What is the Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance?
In January 2021, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a new Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO). This ordinance goes into effect on June 1, 2021. You can find the full ordinance at cook-county.legistar.com.
The Cook County RTLO provides renters’ rights and landlord protections to Cook County suburban residents.
Download a summary of the ordinance here or in the downloads section on the right.
- Summary of Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (English)
- Summary of Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (Spanish)
- Summary of Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (Polish)
Below are some frequently asked questions about the ordinance.
Who is covered by the RTLO?
- Almost all rental units in suburban Cook County are included (including mobile homes and subsidized units).
- All rental units are subject to the anti-lockout provisions, effective January 2021.
- If the residency is in an exempted unit, the landlord must notify a prospective tenant whether they are excluded from the Ordinance before accepting any fees.
Units Exempted from the RTLO (except anti-lockout provisions):
- “Mom and pop” small owners: owner occupied buildings with six units or less.
- A single-family home or condominium if
- (1) the owner is only renting that one rental property, and
- (2) the owner or an immediate family member has lived in the home within the past 12 months.
- Single Room Occupancy housing that serves the most vulnerable residents.
- Units in hotels, motels, rooming houses, unless rent is paid on a monthly basis and unit is occupied for more than 32 days.
- School dormitory rooms, shelters, employee’s quarters, non-residential rental properties, and owner-occupied co-ops.
What does the RTLO prohibit?
The RTLO prohibits lease terms that:
- Waive notices or require renters to “confess judgment.”
- Give up rights to notices (like an eviction notice).
- Give up the right to a jury trial.
- Prevent the tenant from saying negative statements about the landlord.
- Require the tenant to give a longer amount of notice for moving than the landlord gives the tenant for not renewing the lease.
- Require the tenant to pay attorney’s fees in an eviction case.
Are lockouts prohibited?
Yes. Landlords cannot lock out tenants. No exceptions. A landlord must follow the proper eviction process through court. Only the Cook County Sheriff’s office can enforce a court order to evict a tenant.
- A landlord may not change or remove the locks, remove doors of a rental unit, cut off heat, utility or water service, remove tenant’s personal property, or interfere with the tenant’s use of the apartment.
- What can you do if you are a tenant being locked out?
- You can call your local police department or 911. Make sure you have your landlord’s name and phone number and show proof you live there (lease, rent receipts, ID, bills).
- Call your local Building Department or township.
- Call an attorney or housing advocate.
What are renters rights under the RTLO?
Renters have the right to a habitable unit. Landlords must maintain a habitable and safe home that includes:
- Essential services: heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas, or plumbing that the rental agreement requires the landlord to provide, or internet access if the rental agreement requires the landlord to provide.
- Property maintained in compliance with the relevant local building codes.
- Adequate heat: From September 15 through June 1 of each year inside temperature is at lease 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and at least 66 degrees from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.
- A home free from bedbugs: After notification, the landlord must provide pest control services within 10 days, and must maintain written records of pest control measures for 3 years.
- Repairs made by a landlord in a timely manner: If the landlord does not make repairs after notice of 14 days, the tenant may have rights such as repairing themselves and deducting rent or ending the lease when conditions are serious enough. Tenants should seek legal advice to discuss their rights.
What are renters' responsibilities under the RTLO?
The tenant, the tenant’s family, and invited guests must:
- Keep their unit safe and use appliances and fixtures in a safe manner.
- Dispose of their garbage.
- Not deliberately damage or remove any property.
- Allow reasonable access to unit: if the landlord gives 2 days’ notice, they may enter at reasonable times (8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. or at tenant’s request) to make repairs, prospective services, or to show the dwelling within 60 days of a lease ending).
- Notify landlord of bed bugs in writing within 48 hours of seeing bed bugs.
- Pay Security Deposit, if required: Landlords must maintain deposits separately from personal accounts, provide a receipt, and return security deposits within 30 days with an itemized list of deductions. The RTLO caps security deposits to 1.5 times monthly rent and sets up penalties when security deposits are not returned.
- Comply with all local ordinances and agree upon landlord rules.
- Unless otherwise agreed, only use their dwelling unit as a dwelling unit.
- Not abandon the property.
How much notice will renters receive?
- Non-Payment of Rent: 5-day notice (tenant right to pay to stay).
- Lease Violation: 10-day notice (tenant right to cure issue within 10 days).
- Non-Renewal of Lease: 60-day notice.
- Unit Entry: 2-day notice.
What happens when rent payment is late?
- Late fees are capped at $10 for the first $1,000 — after that, late fees are 5% of the overall rent.
- Landlord must apply rent payments to rent, and not to other costs that the landlord charges to the tenant (like utilities).
- Landlord must give a 5-day written notice for nonpayment of rent.
Pay to Stay: If the tenant does not pay during the five-day notice, the landlord can file an eviction. After the filing but before judgement, a tenant may “pay and stay” one time, by paying rent and certain additional costs.
What are landlord protections under this ordinance?
- Landlords have a two-business day right to cure administrative issues, such as attaching the ordinance summary, disclosing authorized entrants and ownership transfer, and disclosing the name of the bank where a security deposit is held.
- Landlords have a 14-day right to cure issues of material noncompliance with the rental agreement.
- The ordinance protects landlords against property destruction and provides clear rules on when and how landlords may exercise their right to dispose of abandoned property without expensive storage costs.
- Landlords have 30 days to determine security deposit deductions, which may include damage repairs and some court costs.
- The ordinance protects small business owners by including exemptions for small owners, in cases where an owner can not sell, and single-room occupancy housing for vulnerable residents.
- Landlords are given clarity on their obligations in cases of eviction, foreclosure, or nonrenewal of lease.
- Landlords are allowed to enter a residence without notice to make emergency repairs.
- Landlords may give a tenant a 5-day notice if the tenant fails to pay rent and 10-day notice for material non-compliance with the lease.
What legal resources are available?
Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt
Free Legal Help for Residents of Cook County dealing with an eviction or unresolved debt issue, or who are behind on your mortgage or property tax payments.
Legal Aid Chicago
Legal Aid Chicago provides free civil legal representation to residents of Chicago and Suburban Cook County.
North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic
North Suburban Legal AId Clinic provides free legal services to tenants with housing issues in north suburban Cook County and Lake County.
Cook County’s largest provider of free legal services, with court-based help centers and a free telephone hotline for attorney legal advice and assistance.