CHICAGO WGN - Aaron Krolik On The RLTO

Transcript of appearance on WGN TV, June 4, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.  

Summer is around the corner – What are your Chicago “RLTO” Rights?

5 Huge Renting Tips for Chicago Tenants & Landlords

Aaron A. Krolik, Attorney & Owner, www.securitydepositlaw.com

Summer is around the corner for the 3rd largest city in the U.S. and thousands of Chicagoans are signing new residential leases or extending old ones. These form “rental agreements,” however, can be long and full of confusing language. Aaron Krolik, head of a leading law firm in Chicago that exclusively represents renters and landlords says tens of thousands of rental agreements signed each year may actually not be legally enforceable at all.

Attorney Krolik is the local authority on disputes arising from residential rental agreements in Chicago.  Aaron refers to himself as “The Chicago Lease Doctor” and is here today to reveal some common rental agreement pit falls to watch out for as tenants and landlords enter or renew Chicago rental agreements this year. He will then answer some viewer questions.

Important things to keep in mind as you look at your rental agreements this season:

1. The City of Chicago has a written law that governs renter and landlord rights.

  • This is called the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance ("CRLTO") and is the governing law in Chicago.  You may not even realize that this law applies to you. The Chicago RLTO is the guide to your both tenant and landlord legal rights.
  • The CRLTO applies to condominium units, town homes, single family homes, and apartments subject to certain exclusions in Section 5-12-020. The most common exclusion is “dwelling units in owner-occupied buildings containing six (6) units or less.”

2. No matter what you sign and agree to in writing, the CRLTO trumps your rental agreement.

  • The CRLTO is above anything you’ve agreed to in writing with your landlord or tenant. 99% of Chicago tenants feel that because they’ve signed something, it is enforceable against them. This is not the case!  See below Section 5-12-140(a).
  • CRLTO SECTION 5-12-140(a): BLACK LETTER LAW (visual included)

"Except as otherwise specifically provided by this chapter, no rental agreement may provide that the landlord or tenant:

(a) Agrees to waive or forego rights, remedies or obligations provided under this chapter;

A provision prohibited by this section included in a rental agreement is unenforceable. The tenant may recover actual damages sustained by the tenant because of the enforcement of a prohibited provision. If the landlord attempts to enforce a provision in a rental agreement prohibited by this section the tenant may recover two months’ rent."

  • For example, a huge percentage of the leases I see say you can’t use your security deposit to pay rent. This conflicts with the CRLTO Section 5-12-080(d)(1) which says you can! This is a huge mind-bender, I know!

3. The CRLTO Summary; Section 5-12-170

  • When you receive your rental agreement, renewal, or oral lease, you must receive an official CRLTO Summary. (VISUAL INCLUDED)
  • The official CRLTO Summary is four (4) pages long with the City of Chicago city seal and Rahm Emanuel’s name at the top. If you didn’t get these exact four (4) pages – you didn’t get the legal CRLTO Summary.
  • Landlords tend to use their own forms and may be writing their own interpretation of the law, thus omitting important sections that outline CRLTO rights in the Summary.
  • Tenants whose Landlords violate this section may legally terminate their lease and recover $100.00 pursuant to CRLTO Section 5-12-170.

4. The CRLTO Separate Summary; Section 5-12-170 

  • In addition to the CRLTO Summary, when you receive your rental agreement, renewal, or oral lease, you must receive an official CRLTO “Separate Summary” containing security deposit rights and listing the current and previous two (2) years security deposit interest rates in Chicago. (VISUAL INCLUDED)
  • Even if the Tenant didn’t pay a security deposit, the Separate Summary shall be given, whether it’s a new lease, a renewal, or an oral lease. You must get BOTH summaries, with the city seal.
  • Landlords tend to use their own forms and may be writing their own interpretation of the law, thus omitting important sections that outline CRLTO rights in the Separate Summary.
  • Tenants whose Landlords violate this section may legally terminate their lease and recover $100.00 pursuant to CRLTO Section 5-12-170.

5. Your Landlord has to pay your reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs if found in violation of the CRLTO.

  • The CRLTO gives both tenants and landlords the right to reasonable attorney fees and costs if you are the “prevailing party” meaning, the judgment is in your favor. This does not apply to eviction cases.
  •   CRLTO Section 5-12-180; Attorneys Fees - BLACK LETTER LAW
  • "Except in cases of forcible entry and detainer actions, the prevailing plaintiff in any action arising out of a landlord’s or tenant’s application of the rights or remedies made available in this ordinance shall be entitled to all court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees; provided, however, that nothing herein shall be deemed or interpreted as precluding the awarding of attorney’s fees in forcible entry and detainer actions in accordance with applicable law or as expressly provided in this ordinance.”
  • Be very weary of tenants rights organizations or tenants rights groups, who are not actual lawyers, and may not steer you in the right direction.

Bottom Line:

  • Everyone in Chicago should know their legal rights, and the CRLTO applies equally to both renters and landlords.