Ask an Eviction Lawyer 4: Tips for Renting Property without Getting Sued

As attorneys, we know being a landlord in the Chicago area can be challenging, so our intention with this article is to give you tips for landlords on how to rent property without getting sued. Eviction law is complex, and it has changed so much in a short time. By understanding the most common reasons landlords face eviction disputes, you can take proactive steps to avoid these issues and maintain a positive relationship with your tenants. In this advice column, we’ll explore best practices for landlords in the Chicago area to help you prevent potential eviction conflicts and ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.

Understanding and Complying with the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO)

One of the most critical aspects of being a landlord, and my best tip for landlords in Chicago is understanding and complying with the RLTO. This ordinance outlines the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, and failure to adhere to its regulations can result in legal disputes and eviction cases. To avoid such problems:

  • Familiarize yourself with the RLTO and ensure that your lease agreements are in compliance with its provisions.
  • Give the Tenant the RLTO summary. This is the best tip for renting property I can give you.
  • Stay updated on any changes or amendments to the RLTO to maintain compliance.
  • Know if the RLTO applies to you (Non-owner occupied buildings in Chicago OR non-owner occupied buildings in Cook County outside of Mount Prospect, Evanston, and Oak Park)
  • Consult with an experienced attorney, like Justin Abdilla at 630-839-9195, to ensure you are following the ordinance correctly.

Properly Managing Security Deposits

Security deposit mismanagement is a common reason for disputes between landlords and tenants. It is also the most costly tip for renting property to ignore as a landlord. To avoid tenants rights issues:

  • Follow the RLTO guidelines when handling security deposits. This includes placing the deposit in a separate, interest-bearing account and providing the tenant with a receipt within 14 days.
  • Return the security deposit or provide an itemized list of damages within the required timeframes: 30 days for the itemized list and 45 days for returning the deposit.
  • Pay interest on the security deposit within 30 days, as required by the RLTO.
  • If you took a non-refundable move-in fee, disclose it is non-refundable and note to the tenants why it is non-refundable.
renting property on downtown chicago tip for landlord article

Best Tip for Renting Property – Give the Tenant Their Documents

Landlords must provide their tenants with specific documents, including the latest summary of the RLTO and the corresponding security deposit interest rates. Failure to provide these documents can result in the tenant having grounds to terminate the lease, leading to eviction in court. To avoid this issue:

  • Stay up-to-date on the latest versions of the RLTO summary and security deposit interest rates.
  • Provide the required documents to your tenants at the beginning of the lease and whenever there are updates.
  • Ensure that you have proof that the tenant received these documents, such as a signed receipt or acknowledgment. Text messages aren’t good enough.

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Charging Reasonable Late Fees – a Tip for Landlords

Excessive late fees can lead to disputes and eviction cases. To prevent these issues:

  • Adhere to the RLTO guidelines for charging late fees. You may charge $10 per month for the first $500 in monthly rent, plus 5% per month for any amount in excess of $500. You may not charge 5% monthly late fees on the full amount if the rent is more than $500.
  • Be consistent in applying late fees to all tenants, and include these fees in the lease agreement. You don’t want to get a fair housing complaint for treating someone differently than another tenant.
  • Maintain open communication with tenants who are late on rent, and consider working out a payment plan before resorting to eviction proceedings.

Avoiding Retaliation and Discrimination

It is illegal to evict a tenant in retaliation for exercising their legal rights or due to discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or other protected characteristics. To avoid these issues:

  • Familiarize yourself with federal, state, and local fair housing laws and ensure your practices are in compliance.
  • Treat all tenants fairly and consistently, regardless of their background or characteristics.
  • Avoid any actions that could be perceived as retaliatory or discriminatory, such as raising rent, decreasing services, evicting a tenant for reporting code violations, or participating in a tenants’ organization.
  • Definitely don’t say something like “If you won’t leave then I’ll have to…” in writing. We’ve learned this tip for landlords from practice.
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Properly Addressing Lease Violations as a Landlord

Lease violations are a common reason for disputes between landlords and tenants. Some of the most common lease violations include unauthorized pets, subletting without permission, and exceeding the occupancy limit. Some tips for landlords to address these issues include:

  • Clearly outline the terms and conditions of the lease agreement, ensuring that both parties understand their responsibilities.
  • Regularly inspect the property to identify any potential lease violations and address them promptly.
  • Maintain open communication with your tenants, and address any concerns or violations in a respectful and professional manner.
  • Consider offering a warning or providing an opportunity for the tenant to correct the violation before resorting to eviction proceedings.

Tips for Landlords on How to Handle Property Damage

Excessive property damage, beyond normal wear and tear, can be grounds for eviction. A tip for landlords, preventing lawsuits is equally as important as preventing property damage. Therefore, to prevent disputes and protect your property:

  • Conduct thorough move-in and move-out inspections, documenting the condition of the property and any pre-existing damage. This is a good idea with your security deposit, too.
  • Encourage tenants to report any damage or maintenance issues as soon as possible.
  • Respond promptly to maintenance requests and address damages in a timely manner.
  • Maintain open communication with tenants regarding their responsibilities for property upkeep and repair costs.

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Tips for Landlords to Address Illegal Activities on the Property

Illegal activities on the rental property, such as drug use or dealing, can result in eviction. Landlords would do well to remember this tip: Chicago buildings court is always more expensive than eviction court. To maintain a safe and lawful environment for all tenants:

  • Include a clause in your lease agreement that clearly prohibits illegal activities on the property.
  • Respond promptly to any reports or suspicions of illegal activities, and involve law enforcement if necessary. A tip for landlords is that you can be liable for allowing illegal activity to continue unabated on your property.
  • Take appropriate legal action to evict tenants engaged in illegal activities while ensuring compliance with the RLTO and other applicable laws.

Tips for Landlords About Health and Safety Codes

Tenants must follow local health and safety codes, and issues like hoarding, creating fire hazards, or causing unsanitary conditions can be grounds for eviction. To prevent these problems:

  • Educate tenants about their responsibilities under local health and safety codes. This comes with the territory of renting a property in Chicago.
  • Conduct regular inspections to identify any potential health or safety hazards and address them promptly. Don’t do these every month, though. A negative tip for landlords is that too many inspections can seem like retaliation.
  • Work with tenants to resolve any health or safety concerns, offering assistance or resources as needed.
  • If necessary, follow the appropriate legal process for evicting tenants who repeatedly violate health and safety codes.

How to Act Promptly in Eviction Proceedings

Waiting too long to start the eviction process can prolong disputes and result in financial losses for landlords. To avoid this issue:

  • Act swiftly when a tenant repeatedly fails to pay rent or violates the lease agreement.
  • Consult with an experienced eviction attorney like Justin Abdilla at 630-839-9195 to understand your rights and options.
  • Follow the appropriate legal procedures for eviction to ensure compliance with the RLTO and other applicable laws.

By following these best practices for landlords in the Chicago area, you can avoid common eviction pitfalls and maintain a positive relationship with your tenants. If you’re facing a potential eviction, don’t hesitate to consult an experienced eviction attorney to help you navigate the complex legal landscape and protect your interests. I hope these tips for renting property in Chicago helped demystify some of the struggle with the area.

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