Today, June 1, all provisions of the Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO), legislation which, for the first time, provides protections for the more than 245,000 suburban renter households and their landlords, goes into effect. The RTLO, chiefly sponsored by Commissioner Scott Britton and Commissioner Kevin Morrison, was unanimously approved January 28, 2021. The RTLO is part of the County’s effort to ensure equity in all forms, including and especially ensuring access to and fairness in housing - a basic necessity that has been historically plagued with well-documented racial disparities.
"Today, Cook County takes another step in our fight for fair housing," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. "The protections included in the RTLO affirm the rights of renters in suburban Cook County who lacked critical protections against lockouts, excessive move-in and late fees, and exorbitant interest rates on rental arrears. For the hundreds of thousands of renters across Cook County, this will mean that more people will be able to stay in their homes at the time they need support the most."
The RTLO is a roadmap of the rights, responsibilities, and remedies for landlords and renters where none existed in most suburban Cook County communities. It focuses on creating a resolution framework for renters in financial crisis who are unable to pay their rent, the conduct of landlords, the conditions of the home and responsibilities and remedies for both the landlord and tenant to ensure safe habitability and protect against property damage.
"The RTLO at its core is about access, justice, and equity for one of the more basic human necessities: housing," said Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton. "With the ordinance going into effect today, after more than 30 years, there is finally tenants' rights parity and fairness for all Cook County renters. I thank President Preckwinkle, my fellow Commissioner, and the coalition of community advocates for working diligently to ensure effective implementation and comprehensive public education for landlords and tenants.”
The RTLO is a result of almost a year of engagement, discussions, and negotiations. A task force of renters advocates and landlord/realtor lobbyists met regularly over the course of months beginning when the ordinance was introduced in July 2020, with more than 40 concessions and three comprehensive rounds of re-writes made.
“I’m grateful that all suburban Cook County renters now have basic, necessary safeguards,” said Commissioner Kevin Morrison. The RTLO levels the playing field and ensures renters in more than 245,000 suburban households will be protected against unlawful lockouts, landlord retaliation, and exorbitant move-in fees. I’m thankful to my colleagues, housing advocates, and tenants’ rights groups for working hard to pass this ordinance.”
Effective today June 1, suburban Cook County landlords must provide tenants with additional transparency on move-in fees, utilities charges, security deposit locations, who is allowed to enter a unit. and more. Additionally, all tenants must be provided a Summary of the RTLO so they know their rights before a lease is signed. Suburban Cook County renters will also have new protections against unmade repairs or uninhabitable homes, excessive late rent fees, short renewal periods, illegal lockouts, and leases that force renters to admit guilt to any issue without due process.
“We applaud the leadership and persistence of Commissioners Scott Britton and Kevin Morrison, who worked long and hard to pass this measure,” said Andrea Juracek of Housing Choice Partners. “We are thankful for the support that the full Cook County Board has shown for the ordinance.”
“We look forward to working with Cook County, the City of Chicago, and villages throughout suburban Cook County to ensure that all renters in our communities have common housing rights and the support they need to stay secure in their housing,” said Michael Rabbitt of Neighbors for Affordable Housing.
“Substandard housing can cause an array of serious health conditions,” said Jenna Prochaska, Health Justice Project at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. “This ordinance creates critical safeguards to help curb dangerous conditions--an important step to protect the health of vulnerable tenants in the Cook County suburbs.”
Effective June 1, suburban Cook County landlords also have new safeguards and rights, including protections against unreported bed bugs, a two-business day rights to cure non-health and safety issues, and an affirmative defense against claims of retaliation. Suburban Cook County landlords also now have rules for legally and quickly removing tenants who break their lease or cannot pay their rent.
To learn more about the RTLO, please visit: www.CookCountyIL.gov/RTLO