County Ordinance Protecting Suburban Residential Renters Takes Effect

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Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison (D-15th) attends a county board meeting. (Photo provided)

Cook County’s Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO) took effect June 1 providing 245,000 suburban Cook County residential renters and their landlords further protections and due process.

The legislation’s principal sponsors were county commissioners Scott Britton (D-14th) and Kevin Morrison (D-15th), both who represent Northwest suburban communities.

Britton and Morrison will host a discussion via Zoom Thursday, June 24 to further explain the new ordinance. They enlisted Journal & Topics Political Editor Tom Robb to moderate that discussion.

“I’m grateful that all suburban Cook County renters now have basic, necessary safeguards,” Morrison said in a written statement. “The RTLO levels the playing field and ensures renters in more than 245,000 suburban households will be protected against unlawful lockouts, landlord retaliation, and exorbitant move-in fees. I’m thankful to my colleagues, housing advocates, and tenants’ rights groups for working hard to pass this ordinance.”

“The RTLO at its core is about access, justice, and equity for one of the more basic human necessities: housing,” Britton said in a written statement. ”With the ordinance going into effect today, after more than 30 years, there is finally tenants’ rights parity and fairness for all Cook County renters.”

Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton (D-14th).

“Today, Cook County takes another step in our fight for fair housing,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a written statement. “The protections included in the RTLO affirm the rights of renters in suburban Cook County who lacked critical protections against lockouts, excessive move-in and late fees, and exorbitant interest rates on rental arrears. For the hundreds of thousands of renters across Cook County, this will mean that more people will be able to stay in their homes at the time they need support the most.”

The county ordinance prohibits some actions by landlords and provides a framework for conflict resolution. 

The ordinance does not apply in the village of Mount Prospect or cities of Chicago and Evanston where those municipalities already have similar legislation enacted. 

Among new rental regulations going into effect June 1, “landlords must provide tenants with additional transparency on move-in fees, utility charges, security deposit locations, who is allowed to enter a unit and more,” a press release said. “Additionally, all tenants must be provided a summary of the RTLO so they know their rights before a lease is signed. Suburban Cook County renters will also have new protections against unmade repairs or uninhabitable homes, excessive late rent fees, short renewal periods, illegal lockouts, and leases that force renters to admit guilt to any issue without due process.” 

Other features of the new ordinance include, “new safeguards and rights, including protections against unreported bed bugs, a two-business day rights to cure non-health and safety issues, and an affirmative defense against claims of retaliation. Suburban Cook County landlords also now have rules for legally and quickly removing tenants who break their lease or cannot pay their rent,” the press release said. Landlords would also not be permitted to enter a rental unit without providing at least 48-hours prior notice, except in emergencies.

Exempt from the ordinance are small owners, and owner-occupied buildings with six units or less, a single-family rented home or condominium if the owner is only renting that one rental property and the owner or an immediate family member has lived in the home within the past 12 months.

Also exempt are single-room occupancy housing developments, units in hotels, motels, rooming houses unless rent is paid on a monthly basis, and the unit is occupied for more than 32 days. School dorm rooms, shelters, employee quarters, non-residential rental properties, and owner-occupied co-ops are also exempt.

The Chicago Association of Realtors opposed the legislation saying, “Chicago adopted its own Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) in 1986. This law has created many problems for housing providers, and it could be argued it has drastically increased the cost of housing throughout the city.”

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