the landlord to include a clause in your lease such as the following:
Lessor agrees that if any individual who has signed this lease is called to active military duty, Lessor shall release that individual from the lease and shall reduce the total rent due under the contract, for the balance of the term, by _____% commencing 30 days after receiving notice from the tenant that s/he has received orders to report for active duty.
Be sure that the landlord signs or places his/her initials next to this clause so that it is properly added to the lease.
Landlords must remove snow.
In Champaign, city code requires owners of properties with more than 4 units to remove snow and ice from driveways, parking lots and walkways on the property. This must be done within 12 hours of daylight after the snow or ice has fallen or formed. This does NOT apply to the public sidewalks in front of the building. See Champaign Municipal Code — Article I: General Section 9.5 for additional information.
In campus and downtown districts of Champaign, landlords are also required to shovel the public sidewalks if there has been more than 2 inches of snowfall and they must remove the snow within 48 hours after the public works director announces there have been 2 inches of snowfall.
In Urbana, city code requires owners of apartment buildings to remove snow and ice from every stair, porch and fire escape. For buildings with 4 or more apartments, the owner is also responsible for removing snow and/or ice from all parking areas, walk paths and sidewalks on the site within 24 hours of accumulation of two (2) or more inches of snow and/or ice. This does NOT apply to the public sidewalks in front of the building except in the downtown and University districts. See Urbana Property Maintenance Code- Article 3 General Requirements Section PM 301.0 Exterior Property Areas.
If you have questions about the codes or wish to report a problem with snow or ice removal to the City, for Champaign call Neighborhood Services Department at 217-403-7070 and for Urbana call the Housing Inspector at 217-384-2436. Here is text of the relevant city codes.
Landlords must follow the law related to Security Deposits.
Landlords collect a security deposit in case the landlord must do cleaning or repairs at the end of your lease. This would also cover rent and fees owed if you were delinquent. Tenants cannot use this towards the last month of rent. You must pay the last month as required by the lease, and wait for the security deposit to be returned. Landlords cannot withhold for normal wear and tear, but they can charge you more than the security deposit if the damage caused exceeds the deposit originally provided.
Your landlord must provide you an itemized statement of the damages for which you were allegedly responsible and attach estimates or receipts for the cost of the repair within 30 days from the date you vacated the premises. If they provided you estimates, the landlord must provide you paid receipts for the work done within 30 days of itemized statement. If your landlord fails to comply with these requirements, they must return your full security deposit within 45 days. If they do not return your deposit within 45 days you may be entitled to collect interest on the security deposit depending upon local ordinances. Additional information can be found in the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act, 765 ILCS 710/1.
There are several things that you can do to protect your security deposit.
- Upon moving into the apartment, complete a Move In Condition report. Detail every scratch, mark, and dirt. And, note all the furniture so you don’t get charged for "missing" furniture. Get it signed and dated by the landlord within the first few days. Keep a copy. It is also recommended to take photographs.
- While living in the apartment, clean regularly. Promptly report maintenance concerns. Avoid causing damage by you, roommates, and guests.
- Upon moving out of the apartment, make sure to leave plenty of time to clean your apartment! Try picking a room to clean each weekend before your lease is up. At the end, it will make cleaning your whole apartment much easier. The last person out of an apartment--whether original tenant or subtenant, should take photographs to show that the insides of all appliances and fixtures are clean and that walls and floors are not damaged.
- Change your address with the post office and provide your new address to the landlord. You must provide your new address to your landlord, otherwise they will mail your deposit to your last known address…your old apartment (where you no longer live!).
Landlords must provide an option for you to sublease your apartment.
A sublease is a lease from one tenant (lessee) to another (called subtenant or sublease). The original lease remains in force and governs the terms of the sublease. Your landlord should not withhold consent unreasonably. Most leases state that you cannot sublet without the landlord’s written consent. Make sure that the landlord either signs the sublease agreement or signs a statement that allows the original tenant permission to sublet. Both the original tenant and subtenant should have a copy of that statement.
Finding a Subtenant
You have the right to sublet your apartment to a qualified replacement tenant. Your landlord should not unreasonably interfere with your attempts to sublet, nor should your landlord apply stricter standards to evaluation of your subtenant than s/he did for evaluation of you. For example, if the landlord checked your credit before renting to you, the landlord may check the subtenant's credit. If the landlord leased to you without checking your references or credit, the landlord should not require a credit check for prospective subtenants.
Often, the biggest problem with subletting is finding someone to take your place. Here are some tips that might help:
- Run classified ads in the newspapers. It might help to post signs in classroom buildings and other public places, but this type of advertising has a limited audience. If you want to find someone, you'll probably have to spend a little money on newspaper advertising:
- Students can submit their sublet info to get added to the OCCL list of sublets.
- The Daily Illini (call 217-337-8337)
- The News-Gazette (call 217-351-5252) is the only daily newspaper in Champaign-Urbana. If your apartment is more than a mile from campus, be sure to place your ad in The News-Gazette and be sure your ad is included in the on-line edition. The Sunday paper gets checked frequently so be sure your ad is running on Sundays.
- Craigslist also lists available rentals.
- Always include a price and location in your ad. Many people skip over the ads that do not include this information. If rent is negotiable, include the price, followed by the word "negotiable." Put both your email address and telephone number in the advertisement.
- Be sure your ad is in the best classification. If you are subletting for a very short time (for example, a summer sublet) it makes sense to list your ad under "sublets." However, if you are looking for someone to take over the entire 12-month lease that you signed but no longer want, run the ad under "apartments furnished" or "apartments unfurnished" (or "houses" if it's a house). People who want housing for the entire year are not likely to even look at the "sublets" section of the classified ads so don't hide your ad there.
If you are looking for someone to sublet the apartment from November to July, list it as a sublet in The Daily Illini because by November, the "apartments furnished" section of The Daily Illini will be full of ads for the next year. In The News-Gazette, it's better not to list a place under "sublets" unless you would only be subletting for 3 months. Even in March, people arriving in the community are more likely to check the "apartments for rent" or "houses" listings than the "sublets" section of The News-Gazette classifieds.
- When people want to see your apartment, ask their names and phone numbers or email addresses. If they don't show up to the appointment, call them back and ask if they want to reschedule. Some "no-shows" simply lost your phone number or address or are embarrassed to call you again after standing you up.
- Always follow up with anyone who saw your apartment and appeared to like it. You're not going to trick anyone into subletting from you, but someone might choose your apartment over another, simply because you called them back.
- Be sure to obtain the landlord's written consent to sublet. Your lease probably prohibits subletting without the landlord's consent. You can get the consent either by the landlord's signature on the sublease contract or in a separate note from your landlord. But, be sure to get written consent to the sublet.
- Do not send prospective subtenants to your landlord alone. Always accompany your subtenants to the landlord's office.
Some tenants have complained to Off-Campus Community Living that their landlord "stole" their subtenants. Whether it's accidental (which is often the case) or intentional, your landlord might end up leasing a different apartment to people you expected to sublet your place. If you don't want to lose them, stay with them.
- Do not throw out the names of any interested people, or stop running your ads, until your subtenants have signed the sublease agreement. It is not uncommon for subtenants to change their minds at the last minute.
- Once you've sublet the apartment, you are still liable for the balance of rent due in the event that the subtenant stops paying. It is wise to check with the landlord, throughout the sublease period, to make sure that your subtenant is paying the rent.
- If your landlord offers to help you sublet, be careful.
Your landlord does not have the same motivation as you have to find a replacement tenant. Your landlord may also have other vacancies to fill. Some landlords are helpful in locating subtenants, but it is unwise to leave the job of finding a replacement tenant in the hands of your landlord. Do the work yourself.
If your landlord charges a fee for assisting you in locating a replacement tenant, that fee is usually charged WHETHER OR NOT A SUBTENANT IS FOUND. If you don't do the work yourself to find a subtenant, you may end up losing money and time waiting for the landlord to be unsuccessful finding someone for you.
If your landlord rejects someone and you don't know that person's name, you won't ever be able to follow up and find out whether the rejection was legitimate.
Landlords must follow the Fair Housing Act and make accommodations for assistance animals.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prevents discrimination against tenants in their homes. Even if a lease says "no pets" or restricts pets, landlords are required to make what is called a "reasonable accommodation" to allow pets who serve as assistance animals, which includes animals who provide emotional support.
Service animals are categorized as animals trained to do a specific task for their owner. The most common example is a guide dog. Service animals are allowed in public accommodations because of the owner’s need for the animal at all times.
An assistance animal can be a cat, dog or other type of companion animal, and does not need to be trained to perform a service. The emotional and/or physical benefits from the animal living in the home are what qualify the animal as an assistance animal. A letter from a medical doctor or therapist is all that is needed to classify the animal as an assistance animal.
Landlords must agree to a reasonable accommodation request if the disability claim is true and if the request does not create a hardship on the landlord or other tenants. If your request for a reasonable accommodation is denied by the landlord, you have the right to request that a government agency investigate your claim that the landlord is discriminating against you.
Service and assistance animals are not technically pets and owners do not have to pay pet fees. The landlord, however, can charge a security deposit and may still seek money from the tenant if there is any damage caused by the animal to the home. Also, if there is a nuisance issue the landlord does have the right to try to remove the assistance animal through legal proceedings.
Urbana Landlord-Tenant Ordinance
If you rent an apartment, house or room located in the City of Urbana, you have certain rights and obligations provided under Chapter 12.5 of the Urbana City Code, "Landlord-Tenant Relationships." This law applies only if you live within the corporate limits of Urbana. If you rent outside city limits or in Champaign, Savoy or anywhere else in Illinois, this law does not apply to your rental situation.
Following is an explanation of the provisions of the Ordinance. These include privacy and access, prohibited lease clauses, security deposit refund and interest, remedies for dealing with code violations, and certain requirements affecting oral leases, abandonment, eviction and late fees and other charges. For a copy of the exact text of the law, go to the summary.
Privacy and Access
Your landlord has the right to enter your apartment, house or room either with your permission, or after giving you notice as required by Urbana law. A tenant can be sued in court and the lease could be terminated for denying the landlord access. The landlord has the right to enter to inspect, make needed or requested repairs, supply services, to show the place to prospective buyers or tenants, or to make alterations or improvements if the work does not interfere with the tenant's use of the place.
Except in case of an emergency, or with the tenant's permission, a landlord can enter a rental unit in Urbana only between the hours of 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. on weekdays or between the hours of 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. on weekends, and only after giving the tenant 24 hours notice. Exceptions are allowed for repairs and for showing the unit, as explained below.
From the time that either the landlord or the tenant notifies the other party that the rental agreement will not be renewed, the landlord shall have the right to access, without twenty-four (24) hours advance notice, for the purpose of showing the rental unit to prospective tenants, provided that:
- The rental unit has not already been leased for the twelve (12) month period subsequent to the expiration of the rental agreement;
- The landlord enters only during two (2) specific one-hour periods on weekdays and three (3) specific one-hour periods on weekends, selected by the tenant from among choices offered by the landlord, during which the landlord will have daily access; and
- The landlord shall notify the tenant when the rental unit has been leased for the twelve (12) month period subsequent to the expiration of the rental agreement.
If the tenant requests repairs and the landlord enters the rental unit to perform said repairs within fourteen (14) days of the tenant's initial request, the landlord shall not be obligated to provide the tenant with advance notice of entry. If the landlord fails to perform said repairs within fourteen (14) days of the tenant's initial request, the landlord shall be required to provide the tenant with at least twenty-four (24) hours' advance notice of the entry. The notice shall only be effective for a seven-day period.
Landlord Must Leave a Note
Section 12.5-15(f) states: The landlord or landlord's agents shall enter the rental unit only after knocking on the door and providing the tenant a reasonable opportunity to answer, shall leave the premises in as good condition as when entered, shall clean and remove dirt and debris that result from the performance of maintenance and repairs, shall leave a note indicating the names of the persons who entered the rental unit and shall lock the rental unit when leaving.
Sec. 12.5-16 Remedies for Abuse of Access Rights
- If the tenant refuses to allow lawful access, the landlord may obtain injunctive relief to compel access or terminate the rental agreement. If either case, the landlord may recover damages and reasonable attorney's fees.
- If the landlord makes an unlawful entry or a lawful entry in an unreasonable manner the tenant may obtain injunctive relief to prevent the recurrence of the conduct and recover an amount equal to not more than two (2) months' rent or the damages sustained, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorney's fees.
- If the landlord makes a lawful entry to make alterations or improvements that materially interfere with the tenant's use of the premises or if the landlord makes repeated demands for entry otherwise lawful, but which have the effect of harassing the tenant after being notified in writing by the tenant that the tenant feels harassed by such repeated demands, the tenant may obtain injunctive relief to prevent the recurrence of the conduct or terminate the rental agreement. In each case, the tenant may recover two (2) months' rent or the damages sustained, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorney's fees. The provisions of this section shall not apply to alterations or improvements done by the landlord to correct cited housing code violations, except in the cases of the landlord's unreasonableness, neglect or negligence in correcting the violations.
Prohibited Lease Clauses
Section 12.5-10: An Urbana lease should not contain any of the following clauses. If one of these prohibited clauses appears in your lease and your landlord deliberately attempts to enforce it, you can sue the landlord for up to two months' rent, plus costs and attorney's fees.
- Waiver of tenant's rights under federal, state or Urbana law
- Confession of judgment
- Entitlement of landlord to recover attorney's fees without provision for tenant to recover attorney's fees under identical terms and conditions
- Limitation of liability
- Prohibition of tenant's right to sublet
- Late fee in excess of 5% of monthly rental payment per month unless landlord can demonstrate actual costs are higher
- Sublet fees, lock-out charges, late check-out charges or any other fees or penalties that exceed the landlord's actual costs for services
- Automatic renewal of the lease by tenant's failure to provide notice
A landlord would be considered to have deliberately attempted to enforce a prohibited lease clause if the landlord:
- refused to approve a sublease or requires, as a condition of approving a sublease, payment of a prohibited sublease charge, payment of a higher rental rate than the original tenant contracted to pay, or advance payment of future rent not yet due;
- refused to provide a service because of the tenants non-payment of a prohibited fee or charge;
- served the tenant with written demand stating the intention to terminate the Rental agreement for the non-payment of a prohibited fee or charge;
- filed suit against the tenant to enforce the prohibited provision.
Section 12.5-11. Notice of non-renewal: If a landlord decides not to renew the tenant's lease, or decides to raise the rent or change the provisions of the lease upon renewal, the landlord must give the tenant written notice at least 30 days before the end of the lease. If the landlord does not give this notice, the tenant may consider the lease to be extended on a month to month basis until required notice is given.
Section 12.5-11. Month to month oral lease: A landlord and tenant are each obligated to give the other party written notice, not less than 30 days before the last day of the rental period, of their intention to end the month to month, oral lease at the end of the rental period.
If the landlord fails to give the tenant the required notice to terminate, the tenant does not have to move out until the landlord provides the proper notice. If the tenant fails to give proper notice, the tenant would be responsible for the landlord's lost rent, up to one month after the tenant moves out. However, if the landlord fails to give the tenant a summary of the Urbana Landlord-Tenant Ordinance, the tenant will NOT be liable for failure to give written notice to end the oral lease.
Section 12.5-12. Copy of this Chapter to be provided: A copy of the Urbana Landlord- Tenant Ordinance, or a summary prepared by the city must be given by the landlord to every tenant at the time of signing a written lease or entering into a rental agreement with no written lease.
Section 12.5-13. Late charges: An Urbana landlord may not impose a late charge unless (1) the amount of the charge is stated in the lease and (2) if rent is mailed, the envelope containing the rent payment is postmarked after the date payment is due.
Section 12.5-14. Notice of charges: An Urbana landlord may not impose any charge or fee that is stated in the lease, including late charges, unless the landlord notifies the tenant in writing, within 30 days after the charge is incurred, that the tenant owes the fee or charge.
Section 12.5-22. Abandonment: If a tenant abandons a rental unit, the landlord may take possession of the unit. Section 12.5-22(a) defines abandonment as follows:
The tenant shall be deemed to have abandoned the rental unit by being absent with visible intent not to return and with rent unpaid.
If a tenant leaves property in a rental unit after abandoning it or after vacating at the lease end, the landlord must hold the property, either in the rental unit, or in storage (for which the landlord may charge the tenant the actual cost). The landlord may dispose of the property 30 days after mailing written notice to the tenant's last known address, if the tenant does not claim the property within that time.
Section 12.5-19. Interest: If a security deposit of $100.00 or more is held for six months or longer, the landlord must pay annual interest to the tenant, computed from the date the deposit was first paid and due within 30 days after the end of each twelve month rental period. The rate of interest required is equal to the interest paid by the largest bank in Champaign County on minimum deposit passbook savings accounts as of the June 30 immediately prior to the lease starting. A landlord who fails or refuses to pay the required interest can be sued by the tenant for an amount equal to the deposit itself, plus court costs and attorney's fees.
Section 12.5-20. Refund: A landlord may not withhold money from a deposit for the cost of cleaning or repairs unless the landlord provides the tenant with an itemized statement of damages, including actual costs for each item, and copies of paid receipts for the work done, within 30 days after the tenant vacates the premises.
If a landlord fails to provide this statement, the deposit must be refunded in full within 45 days after the tenant vacated. A landlord who fails to comply with these requirements can be sued for twice the amount of the deposit plus attorney's fees. These requirements, which under state law apply only to properties with 5 or more units, apply to ALL rental properties in the City of Urbana.
Section 12.5-20 (D). Decorating: The costs of decorating, including painting and carpet cleaning, may not be deducted from the deposit unless the walls or carpets are damaged beyond normal wear.
The following Section (12.5-20(c)) was repealed 7-17-00 and is no longer in effect: Section 12.5-20 (C). Joint Inspection: If requested by either the landlord or the tenant, a walk-through inspection will be made by both parties at the beginning and end of the lease term and an inspection check list made with copies for both parties. The request for a joint inspection must be made in writing and either mailed five days before the date of the inspection or hand-delivered at least 48 hours in advance. A landlord who refuses to perform the inspection may not deduct from the deposit any charges for property damage. A tenant who refuses to perform the inspection waives his or her right to challenge any deductions made for damage that could have been determined by the inspection.
Disclosure of Ownership
Section 12.5-21 requires that a landlord must disclose to a tenant, within 72 hours after being asked, the name and street address of the owner or the owner's authorized agent. A representative of the landlord who fails to disclose this information after being asked becomes the agent of the owner for the purposes of service of process and performance of the landlord's legal obligations.
Repair and Deduct
Although you cannot withhold all or part of your rent as a penalty to the landlord for failing to do repairs, there are certain conditions under which you may be able to deduct the actual costs of repairs from your rent.
This applies only in the City of Urbana for the purpose of repairing code violations after following certain specific procedures (Section 12.5-23 of the Urbana City Code)
If you live outside the city limits of Urbana, go to the section of this handbook "Repair Problems" about to find out about the state right to repair law. If you pay any amount of rent less than the full amount required by your lease, you risk eviction and a lawsuit for all rent due.
How to repair and deduct in Urbana:
- Contact the Building Safety Division for an inspection (400 S. Vine Street, in Community Development office). Once the inspection is completed, a written report will be sent to the landlord. Obtain your own copy of that report from the housing inspector. The report will indicate the deadline for repairs to be completed.
- Send a letter to your landlord stating your intent to repair and deduct if the work is not completed by the deadline set by the City. Your letter must be served in person or by certified mail.
- Usually, giving notice works, and the landlord does the repairs. If repairs are not done by the deadline, and any extension of the deadline that might be granted by the city, you may contact a qualified tradesperson to have the work done. You must obtain a certificate of insurance and a waiver of lien. These are required by the city ordinance.
- Once you have repairs done, send your landlord a copy of the bill as explanation of the amount deducted from your rent.
There are two important restricitions on repair and deduct:
- You cannot deduct more than two months' rent during any 12-month period.
- You cannot use the repair-deduct remedy more than 3 times in one year. This applies to subtenants as well as to the original tenants.
If your problem involves lack of water, heat, hot water, gas, electricity, sanitation, or substantially functional cooking facilities or refrigerator, or if the violation is one "giving rise to a hazardous condition which materially and immediately affects health and safety", you have additional options under the city ordinance. After the deadline for compliance, you may:
- Procure reasonable amounts of heat, hot water, running water, electricity, gas or other essential service during the period of the landlord's noncompliance and deduct the cost from the rent; or
- Procure substitute housing during the period of the landlord's noncompliance and deduct from the rent the actual cost of substitute housing, provided that the amount may not exceed the average cost for a hotel/motel room in Urbana.
If a landlord is cited by the city more than three times in a twelve-month period for failure to provide essential services or to correct a hazardous condition, the tenant may vacate the premises and terminate the rental agreement.
Section 12.5-25: It is unlawful for a landlord to add or change door locks, to block entry to the rental unit, to remove doors or windows, to shut-off utilities, to remove the tenant's personal property from the rental unit, or to in any other way use force, violence or the threat of violence to evict a tenant. A landlord must obtain a court order to evict.
An Urbana tenant who is a victim of illegal eviction may sue the landlord for possession of the rental unit or personal property and an amount equal to two month's rent or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus attorney's fees.
Section 12.5-26: An Urbana landlord may not retaliate against a tenant by decreasing services, bringing or threatening to bring action for possession or by refusing to renew a rental agreement because the tenant has:
- Complained in good faith of a code violation to a government agency charged with the responsibility for enforcement of such codes;
- Complained to the landlord of a violation of any provisions of the Urbana law;
- Organized a tenant association or complained to the Tenant Union, Student Legal Service, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance or any similar private or governmental organization about a violation of the law or the rental agreement;
- Exercised or attempted to exercise any rights or remedies under Urbana law.
If a landlord violates Section 12.5-26, the tenant has a defense in any retaliatory action against him or her for possession and shall be entitled to recover possession, an amount equal to two months' rent and reasonable attorney's fees.