As the Cook County Board seeks to push through legislation extending Chicago’s Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) to the suburbs (not Evanston nor Mt. Prospect, which have their own ordinances in place), the NBOA is advocating for constructive changes which will lessen its potentially dire impact on good housing providers.

Key Talking Points
  • Do not rush into adopting this legislation until all the possible unintended consequences are thoroughly analyzed. The vast majority of its provisions have nothing to do with COVID so there’s no need to rush to enactment. This legislation is vast and complicated and we need time to make sure it is done right.
  • The legislation as is will end up hurting tenants more than it helps them, as it will shrink the supply of affordable housing and increase rents. Though the proposed legislation purports to help tenants, a number of provisions will only serve to drive good operators out of business or force them to raise rents to cover the costs of complying with the legislation.
  • Chicago’s Landlord Tenant Ordinance, upon which the County ordinance is modeled, has resulted in unfair and unjust consequences for Chicago’s housing providers. The assertion that “good landlords” have nothing to worry about is simply not true (Note: share your personal experiences here)
Legislative Goals
  • Eliminate the mandatory penalty provisions that deprive judges of their ability to use their discretion when assessing penalties and attorney fees. Most of the penalty and attorney fee provisions in the ordinance are mandatory, depriving judges of the ability to distinguish between serious and intentional violations of the ordinance and violations that are minor, unintentional technical mistakes that do little to no harm to the tenant (so-called “gothca” provisions). For the same reasons we shun mandatory sentencing in criminal cases, we should not restrict a judge’s ability to mete out fair and just penalties and determine if attorney’s fees are warranted. 
  • Restore the ability of housing providers to assess move-in fees. Parties should have the freedom to enter into contracts and negotiate terms. Tenants often prefer paying move-in fees as an alternative to security deposits as they offer less upfront cost than requiring a security deposit equal to one or two times the first month’s rent.
  • Restore the 10-day notice requirement for material breaches of leases. The ordinance’s proposed 30-day notice requirement unnecessarily prolongs the misconduct that resulted in the material breach and causes more disruption to other tenants in the building, the surrounding community and the owner of the building (e.g., an unauthorized “guest” engaged in illegal conduct can cause more damage and disruption in 30 days than in 10).
  • Eliminate the across-the-board $10 late fee limit and instead adopt the Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance formula, which imposes a $10 fee on the first $500 in rent and a 5% fee on rent above $500. A $10 late fee, regardless of the amount of rent owed, serves as a disincentive to tenants to pay their rent on time, hurting housing providers’ ability to maintain their buildings and cover their other expenses. It also discourages housing providers from renting to those whose credit history reveals a higher risk of late payments.