What landlords need to know
Updated: June 29, 2012 3:06PM
The increased availability of distressed, low-priced properties has renewed interest in buying homes as rental investments.
In turn, many people are becoming landlords for the first time, or returning to the role after many years. These new owners — and indeed all landlords — should make sure they fully understand and comply with current landlord-tenant laws, lest they risk adding legal fees to the ledger sheet.
One recent change is that landlords must now provide tenants at signing with a radon disclosure form, as well as a lead paint disclosure form. A lease with option to buy also requires a seller’s real property disclosure form. Landlords must further provide and install working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and tenants must keep the batteries current.
According to the IIlinois Attorney General’s office, there are many state laws and judicial decisions that affect landlords and tenants. Key points to note are:
Landlord Rights and Responsibilities: keeping the rental unit fit to live in; making all necessary repairs; keeping rental unit in compliance with state and local health and housing codes; setting the amount of rent and security deposit; charging a reasonable fee for late rent; making reasonable rules and regulations with the lease.
Tenant Rights and Responsibilities: having a written lease; paying rent on time; keeping the rental unit clean and undamaged; being responsible for any damages beyond normal wear and tear; paying the utility bills if the lease makes you responsible; not physically altering the unit without landlord’s approval; giving written notice of move date to ensure timely security deposit return.
Security deposits are carefully regulated. A deposit may only be used to cover unpaid rent, repair damages, and/or clean the unit if left in poor condition. There’s no legal limit, but one month’s rent is typical, with an additional deposit customary for pets. The Illinois Security Deposit Return Act requires landlords of buildings with five or more units to return deposits within 45 days of move-out; for smaller properties, landlords must refund in “reasonable time” — typically soon after move-out or in a time period stipulated in the lease.
In addition to national Fair Housing laws, landlords must follow anti-discrimination laws for both their state and town. Illinois landlords may not refuse to rent, or have differing rental terms, on the grounds of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex and marital status, or disability. They also can’t disallow children, unless within a senior-only community. Individual towns may have their own additional anti-discrimination laws.
Seriously delinquent or negligent tenants can be evicted in a legal process that requires the filing of a lawsuit. If the court approves, only the sheriff, not the landlord, can physically evict the tenant. Landlords may not force tenants out by turning off utilities, changing locks or removing their personal property. The Illinois Retaliatory Eviction Act further prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for complaining to any governmental authority.Contact local government offices for landlord requirements specific to your location, type and size of property.
Julie Morse is a Realtor.