Housing Conditions

Substandard housing or inadequately maintained buildings are susceptible to indoor health hazards, including pests and mold, and can lead to health conditions such as asthma or lead poisoning. Tenants are entitled to a housing unit that meets an acceptable level of health and safety and can request reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications to fulfill these standards or be released from their lease under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Who is Eligible

Any tenant living with pests, mold, lead paint, or other hazardous conditions in their home should seek assistance in remedying the condition.

Households with a member suffering from a chronic health condition that qualify as a disability can apply for reasonable accommodations to address the substandard housing condition. 

Substandard housing or inadequately maintained buildings are susceptible to indoor health hazards, including pests and mold, and can lead to health conditions such as asthma or lead poisoning. Tenants are entitled to a housing unit that meets an acceptable level of health and safety and can request reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications to fulfill these standards or be released from their lease under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Why Apply

Tenants can receive assistance in ensuring that their landlord alleviates the substandard housing condition or assistance with being released from a lease or rental agreement.   

To Apply For

There is no set application process for these protections. If an individual's apartment is in a nonlivable condition, contact the Metropolitan Tenants Organization or LAF's conditions program to get help with requesting repairs from the individual's landlord. 

Households in the Chicago Housing Choice Voucher program can call (312) 935-2600 to request a reasonable accommodation. The  Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form can also be accessed online. 

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What is a landlord responsible for?

A landlord has a duty to keep an apartment in good shape and make all necessary repairs. If they fail to do this, a tenant may be able to:

  • Make the repairs themselves and deduct their cost from their rent;
  • Withhold a portion of their rent;
  • Sue their landlord; or
  • Terminate their lease agreement. 

What must a landlord do to maintain the condition of an apartment?

  • Keep the toilet, bathtub, shower, and bathroom sink in good working order;
  • Keep the furnace and boiler in good working order;
  • Keep the windows weatherproof;
  • Keep the floors, walls, and ceilings in good repair;
  • Keep the plumbing fixtures in good repair;
  • Keep the electrical outlets safe and operable;
  • Prevent the accumulation of stagnant water;
  • Keep all of the appliances and supplies in good working order;
  • Ensure the building's foundation, exterior walls, and roof are in good and watertight condition;
  • Provide adequate hall and stairway lighting; 
  • Keep all stairways and porches in a safe and sound condition;
  • Provide trash containers;
  • Protect tenants against rodents and insects by exterminating; and
  • Comply with all other requirements of Chicago’s Municipal Code.

If a landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can a tenant use rent to pay for these repairs?

Yes, but only if the repair will not cost more than $500 or one-half of the rent (whichever is greater). Using rent money to make necessary repairs is called “repairing and deducting.”

How does a tenant “repair and deduct?”

First, a tenant must give the landlord a written notice stating that, unless they make the necessary repairs within 14 days, the tenant will make them himself and deduct their cost from his rent. The tenant should keep a copy of the notice. If a landlord doesn’t make the necessary repairs within 14 days of receiving the notice, a tenant can make the repairs or pay someone else to do it. After giving the landlord paid receipts to confirm the cost of repair, he can deduct this cost from his rent. See sample letter here.

What if a tenant wants to repair a problem in a common area, such as a stairway or hallway?

The tenant must first give all of the other tenants written notice of her plan to make the repair.

If thelandlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can the tenant withhold a portion of her rent?

Yes, but she must first give her landlord a written notice stating that, unless they make the necessary repairs within 14 days, she will withhold a certain portion of her monthly rent payments.

NOTE: A tenant cannot withhold a portion of the rent and “repair and deduct” in the same month.

If a tenant decides to withhold a portion of the rent, exactly how much should they withhold?

The amount a tenant withholds must reasonably reflect the reduced value of the apartment. Be conservative. A tenant cannot withhold all the rent unless the apartment is in such bad shape that they must move, and they can rarely withhold as much as 50%. If they withhold too much, their landlord may be able to evict them for nonpayment of rent. To be safe, consult with an attorney. See “rent reduction” sample letter here.

Can a tenant terminate a lease because their landlord has failed to make necessary repairs?

Yes, but only in very serious cases. Consult with an attorney first.

How can a tenant terminate their lease?

First, they must provide the landlord with written notice that they will terminate the lease in no less than 14 days unless the landlord makes whatever repairs are necessary. If the landlord does not correct the problem within 14 days of receiving this notice, a tenant may terminate their lease agreement. If they terminate the lease, they must move within the next 30 days otherwise their ease will remain in effect. See sample letter here.

If the landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, can the tenant sue them?

Yes, but consult with an attorney first.

Can a tenant make their landlord pay for the cost of repairing a problem they caused?

No.

What if a tenant's landlord fails to provide them with an essential service (such as heat, electricity, or running water)?

See Heat & Other Essential Services.

Does the landlord have to repaint the apartment?

Not unless the paint is cracking or peeling.

Can a tenant sue their landlord if their property is damaged in the landlord's apartment?

Only if the property was damaged as a result of the landlord’s negligence.

Links to Important Resources

SquaredAway helps tenants solve home-related problems with their landlords in the quickest, most effective way possible.

Sample Repair and Deduct Letter.

Rent Reduction Sample Letter.

Terminate Tenancy Sample Letter.

Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form.

Heat & Other Essential Services.


Topics: Housing
Tags: Housing, Housing Hazards, Tenants Rights
Last updated July 18, 2019

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