In this case the tenants were four Northwestern University students renting a house in Evanston on Hamlin Street.
The tenants gave a $3,300 security deposit. They paid all rent and lived at the house 12 months and moved out the last day of the lease: August 31, 2006.
In envelopes postmarked September 22, 2006 the landlord returned only $606.44 from the $3,300 security deposit. The landlord enclosed a written statement alleging $2,700 in damage and dirtiness.
The tenants were smart, and kept the envelopes. Section 5-3-5-1(C) of the Evanston Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance says:
Section 5-3-5-1(F) says:
The landlord rejected our written demand for return of the tenants' deposit:
We filed the tenant's lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Tenants alleged the landlord's return of the deposit refund and written accounting were one day late, and that the landlord therefore owed the tenants double the amount withheld plus court costs and attorney fees.
At trial the the judge awarded tenants return of another $1,750 from their deposit, plus awarded their court costs against the landlord. The judge also believed that the deposit and accounting were not provided by the landlord within 21 days. But the judge refused to order the landlord to pay the tenants twice the amount wrongfully withheld and the tenants' attorney fees.
The judge said "I don't find one day to be a significant breach of the ordinance."
We appealed to the Illinois Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision. The one day late was enough, so the landlord was found liable for the $1750 plus twice the amount wrongfully withheld plus tenants' attorney fees and court costs. The order from the appellate court is unpublished pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23, and so is not precedent. But it is still interesting.
In Evanston 21 days means 21 days. (Unless that 21st day falls on a weekend or holiday).