Aaron Krolik Law Office

Chicago Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance Section 5-12-030 Definitions

Whenever used in this chapter, the following words and phrases shall have the following meanings:

(a)     “Dwelling unit” means a structure or the part of a structure that is used as a home, residence or sleeping place by one or more persons who maintain a household, together with the common areas, land and appurtenant buildings thereto, and all housing services, privileges, furnishings and facilities supplied in connection with the use or occupancy thereof, including garage and parking facilities.

(b)     “Landlord” means the owner, agent, lessor or sublessor, or the successor in interest of any of them, of a dwelling unit or the building of which it is part.

(c)     “Owner” means one or more persons, jointly or severally, in whom is vested all or part of the legal title to property, or all or part of the beneficial ownership and a right to present use and enjoyment of the premises, including a mortgagee in possession.

(d)     “Periodic tenancy” [NEW IN 2020] means a tenancy that continues for successive periods, whether month-to-month or otherwise, unless the landlord or tenant takes affirmative action to terminate the tenancy pursuant to this section.

(e)     “Person” means an individual, corporation, government, governmental subdivision or agency, business trust, estate, trust, partnership or association or any other legal or commercial entity.

(f)     “Premises” means the dwelling unit and the structure of which it is a part, and facilities and appurtenances therein, and grounds, areas and facilities held out for the use of tenants.

(g)     “Rent” means any consideration, including any payment, bonus, benefits or gratuity, demanded or received by a landlord for or in connection with the use or occupancy of a dwelling unit.

(h)     “Rental agreement” means all written or oral agreements embodying the terms and conditions concerning the use and occupancy of a dwelling unit by a tenant.

(i)      “Successor landlord” means any person who follows a landlord in ownership or control of a dwelling unit or the building of which it is a part, and shall include a lienholder who takes ownership or control either by contract, operation of law or a court order.  However, a “successor landlord” shall not include a receiver appointed pursuant to a court order. 

(j)       “Tenant” means a person entitled by written or oral agreement, subtenancy approved by the landlord or by sufferance, to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others.


     Pursuant to Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-030(a), “dwelling unit” is not limited to the apartment or condominium rented by the tenant.  Dwelling Unit also includes the common areas of the building, parking facilities, and mailboxes.  A Chicago landlord has a duty to make disclosures about code violations affecting the “dwelling unit” and common areas under Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-100(a).  Because of the broad scope of “dwelling unit” under this section, a landlord’s duty may extend to disclosure of code violations affecting “appurtenant buildings” to the tenant’s building if those buildings are part of the same complex.

     Pursuant to Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-030(b) a “landlord” includes agents and successors in interest. This broad definition helps relieve tenants of the impossible burden of discovering undisclosed owners.  Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-090 makes an Agent who signs a rental agreement for an undisclosed landlord liable as a landlord themselves.

     Pursuant to Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-030(c) “owner” is broadly defined under the Chicago RLTO. Anyone who has just “part” of the legal title to the property is an “owner,” and thus liable as a “landlord.”  There is no de minimus exception under the Chicago RLTO.  This definition allows Chicago tenants to sue one of many partners or trust beneficiaries for return of the whole security deposit.

     Pursuant to Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-030(d) “person” is defined as any legal entity, human or not.

     Pursuant to Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-030(f) “Rent” is defined as anything a landlord gets in exchange for letting the tenant stay in their apartment.      

     Pursuant to Chicago RLTO Section 5-12-030(g) a “rental agreement” does not have to be in writing.



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