Dekalb Tenant Rights


Around Northern Illinois University, many landlords do not abide by the DeKalb Landlord Tenant Regulations, or LTR.  To tackle this problem, the DeKalb City Council has enacted tough penalties for landlords and big awards for tenants when landlords ignore or try to avoid DeKalb's requirements regarding security deposits.  Prevailing tenants in security deposit suits where the landlord refused to provide proper documentation supporting their deposit withholding at the proper time don't have to pay their attorney, because the law says their landlord has to.  The idea is to  encourage tenants to enforce their own rights, and to encourage landlords to follow the LTR.  The LTR provides for cash awards to tenants whose LTR rights are violated by their landlord. 




     Please note that the DeKalb LTR does not apply to owner-occupied buildings with two or fewer units, or to single family homes.  There are also some other exclusions like college dormitories and charitable homes for the elderly.  But the LTR applies to most landlord-tenant relationships.  Application of the DeKalb LTR is thus even more liberal than the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.  If your landlord is covered by the LTR, keep reading and refer to the LTR excerpts on the right to learn some of the ways your DeKalb landlord could owe you money.


Deposit Interest Due Every Single 12 Months


     Illinois Law requires DeKalb landlords who operate a complex with 25 or more units to pay interest on a tenant's security or pet deposit within 30 days of the end of every single year of tenancy... even in the case of a multiple-year tenancy.  Thus, a landlord who pays two years-worth of interest on a security deposit after a two-year tenancy has broken the law, because interest must be paid at the end of every single year of tenancy.  The interest must also be paid at a specific rate (which is changed each year), and within a specific time frame (within 30 days of the end of every 12-month lease).  Willful failure by a landlord to comply with either of these requirements is a violation of the Illinois state Security Deposit Interest Act that entitles the tenant to an award equal to double their security deposit.


Deposit Return & Withholding


     DeKalb's local rule for deposit return is almost identical to the state law EXCEPT that it applies to many more buildings that the state law does not apply to.  It applies to three and four-unit buildings, and even two-unit buildings if they are not owner occupied.  The state Security Deposit Return Act only applies to buildings with five or more units.

     A DeKalb landlord is required to send to tenants an accounting of what amounts the landlord intends to withhold from a tenant's security deposit within 30 days from the date a tenant vacates (moves out of) their apartment - even if that date is before the last day of the lease.  This distinction is a common cause of confusion amongst landlords, and often results in an accounting statement being sent within 30 days after the end of the lease but not within 30 days of the tenant vacating... a violation of the LTR.  If a landlord has not accounted for any amounts withheld from the deposit within 30 days after the tenant moves out, or failed to provide paid receipts, the landlord must return the entire deposit within 45 days after the tenant vacates.  Refusal to do so entitles the tenant to an award equal to double the amount withheld.


Special DeKalb Lease Rules


     First of all, in DeKalb, all lease agreements must be in writing.  This is not the law statewide.


      Second, DeKalb law prohibits certain lease provisions which are otherwise permissible throughout the state.  That means your landlord cannot enforce these provisions, even though they are written into your lease.  If your landlord attempts to enforce a prohibited lease provision, you are entitled to an award equal to one month's rent.  Also, if it can be proven that your landlord was on notice that a provision in their lease is prohibited, you may be entitled to the award even if your landlord never tries to enforce the prohibited provision.  The most important prohibitions are:


     •  No prohibition on sub-leasing


     •  No waiver of tenants' rights


     •  No stipulation of attorney fees payable only by tenant


     •  No waiver of right to habitability of apartment


     •  No automatic lease renewal clause unless initialed by both parties


Selections from the DeKalb Municipal Code Chapter 10: Landlord Tenant Regulations



a) A landlord who has received a security deposit from a lessee to secure the payment of rent or to compensate for damage to the rental unit may not withhold any part of that deposit as compensation for property damage unless the landlord has, within thirty (30) days of the date that the lessee vacated the premises, furnished to the lessee, delivered in person or by mail directed to his last known address, an itemized statement of the damage allegedly caused to the premises and the estimated or actual cost for repairing or replacing each item on that statement, attaching the paid receipts, or copies thereof, for the repair or replacement. If the landlord utilizes his/her own labor to repair any damage caused by the tenant, the landlord may include the reasonable cost of his/her labor to repair such damage. If estimated cost is given, the landlord shall furnish the tenant with paid receipts, or copies thereof, within thirty (30) days from the date the statement showing estimated cost was furnished to the tenant, as required by this Section. If no such statement and receipts, or copies thereof, are furnished to the tenant as required by this Section, the landlord shall return the security deposit in full within forty-five (45) days of the date that the tenant vacated the

b) Any waiver of the requirements contained herein shall be ineffective unless such waiver is made in writing by every individual tenant. A written authorization signed by any absent tenant shall be sufficient to authorize a waiver.

c) Upon a finding by a circuit court that a lessor has refused to supply the itemized statement required by this Section, or has supplied such statement in bad faith, and has failed or refused to return the amount of the security deposit due within the time limits provided, the lessor shall be liable for an amount equal to twice the amount of the security deposit due, together with court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.




a) The following terms in rental agreements are prohibited and void against public policy:

     1. Waivers of rights, obligations or remedies contained in this Chapter;

     2. Waivers of statutory rights provided under state or federal laws;

     3. Confessions of judgments;

     4. Unilateral entitlements to attorney’s fees by either party.   However, it is permissible for leases to allow for recovery of attorney’s fees to the successful party in litigation;

     5. Prohibitions on subleasing options of a tenant, however, landlords may reject potential sub-lessees for legitimate business reasons or in accordance with a standard screening process;


     6. Automatic renewal of a lease term by reason of the tenant’s failure to renew unless said provision
is specifically initialed by both parties;

     7. Waivers of warranties of habitability of the premises;

b) The terms prohibited herein shall be void against public policy and unenforceable. Any landlord who knowingly attempts to enforce such a prohibited term or includes such a prohibited term in a lease after receiving notice, shall be liable for an amount equal to one (1) month’s rent in addition to compensatory
damages sustained by the tenant, including court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees