Just about every tenant has had a security deposit stolen. As an attorney who has handled hundreds of security deposit cases, I have observed that a significant percentage of landlords assume “security deposit income” as part of their business model. In fact, chances are that you arrived on my website because your landlord made unfair deductions to your deposit (or stole the whole deposit altogether). If that is so, you came to the right place. In this article, I will break down Illinois security deposit law. I will cover the landlord’s obligations based on both contractual language and statutes and ordinances that regulate the landlord-tenant relationship. By the end of this article, you should have a good understanding of your rights and obligations and whether you have a viable legal claim.
This article is updated for 2024 – which is important because there has been a MAJOR change in Illinois security deposit law, effective January 1, 2024, that hasn’t been well publicized. In short, tenants outside of Cook County previously had little viable protection unless they lived in a building containing 5 or more units owned by the same landlord. Now, all Illinois residential tenants are protected by the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act (“SDRA”), even if they are in a small building. That said, there is still a complex interplay between many local ordinances that might be more protective and the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act. Furthermore, tenants that vacated their unit before January 1, 2024, probably are not protected by the revised Illinois Security Deposit Return Act.
Conveying the complex interplay between all the various statutes and ordinances to a non-legal audience was difficult before, but it is even more difficult now. However, I will do my best to lay things out as clearly as possible. Let’s get started on our security deposit education.
If your landlord is stealing your deposit, it is important to get legal help as soon as possible. If you are a Cook County tenant click here to request a free case review.
How to Use This Illinois Security Deposit Law Guide
The interplay between the many laws and their exemptions can be confusing. The best way to figure out which laws apply to your situation is to go through the following analysis:
- Determine whether the unit is in a municipality that has a security deposit ordinance.
- If the unit is in a municipality that regulates deposits, determine whether the unit is exempt from that ordinance. If the unit is not exempt, the local ordinance will likely be the source of your strongest rights. If the unit is exempt, move on to the next step.
- If the unit is not in a regulated municipality or is exempt from local law, determine whether the old SDRA, the new SDRA, or breach of contract law applies. This is primarily decided by both your move-out date and the number of units in your building owned by your landlord (not other condo owners). If you moved out after January 1, 2024, your deposit should be regulated by the new SDRA. If you moved out before January 1, 2024, and your building had 5 or more units owned by your landlord, then your security deposit will be regulated by the old SDRA. If you moved out before January 1, 2024, and your building had fewer than 5 units owned by your landlord, then your security deposit will be regulated by breach of contract law.
Though reading this article in its entirety is ideal, you can use the Table of Contents above to get an overview and jump to the appropriate section.
Illinois Security Deposit Law: Breach of Contract
The lease between a landlord and tenant is a legally binding contract. In cases where a landlord violates this contract, such as by unfairly withholding a security deposit, tenants may bring about a breach of contract claim. However, utilizing a breach of contract claim should be a last resort when an Illinois landlord has stolen a security deposit. If tenants can pursue a claim under either a local ordinance or the SDRA, they should do so as they will see a better result. (To determine the best option for your situation, see “How to Use This Illinois Security Deposit Law Guide” above.) Unfortunately, breach of contract is often the only remedy available for tenants that moved out before 2024, lived in a small building, and did not live in Cook County or one of the other protective municipalities.
If you are not protected by a local ordinance, your landlord does not own 5 or more units in your building, and moved out before 2024, your right to the return of your deposit depends on the terms of your lease.
Every lease is different, of course, but based on my experience and landlords’ wide use of common forms, I can make some generalizations.
Breach of Contract: Parties’ Rights
In a breach of contract claim for an illegally withheld security deposit, the first important lease term is the section describing when the landlord must return a deposit and what deductions the landlord can make. This lease provision typically follows the heading “security deposit.”
Most leases state that the landlord may deduct money from a deposit for unpaid rent or property damage beyond ordinary wear and tear. However, I have seen leases that have very expansive provisions (such as permitting a landlord to keep the deposit for any lease violation). The more expansive the provision, the more difficult it will be to challenge a deduction.
Leases also regulate when a landlord must return a tenant’s deposit. Illinois leases usually provide either a 30- or 45-day window for returning a deposit. I have seen leases with shorter time frames, but not longer. It is also common for leases to give no deadline for returning the deposit. If there is no deadline, the landlord has a reasonable amount of time to return the deposit. A reasonable amount of time is probably no longer than 45 days—but the courts have not ruled on this.
A breach of contract claim almost never involves technical requirements, such as the requirement for landlords to provide an itemized list of damages or paid receipts as mandated by the SDRA and local ordinances. The sole legal questions are whether the tenant breached the lease (typically by causing damage or not paying rent) and whether the landlord deducted the appropriate amount of money for that breach. If the landlord deducts for an improper reason or an improper amount, they have breached the lease. If the landlord breaches the lease and the tenant brings forth a claim, the landlord must return the portion of the security deposit that was improperly withheld, but nothing more. Unlike when landlords violate the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act and other municipal regulations, tenants have no ability to receive statutory penalties (such as double or triple the deposit amount) when they bring a breach of contract claim regarding an improperly withheld deposit. In other words, if the tenant takes the landlord to court and wins, the tenant will receive a judgment for what they should have received in the first place. They will not be awarded any additional compensation.
Breach of Contract: Attorney’s Fees
Security deposit disputes are almost always modest claims (when compared to legal claims in general). When evaluating the viability of bringing a small dispute, being able to recover attorney’s fees from the other party is often the deciding factor. If the tenant has no right to attorney’s fees, it does not usually make financial sense to hire an attorney for a breach of contract claim. For example, it would not make sense to pay an attorney $3,000.00 in a security deposit case if the tenant can only recover $1,000.00 at most. Accordingly, understanding the right to attorney’s fees in a breach of contract case is of crucial importance.
Like the right to return of a deposit, the right to attorney’s fees under a breach of contract claim is determined by the language of the lease itself. There are five different types of attorney fee provisions, and I will address each in turn (from most to least common).
Tenant pays landlord’s fees: Most of the leases I review state that if there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant, the tenant will pay the landlord’s fees regardless of who wins the lawsuit. This type of provision is clearly unfair and possibly even against public policy. Filing a lawsuit for a breach of contract when it has a one-sided fee provision is dangerous and almost always unviable.
Prevailing party attorney’s fees: A prevailing party attorney fee provision is common in all types of contracts and is present in many leases. This type of provision means that the loser pays the winner’s attorney’s fees. Thus, if the tenant files suit and wins, the landlord will have to pay the claim as well as the tenant’s attorney’s fees. Conversely, if the tenant loses, the tenant will be on the hook for the landlord’s fees—which can be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Filing a lawsuit for a security deposit dispute with prevailing party fee shifting is viable, but still risky.
No attorney fee language: If the lease does not have an attorney fee provision, each party pays their own attorney’s fees no matter who wins or loses. Breach of lease cases with no attorney fee provision are almost never financially viable with a lawyer. Since these cases are low risk, however, many tenants opt to file a case without a lawyer (called “pro se”).
Tenant pays landlord’s fees if the landlord wins: This attorney’s fee provision is less draconian than the provision where the tenant pays the landlord’s fees no matter who wins, but it is still one-sided. If the landlord wins, the tenant pays the landlord’s attorney’s fees. If the landlord loses, each pays their own attorney’s fees. Though lower risk, these cases are still risky. If the tenant sues without an attorney, the tenant could still end up paying many thousands of dollars to the landlord if the landlord has an attorney and wins.
Defendant pays plaintiff’s fees if the plaintiff wins: This type of fee provision is very uncommon in leases, but it warrants mention because it is common in security deposit statutes and ordinances. Thus, every so often, a lease contains a prevailing plaintiff provision. This type of provision means that if the person who files the lawsuit (the “plaintiff”) wins, the court will award them attorney’s fees. If the plaintiff loses, the court will not award them fees. The court will not award the person sued (the “defendant”) attorney’s fees regardless of the outcome. In the context of a security deposit case, a prevailing plaintiff fee provision is the most favorable since the tenant is always the plaintiff. Thus, when considering filing a lawsuit for breach of contract, it is important to understand the type of attorney’s fee provision contained in your lease. That provision will usually dictate whether you should hire a lawyer and whether a lawsuit is viable at all.
Breach of Contract: Summary
If neither the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act, a county ordinance, nor a city ordinance applies to an apartment or house, the tenant must rely on the terms of their lease to recover their deposit. Thus, the tenant must review the lease to determine whether the landlord should have returned their deposit and whether the attorney’s fee provision substantially alters the risk and financial viability of bringing a lawsuit against their landlord.
Illinois Security Deposit Law: The Illinois Security Deposit Return Act
The Illinois Security Deposit Return Act (735 ILCS 710) (referred to as the “SDRA”) is the statewide Illinois security deposit law. Though the law is in effect throughout Illinois, it applied to very few units up until January 1, 2024.
Prior to January 1, 2024, the SDRA only applied to buildings with 5 or more units owned by the same landlord. It did not apply to any building of less than 5 units and did not apply to buildings of 5 or more units where the owner of the apartment at issue did not own at least 5 units in the building (i.e. most condominium buildings).
Fortunately, the SDRA was amended, effective January 1, 2024, to include all residential units in Illinois, regardless of building size. There will likely be litigation over the interpretation of the effective date of the statute, but it probably applies to tenants that move out of their unit on or after January 1, 2024.
If the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act applies to your unit, you have substantially more protection than renters that are forced to rely on a breach of contract theory.
Deductions Under the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act
When the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act applies, the landlord may only deduct money from a security deposit for unpaid rent or property damage beyond ordinary wear and tear. The landlord may not deduct for other reasons—no matter what the lease says.
If the landlord withholds money from the security deposit for property damage, the landlord must send an itemized list of alleged damage to either the last known address of the tenant or a verified email address. The list of alleged damages is due on the later of 30 days after the tenant vacates the unit or 30 days after the tenant’s right to possession ends.
In addition to the itemized list, landlords must provide proper evidence that the repairs were completed and that the submitted costs were accurate. Generally, the landlord substantiates the repairs with paid receipts, which are due either at the time the landlord provides the itemized list (in cases where the list includes actual costs) or within 30 days of the date of the itemized list (in cases where the list includes estimated costs). If the lease lists costs for repair and replacement of items, the landlord may reference and the relevant portion of the lease, but those deductions must still be reasonable and must not be for ordinary wear and tear.
If the landlord does not follow the rules for withholding a security deposit for property damage and no rent is due, the landlord must return the deposit within 45 days of the date the tenant vacated the unit.
If the landlord makes improper deductions or does not comply with the legal requirements for an itemized list and paid receipts, the tenant has a claim equal to two times the amount of the deposit, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
Though the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act is not as powerful as the local Cook County or Chicago ordinances, security deposit cases brought under the Act are viable, and a tenant with such a dispute should contact a lawyer. My firm currently reviews security deposit disputes for units located in Cook County. You can click here to request a review of your matter.
Illinois Security Deposit Law: The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance
The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) is a complex and comprehensive law protecting the rights of most tenants living within the city limits of Chicago. The law is so comprehensive that we have an entire article devoted to it on our page explaining Chicago security deposit law. If your unit is in Chicago and you think you have a claim, I encourage you to read the dedicated Chicago security deposit law article linked here.
However, to make this article as complete as possible, I will address the key points of Chicago security deposit law.
The RLTO applies to most (but not all) units in Chicago. Generally, the RLTO applies to all residential units except those in buildings of less than 7 units where the owner of the unit in dispute also lives in the building. Typically, this is a 2- or 3-flat where the owner lives in one unit and rents out the other unit(s).
Thus, if the unit is in Chicago, the RLTOhttps://bc-firm.com/chicago-landlord-tenant-ordinance/ always applies in both of the following situations:
- The RLTO applies to all units in buildings that contain 7 or more units; and
- The RLTO applies to all buildings so long as the owner of your unit does not also live in the building.
The RLTO exempts several other categories of units, but those units are rare. To read about all the exemptions, reference our full article on Chicago security deposit law.
Note: If the unit is within the city limits of Chicago, but is exempt from the RLTO, the tenant is probably still protected by the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act so long as the tenant moved out on or after January 1, 2024.
Treatment of Deposits Under the RLTO
The RLTO specifies 6 rules for the treatment of deposits. Some rules come into play at the time when the tenant pays the deposit. Others apply during the term of the lease, and the remainder deal with return of the deposit after move-out.
The first deposit rule is that the landlord must provide the tenant with a signed receipt at the time the tenant pays the deposit. This receipt must indicate the amount of the deposit, the name of the person receiving it, a description of the unit, the date the deposit was received, and the name of the landlord if somebody other than the landlord receives the deposit.
Next, the lease must list the name and address of the financial institution that will hold the deposit during the tenancy. If the landlord moves the deposit during the tenancy, the landlord must update the bank information in writing within 14 days of the transfer.
Third, the landlord must put the deposit in the proper type of interest-bearing account. The account must be at a federally insured financial institution located within the state of Illinois. The landlord must segregate the deposit from their own money, and the landlord must protect the deposit from creditors, including a foreclosing mortgagee or bankruptcy trustee.
Fourth, the landlord must also pay the tenant interest yearly in the 30 days following each 12 months of rental. Paying interest only at the end of the lease is not sufficient.
Fifth, the landlord and successor landlord must each give formal written notice within 14 days of transferring the unit from one landlord to another.
Last, the RLTO sets forth specific rules for withholding and returning a deposit. The RLTO only allows a landlord to deduct from a deposit for unpaid rent and/or property damage beyond ordinary wear and tear.
If the landlord deducts for property damage, they have 30 days to provide the tenant with an itemized list that shows each repair or replacement and the estimated or actual cost of each item. If the landlord lists actual costs, they must provide paid receipts when delivering the list. If the landlord gives estimated costs, they have an additional 30 days to tender paid receipts.
If the landlord does not provide an itemized list within 30 days and no rent is due, the landlord must return the full deposit within 45 days of the tenant vacating the unit. If the landlord provides a proper list of deductions, but that list does not account for the entire deposit, the landlord must return the remainder within 45 days.
Under the RLTO, a landlord who violates any of the rules set forth above owes the tenant a penalty of two times the deposit, plus attorney’s fees and case costs. The penalty is not inclusive of the deposit itself, so the landlord also needs to return the deposit unless they have properly deducted the money for unpaid rent or property damage beyond ordinary wear and tear after move-out. Generally, the claim amounts to two times the deposit, plus the deposit itself, plus attorney’s fees and case costs.
A large part of my firm’s practice is comprised of security deposit disputes in Chicago and Cook County. I have handled hundreds of disputes and am happy to discuss your dispute with you. If your unit is in Cook County and you would like an evaluation, click here to contact me.
Illinois Security Deposit Law: The Cook County Residential Tenant and Landlord Ordinance
The Cook County Residential Tenant and Landlord Ordinance (CCRTLO), effective June 1, 2021, protects the security deposits of most tenants in Cook County. Like the Chicago RLTO, the CCRTLO includes a comprehensive set of rules landlords must follow when handling and withholding a deposit. The law also has numerous exclusions; most of these mirror the RLTO, but a few are unique. Given the complexities of the CCRTLO, I have a dedicated in-depth page for Cook County security deposit law, which you can find here. I encourage you to read the full article if you have a Cook County dispute, but for completeness, I will cover the main points here.
Applicability of the CCRLTO
Just as the Chicago RLTO covers most residential units within the Chicago city limits, the CCRTLO covers most residential units within Cook County. However, there are three major classes of excluded properties, which I have listed below.
Units in owner-occupied buildings of 6 units or less: Like the RLTO, the CCRTLO does not apply to units in small buildings when the owner also lives in the building. Tenants should note that the law states the exemption applies to “owner-occupied” buildings, not “landlord-occupied.” Thus, to be exempt, the legal owner must live in the building, not someone merely acting as agent for the owner.
Certain recently owner-occupied units: The CCRTLO uniquely exempts units that meet all of the following criteria:
- The unit is the only rental unit owned by the owner;
- The owner of the unit is an individual (not a corporation);
- The owner personally manages the property; and
- Either the owner or the owner’s immediate family member(s) resided in the unit for a minimum of one month in the 12 months prior to marketing the property.
Units in Chicago and Evanston: Chicago and Evanston have their own comprehensive landlord-tenant ordinances, and the CCRTLO states that it does not apply to municipalities that regulate the landlord-tenant relationship themselves. Therefore, units in Chicago and Evanston are not covered by the CCRLTO.
Note: If the unit is within the city limits of Cook County, but is exempt from the CCRTLO, the tenant is probably still protected by the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act so long as the tenant moved out on or after January 1, 2024.
Treatment of Deposits Under the CCRTLO
The CCRTLO is similar to the Chicago RLTO with respect to its security deposit regulations. It contains ten rules that landlords must follow:
- Landlords may not demand a deposit greater than 150% of monthly rent.
- If the deposit is more than 100% of monthly rent, the landlord must allow the tenant to pay the excess in the six months following move-in.
- The landlord must hold the deposit in a federally insured financial institution located in the state of Illinois. The landlord must segregate the deposit from their own funds (including rent payments), and the landlord must protect the deposit from creditors, including mortgagees and bankruptcy trustees.
- The landlord must disclose the name of the bank that holds the security deposit in the lease.
- The landlord must provide the tenant with a receipt upon receiving the security deposit. The person receiving the deposit must sign the receipt and the receipt must list the amount of the deposit, the name of the person receiving it, the name of the landlord, and a description of the dwelling unit.
- The landlord must notify the tenant if they transfer the deposit to another financial institution during the tenancy.
- The landlord must provide certain notices to the tenant if they transfer ownership or control of the unit to another landlord.
- The landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of the tenant vacating the unit.
- The landlord may only deduct unpaid rent or property damage beyond ordinary wear and tear from the deposit.
- The landlord may only make deductions from the deposit for property damage if they provide an itemized list of alleged damages and estimated or actual cost of repair or replacing each item within 30 days of the tenant vacating the unit. The landlord must also provide paid receipts within 30 days of the itemized list.
If a landlord violates the CCRTLO’s security deposit provisions and does not cure the violations after the appropriate notice (rules 3-7 require a cure notice; the others do not), the landlord must pay a penalty of two times the security deposit, case costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees. The landlord must also return the deposit itself if the tenant has vacated and the landlord did not comply with the requirements for withholding the deposit.
Since the inception of the CCRTLO, my firm has helped numerous Cook County tenants recover their deposits. If your unit is in Cook County and you would like an evaluation, click here to contact me.
Illinois Security Deposit Law: Other Municipal Ordinances
Several smaller municipalities have enacted their own security deposit laws. I believe the list of municipal ordinances below is comprehensive as of the date of this writing, but it is impossible to monitor all Illinois municipalities and their ever-changing laws. Tenants should confirm the state of the law in their municipality before acting. In general, cities with large universities are the most likely to have a local landlord-tenant law.
Evanston, home to Northwestern University, has enacted its own landlord-tenant law. Title 5, Chapter 3 of the Evanston Code of Ordinances regulates the landlord-tenant relationship. Though not as comprehensive as the RLTO or CCRTLO, it provides tenants with substantial rights when it comes to security deposits.
Applicability of the Evanston Security Deposit Law
Unlike with the RLTO and CCRTLO, the Evanston exclusions are very limited, and the law covers most normal tenancies.
The Evanston Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (ERLTO) only excludes the following:
- Public or private medical, geriatric, educational, or religious institutions;
- Purchasers living in the unit under a contract of sale;
- Transient occupancy in a hotel or motel; and
- Occupancy in a structure operated for the benefit of a social or fraternal organization.
Treatment of Deposits Under the ERLTO
Treatment of deposits under the ERLTO is a combination of the provisions of the RLTO and CCRTLO. Unfortunately, not every rule under the ERLTO provides a remedy in cases where a landlord is in violation. The ERLTO deposit rules are as follows:
- A landlord may not demand a security deposit that is more than 150% of monthly rent. If the deposit is more than 100% of rent, the tenant may pay the amount that exceeds 100% in the six months following the lease’s effective date.
- The landlord must pay the tenant interest on the deposit within 30 days of the end of each 12-month rental period.
- The landlord must hold the security deposit in an interest-bearing federally insured financial institution located in the state of Illinois.
- The landlord must not commingle the deposit with their personal funds, and the landlord must protect the deposit from their creditors, including mortgagees and bankruptcy trustees.
- The landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days of the termination of the tenancy. If the landlord plans to withhold the deposit or part thereof, the landlord must also tender an itemized list within 21 days of the termination of the tenancy.
If the landlord violates the ERLTO with respect to withholding the deposit, the tenant may recover a penalty of two times the deposit, return of the deposit itself, reasonable attorney’s fees, and case costs. The ERLTO does not specify a remedy for other violations of its deposit provisions.
Illinois Security Deposit Law: Mount Prospect
The Mount Prospect security deposit law is broad in scope and covers nearly every rental house and apartment. However, the law excludes the following:
- Public or private medical, geriatric, educational, religious, nursing, or retirement institutions;
- Occupancy under a contract of sale if the occupant is the purchaser;
- Residential care homes provided and approved by the village; and
- Transient occupancy in a licensed hotel or motel.
Mount Prospect uniquely allows either the tenant or landlord to request a walk-through inspection at the commencement of the tenancy and at termination. The party desiring the walk-through must deliver the request in person or via certified mail, return receipt requested. The party can also request that a Mount Prospect environmental health representative attend the inspection. During the walk-through, the parties must complete a checklist noting all missing and damaged items. The landlord must provide a copy for the tenant and retain one for themselves.
To withhold a security deposit in Mount Prospect, a landlord must deliver a written notice to the tenant within 30 days of the tenant vacating the unit. The written notice must state the reason for withholding the deposit, and it must include an itemized statement of claims for unpaid rent or damage. Additionally, it must include either paid receipts or estimated costs for repair or replacement. If the parties conducted a walk-through at the beginning of the tenancy, the landlord must also provide a copy of the checklist and may not deduct for items marked on the checklist as missing or damaged. The landlord must mail the notice via certified mail, return receipt requested or personally deliver it to the tenant.
If the landlord provides estimated costs for repair or replacement (rather than actual), they have an additional 30 days to provide paid receipts.
If the landlord does not provide the required itemized list, paid receipts, and checklist (if applicable), the landlord must return the full deposit within 45 days after the tenant vacates the unit. Likewise, if the landlord complies with the law, but the list and receipts only account for part of the deposit, the landlord must return the remainder within 45 days.
Unlike the laws in Chicago, Evanston, and Cook County, the Mount Prospect law specifically states that the landlord shall not deduct money from the security deposit for painting and rug shampooing unless the lease specifically states that those two tasks are part of the tenant’s cleaning responsibility upon vacating the rental unit.
If a landlord withholds part of a security deposit in violation of the law, the tenant may recover the money due plus damages, costs, and fees as the court shall determine and award.
Illinois Security Deposit Law: DeKalb
Though DeKalb security deposit law is similar to the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act and has broad applicability.
DeKalb security deposit law applies to all residential rental units except:
- Units at medical, geriatric, counseling, religious, or detention institutions;
- Transient occupancy at a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast; and
- Units wholly owned by the state government, federal government, or DeKalb County Housing Authority.
If a landlord plans to withhold a security deposit for damage to the rental unit, the landlord must deliver or mail to the tenant’s last known address an itemized statement of alleged damages along with estimated or actual costs for repairing or replacing each item on that statement. The landlord must mail or deliver the statement within 30 days of the tenant vacating the unit.
If the list provides actual costs, the landlord must provide paid receipts with the itemized list. If the landlord provides estimated costs, the landlord has an additional 30 days to provide paid receipts.
If the landlord does not provide an itemized list and paid receipts, the landlord may not deduct for property damage.
The landlord must return the security deposit (or part thereof) within 45 days of the tenant vacating the unit.
If the landlord refuses to comply with DeKalb security deposit law, or issues a statement in bad faith, the tenant may claim twice the amount due, plus costs and attorney fees.
In a break from mirroring the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act, the DeKalb security deposit law specifically allows tenants to waive the landlord’s security deposit requirements so long as the waiver is in writing and is signed by each individual tenant.
Illinois Security Deposit Law: Urbana
Hosting a portion of one of the country’s largest universities, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana has its own comprehensive tenants’ rights ordinance. Importantly, students at the university should note that Champaign does not have a tenants’ rights ordinance; therefore, Champaign tenants must rely on the statewide Illinois Security Deposit Return Act. The security deposit provision of the Urbana law is similar to the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act.
Applicability of Urbana Security Deposit Law
Urbana security deposit law applies to all rental units located in the city, regardless of the size of the building. However, there are a few exclusions. Urbana security deposit law does not apply in the following rental situations:
- Residence at medical, geriatric, counseling, religious, or detention institutions;
- Occupancy by a purchaser prior to the closing of a sale;
- Occupancy in a building operated by a fraternal or social organization or by a member of such organization (largely fraternity and sorority houses);
- Transient occupancy in a hotel or motel; and
- Occupancy in employee housing so long as the housing is contingent on employment.
Treatment of Deposits Under Urbana Security Deposit Law
Urbana security deposit law requires that landlords pay yearly interest, by cash or credit applied to rent due, under the following conditions: the tenant is not in default, the security deposit is $100.00 or more, and the landlord holds the deposit for more than six months. If a landlord willfully fails to pay interest as required, the tenant has a claim for the amount of the security deposit plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
Urbana law largely tracks the language of the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act when it comes to rules regulating withholding a deposit.
A landlord may not withhold any portion of a security deposit for property damage unless the landlord mails or delivers an itemized list of damages to the tenant’s last known address within 30 days of the tenant vacating the unit. If the itemized list contains actual costs of repair or replacement, the landlord must also provide paid receipts with the itemized list. If the list contains estimated costs, the landlord has an additional 30 days to provide paid receipts.
If the landlord does not provide the itemized list and paid receipts, they may not withhold any of the deposit for property damage and must return the deposit within 45 days after the tenant vacates the unit. If the landlord provides the list and receipts, but the deductions do not account for the full deposit, the landlord must return the remainder to the tenant within 45 days after the tenant vacates.
Urbana law specifically states that a landlord cannot deduct for painting and carpet cleaning unless the tenant damages the walls and carpet beyond ordinary wear and tear. If a landlord fails to provide the itemized statement, does so in bad faith, or fails to return the security deposit within 45 days, the tenant has a claim for twice the deposit due, plus attorney’s fees and costs.
Summary of Illinois Security Deposit Law
Illinois security deposit law varies greatly based on the location of a rental unit and, to some extent, the size of the building and whether the owner also lives in the building. However, the amendment to the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act, effective January 1, 2024, has greatly equalized the rights of tenants throughout the state. Tenants in Chicago, Cook County, Urbana, and DeKalb have especially robust rights that allow tenants to aggressively pursue their landlord when the deposit is stolen.If your unit is in Cook County and you would like an evaluation, click here to contact me.