The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”) contains many mandatory requirements as to the holding of security deposits by landlords to which the ordinance applies. Any violation of those provisions, even an unintentional or minor violation, comes with a penalty of double the entire security deposit and makes the landlord liable to pay the tenant’s attorney fees for enforcement. Because of this, it has become increasingly common for Chicago landlords to cease the formerly widespread practice of requiring a security deposit, typically in the amount of one month’s rent, for every lease. Many landlords instead are now requiring a non-refundable “move in” fee, usually in the amount of a fraction of a month’s rent.
The recent Illinois First District Appellate Court decision in Steenes v MAC Property Management sanctions the new move-in fee practice. In Steenes, the Appellate Court affirmed a lower court decision that a $350.00 non-refundable move in fee was permissible in the case of a lease providing for rent in the amount of $715.00 per month. The court concluded that the $350.00 fee was “a ‘charge’ made in return for plaintiff’s moving into her unit, which would cover defendants’ resulting expense, time, and the interruption of business related to the move.” The Court’s reasoning was based upon its finding that the “amount of the move-in fee appears inadequate to be considered as security for any nonpayment of monthly rent or secure…” tenant’s performance of the lease terms. Because the move-in fee was expressly made non-refundable, the Court found that the fee could not be considered “as a surety for either unpaid rent or compensation for damage to the apartment” and thus was not a security deposit under RLTO.
Feel free to contact an experienced Illinois landlord law attorney at Kreisler Law if you have questions about how to properly serve eviction notices or any other area of the laws governing landlords and tenants.
The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”) applies to all Chicago residential properties in which the owner does not reside or which contain more than six residential units. For landlords who are subject to RLTO, accepting a security deposit means the landlord must literally cross a minefield of possible penalties. The situation is so extreme that it has led a number of Chicago landlords to discontinue the time honored practice of requiring the traditional security deposit in the amount of one month’s rent, in favor of requiring a non-refundable move-in fee usually equal to a fraction of a month’s rent.
The reason for this extreme reaction is that RLTO basically imposes absolute liability in the amount of two times the security deposit, plus the attorney fees of the tenant’s attorney, for violation of each of a variety of technical rules as to the receipt, handling and return of security deposits. The provision of attorney fees for the tenant’s attorney has even given rise to a group of attorneys who make most or all of their income from suing landlords.
The rules are many:
1. Security deposits must be held in a federally insured interest bearing account in an Illinois financial institution.
2. Security deposits must be in an account completely separate from and not commingled with any funds of the landlord.
3. The name and address of the financial institution holding the deposit must be conspicuously disclosed in the written rental agreement signed by the tenant or if there is not a written rental agreement, by a written notice given to the tenant within 14 days of receipt of the deposit.
4. The tenant must be given a receipt when the deposit is received which specifies the amount of the deposit, the name of the person accepting the deposit, and if that person is an agent, the name of the landlord, the date of receipt and a description of the dwelling unit rented.
5. If a security deposit is retained for more than six months, the landlord must pay interest on the security deposit, at the rate specified by the Chicago Comptroller each year, within 30 days after the end of each anniversary of the beginning of the lease term.
6. When the tenant vacates the dwelling unit, the landlord is required to return the security deposit within 45 days after the tenant has vacated.
The landlord may deduct from the returned deposit any unpaid rent and a reasonable amount to repair damages to the unit. If any amount is deducted for damage, the landlord must deliver to the tenant within 30 days an itemized list of the damages and the estimated or actual costs of repair or replacement. If an estimate is provided, then within 30 days, the landlord must provide copies of paid receipts or if the work is performed by the landlord’s employees, a certification of the actual costs of the repairs.
Feel free to contact an experienced Illinois landlord attorney at Kreisler Law if you have questions about the handling of security deposits for properties subject to RLTO or any other area of the laws governing landlords and tenants.