Chicago Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance
Section 5-12-140 Rental Agreement
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;
(b) Authorizes any person to confess judgment on a claim arising out of the rental agreement;
(c) Agrees to the limitation of any liability of the landlord or tenant arising under law;
(d) Agrees to waive any written termination of tenancy notice or manner of service thereof provided under state law or this chapter;
(e) Agrees to waive the right of any party to a trial by jury;
(f) Agrees that in the event of a lawsuit arising out of the tenancy the tenant will pay the landlord's attorney's fees except as provided for by court rules, statute, or ordinance;
(g) Agrees that either party may cancel or terminate a rental agreement at a different time or within a shorter time period than the other party, unless such provision is disclosed in a separate written notice;
(h) Agrees that a tenant shall pay a charge, fee or penalty in excess of $10.00 per month for the first $500.00 in monthly rent plus five percent per month for any amount in excess of $500.00 in monthly rent for the late payment of rent;
(i) Agrees that, if a tenant pays rent before a specified date or within a specified time period in the month, the tenant shall receive a discount or reduction in the rental amount in excess of $10.00 per month for the first $500.00 in monthly rent plus five percent per month for any amount in excess of $500.00 in monthly rent.
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.
This section of the RLTO outlines what Chicago leases covered by the RLTO cannot contain. Under RLTO 140, if a landlord attempts to enforce, or actually does enforce a provision prohibited by this section, the tenant may recover damages equal to two-months' rent.
Subsection (a) is a blanket provision that opens all kinds of possibilities to tenants seeking to recover exemplary damages against their landlords. This subsection makes illegal all lease provisions that waive tenants rights under ANY other section of the entire RLTO.
The most popular subsection under RLTO 140 is (h), which prescribes the formula for late rent fees (or early payment bonuses). Some are legal, some are not. It depends on the amount of rent. The following chart only addresses the specifically identified rent amounts, as reference-points, and should not be relied on for computing late fees. Consult an attorney.
If a tenant has an unlawfully excessive late fee in their lease, this section literally reads that the whole illegal-late fee provision is unenforceable and no late fee is allowed. A Chicago landlord's attempt to enforce the illegal late fee entitles the tenant to damages of two-months' rent.