Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Law Requires Most Cook County Landlords to Change Locks With New Tenancy

An amendment has passed to the Illinois Landlord and Tenant Act which creates a new Section 765 ILCS 705/15 "Changing or rekeying of the dwelling unit lock."

The new Section requires that landlords in Counties with more than three million people (Cook County) change or rekey the locks for a rental unit at the start of each new tenancy, unless it is an owner occupied building with four or fewer units. This new law does not just apply to Chicago or Evanston, but all of Cook County.

If the landlord does not comply with this new rule, which will take effect January 1, 2012, then that landlord may be liable to the tenant for damages sustained because of stolen property by someone with the old tenants' key.

The Section says:

(a) A lessor of a dwelling unit shall comply with the

provisions of this Section regarding the changing or rekeying

of the dwelling unit lock. For the purposes of this Section,

"dwelling unit" means a room or suite of rooms used for human

habitation and for which a lessor and a lessee have a written

lease agreement.

(b) After a dwelling unit has been vacated and on or before

the day that a new lessee takes possession of the dwelling

unit, the lessor shall change or rekey the immediate access to

the lessee's individual dwelling unit. For the purposes of this

Section, "change or rekey" means:

(1) replacing the lock;

(2) replacing the locking or cylinder mechanism in the

lock so that a different key is used to unlock the lock;

(3) changing the combination on a combination or

digital lock;

(4) changing an electronic lock so that the means or

method of unlocking the lock is changed from the

immediately prior tenant; or

(5) otherwise changing the means of gaining access to

the lessee's locked individual dwelling unit so that it is

not identical to the prior lessee's means of gaining access

to the lessee's locked individual dwelling unit.

(c) If a lessor does not change or rekey the lock as

required in this Section, and a theft occurs at that dwelling

unit that is attributable to the lessor's failure to change or

rekey the lock, the landlord is liable for any damages from the

theft that occurs as a result of the lessor's failure to comply

with this Section.

(d) The provisions of this Section do not apply if the

lessee has obtained the right to change or rekey the dwelling

unit lock pursuant to a written lease agreement.

(e) The provisions of this Section do not apply to (i) an

apartment rental in an apartment building with 4 units or less

when one of the units is occupied by the owner or (ii) the

rental of a room in a private home that is owner-occupied.

(f) This Section applies only in counties having a

population of more than 3,000,000.

Under part (b)(5), the Illinois Legislature protected this law from becoming outdated by doors that rely on biometric locks or keyless locks. Essentially, whatever mechanism the door uses for security, its means of access must be changed or reset so that the new tenant, and only the new tenant, has access (in addition to the landlord and authorized agents of the landlord). This will certainly stimulate the economy for locksmiths in Cook County.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chicago landlord in foreclosure or losing unit for unpaid condo assessments!

More and more tenants, especially in Chicago, are finding themselves subject to getting evicted because their landlord has essentially not been paying their rent. Sometimes, when someone is renting a condominium unit in Chicago, the condo association hasn't been paid its assessments for months. Or, the mortgage lender hasn't been paid. Often it is both.
We are presently getting more calls from tenants who are subject to lose possession thanks to unpaid assessments, as many banks have temporarily put their foreclosure actions on halt while condo associations have not. So even though Bank of America might not be moving forward on its foreclosure case because of a questionable Countrywide Home Loan mortgage, the condominium association will not hesitate to re-take possession.

Section 5-12-095 of the Chicago Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) required your landlord to give you written notice about any foreclosure pending against the unit before you entered into a lease, and if they don't, you might win penalty damages against the landlord equal to $200.00 plus costs and attorney fees. And that can be a basis to terminate the lease. But this section does not apply to condo association evictions that will put you out just as fast, or faster, than a foreclosure. In other words, the landlord was not specifically required to disclose a pending action against them by their condo association for unpaid assessments, or the fact that they are delinquent in paying their assessments.

A 2009 amendment to subsection (h)(3) of 735 ILCS 5/15-1701, a part of the Illinois Foreclosure Law, effective July 23, 2009, requires that a rent-paying tenant be given a proper written notice which then triggers that tenant's right to stay in the property and pay rent another 120 days (about four months) before being forced to move out. It says in part that:
  • (4) In a case of foreclosure where the occupant is current on his or her rent, or where timely written notice of to whom and where the rent is to be paid has not been provided to the occupant , or where the occupant has made good-faith efforts to make rental payments in order to keep current, any order of possession must allow the occupant to retain possession of the property covered in his or her rental agreement (i) for 120 days following the notice of the hearing on the supplemental petition that has been properly served upon the occupant , or (ii) through the duration of his or her lease, whichever is shorter, provided that if the duration of his or her lease is less than 30 days from the date of the order, the order shall allow the occupant to retain possession for 30 days from the date of the order. A mortgagee in possession, receiver, holder of a certificate of sale or deed, or purchaser at the judicial sale, who asserts that the occupant is not current in rent, shall file an affidavit to that effect in the supplemental petition proceeding. If the occupant has been given timely written notice of to whom and where the rent is to be paid, this item (4) shall only apply if the occupant continues to pay his or her rent in full during the 120-day period or has made good-faith efforts to pay the rent in full during that period. No mortgagee-in-possession, receiver or holder of a certificate of sale or deed, or purchaser who fails to file a supplemental petition under this subsection during the pendency of a mortgage foreclosure shall file a forcible entry and detainer action against an occupant of the mortgaged real estate until 90 days after a notice of intent to file such action has been properly served upon the occupant.
However, just like RLTO 5-12-095, this rule does not apply to actions for possession by the condominium association. Only foreclosures.

Sure, the law says the landlord owes you your security deposit back and probably damages for breaching their lease with you if you get kicked out because of a foreclosure. But this is a landlord who has not paid some serious bills for a long time. How likely do you think it is that you will collect against this landlord who has not paid their mortgage or assessments, even if you win in court? You are best off relying on your own investigation before entering into a lease, not the disclosures a landlord is required to make under the law. Real life and protecting yourself should trump dependence on your rights in this situation.

So before the apartment finding service gets you sign off on that lease, please check if your landlord might have a foreclosure or eviction filed against them in Cook County.
You can go to Cook County Case Search and (1) select "Chancery Division" then go down leaving selections about case number and date filed blank, then (2) type in your landlord's last name or its company name and select "Defendant" then (3) hit "Search Now".

You can use the same site and method to see if the landlord is being sued by the condo association by changing the kind of search from "Chancery Division" to "Civil Division."