5 Huge Tips for Tenants & Landlords under the Chicago RLTO

1. The City of Chicago has a written law that governs renter and landlord rights.

  • This Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance ("RLTO”) is the governing law in Chicago.  You may not even realize that this law applies to you. The Chicago RLTO is the guide to both tenant and landlord legal rights.
  • The RLTO applies to condominium units, town homes, single family homes, and apartments subject to certain exclusions in Section 5-12-020. The most common exclusion is “dwelling units in owner-occupied buildings containing six (6) units or less.”

2. No matter what you sign and agree to in writing, the RLTO trumps your rental agreement.

The Chicago RLTO is above anything you’ve agreed to in writing. Most Chicago tenants feel that because they’ve signed something, it is enforceable against them. This is not the case!  

According to RLTO Section 5-12-140(a): “Except as otherwise specifically provided by this chapter, no rental agreement may provide that the landlord or tenant: (a) Agrees to waive or forego rights, remedies or obligations provided under this chapter;


A provision prohibited by this section included in a rental agreement is unenforceable. The tenant may recover actual damages sustained by the tenant because of the enforcement of a prohibited provision. If the landlord attempts to enforce a provision in a rental agreement prohibited by this section the tenant may recover two months’ rent.”


Based on this section, security deposits in Chicago are 100% protected to receive interest annually.  Please feel free to contact Aaron Krolik Law Office, P.A. in Chicago to learn more.

3. The RLTO Summary is 4 Pages.

  • When you receive your rental agreement, renewal, or oral lease, you must receive an official RLTO Summary.
  • The official RLTO Summary is four (4) pages with the City of Chicago city seal and Rahm Emanuel’s name at the top. If you didn’t get these exact four (4) pages – you didn’t get the legal RLTO Summary.
  • Landlords tend to use their own forms and may be writing their own interpretation of the law, thus omitting important sections that outline RLTO rights in the Summary.
  • Tenants whose Landlords violate this section may legally terminate their lease and recover $100.00 pursuant to RLTO Section 5-12-170.

4. The Separate Summary is 2 Pages.

  • In addition to the RLTO Summary, when you receive your rental agreement, renewal, or oral lease, you must receive an official, 2 page “Separate Summary” containing security deposit rights and listing the current and previous two (2) years security deposit interest rates in Chicago.
  • Even if the Tenant didn’t pay a security deposit, the Separate Summary shall be given, whether it’s a new lease, a renewal, or an oral lease. You must get BOTH summaries, with the city seal.
  • Landlords use their own forms and may be writing their own interpretation of the law, thus omitting important sections that outline RLTO rights in the Separate Summary.
  • Tenants whose Landlords violate this section may legally terminate their lease and recover $100.00 pursuant to RLTO Section 5-12-170.


5. The Chicago RLTO is a "fee-shifting" Ordinance.

The RLTO gives both tenants and landlords the right to reasonable attorney fees and costs if you are the “prevailing party." 

  • RLTO Section 5-12-180; Attorneys Fees – “Except in cases of forcible entry and detainer actions, the prevailing plaintiff in any action arising out of a landlord’s or tenant’s application of the rights or remedies made available in this ordinance shall be entitled to all court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees; provided, however, that nothing herein shall be deemed or interpreted as precluding the awarding of attorney’s fees in forcible entry and detainer actions in accordance with applicable law or as expressly provided in this ordinance.”
  • Be very weary of tenants rights organizations or tenants rights groups, who are not actual lawyers, and may not steer you in the right direction.