Pet Security Deposits Have Rights (Too!)

Don't You Just Love Pets?

On April 16, 2013, Circuit Court of Cook County Judge, Joyce Marie Murphy Gorman, held that a Landlord's failure to return a refundable pet security deposit and interest violated the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance.  Tenant brought suit under the Chicago RLTO for statutory penalties resulting from Landlord's failure to return $500.00 which was deemed a pet security deposit.  The Landlord in this case simply "forgot" to return the $500.00 pet security deposit and interest, and this was never in dispute.

Despite attempts at settlement, the parties were unable to resolve the matter and went to trial.  The next day, judgment was entered in favor of the Tenant for $4,500.00 which included $500.00 (i.e. the return of her full pet security deposit) plus $4,000.00 or two (2) times the amount of her "security deposit" (i.e. her apartment security deposit portion was $1,500.00) pursuant to the strict language of the Chicago RLTO law Section 5-12-080(f).

Pursuant to RLTO Section 5-12-080(f)(1):

“Subject to subsection (f)(2), if the landlord fails to comply with any provision of Section 5-12-080(a) – (e), the tenant shall be awarded damages in an amount equal to two (2) times the security deposit plus interest at a rate determined in accordance with Section 5-12-081. This subsection does not preclude the tenant from recovering other damages to which he may be entitled under this chapter.”

The Illinois Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Regent Realty (2003), expressly upheld the 2x security deposit penalty under the Chicago RLTO for the following reason:

“[The Landlord's] violation of the ordinance’s interest requirements may have been the product of poor judgment, as the trial court believed, is of no consequence. Nothing in section 5-12-080(f) requires proof that the landlord’s actions were knowing or willful. A landlord’s duty to comply with the statute is absolute. If a landlord requires a security deposit, the landlord is required to pay the tenant interest on that deposit. If he fails to do so, he is liable to the tenant for the damages specified in the ordinance. There are no exceptions. Where a statute is clear and unambiguous, as this one is, the court should not look to extrinsic aids for construction…The statute must be enforced as written, and a court may not depart from its plain language by reading into it exceptions, limitations, or conditions not expressed by the legislature.”

Plaintiff's Attorney, Aaron Krolik, stated that "Judge Gorman made the correct ruling today and correctly applied the Illinois Supreme Court's holding in Lawrence v. Regent Realty from 10 years ago.  A security deposit should include any refundable deposits or monies paid by tenants to landlords related to the use and occupancy of their apartments under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance.  This necessarily includes refundable pet security deposits." Aaron Krolik Law Office P.C. has represented hundreds of Chicago tenants since 2004 and owns the user-friendly Web Site, www.securitydepositlaw.com. Now, the Landlord gets to pay Aaron Krolik's reasonable attorneys fees and costs as provided under RLTO Section 5-12-180 and  a hearing on fees is set for end of May 2013.