Chicago Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance
Section 5-12-160 Prohibition on interruption of tenant occupancy by landlord
It is unlawful for any landlord or any person acting at his direction knowingly to oust or dispossess or threaten or attempt to oust or dispossess any tenant from a dwelling unit without authority of law, by plugging, changing, adding or removing any lock or latching device; or by blocking any entrance into said unit; or by removing any door or window from said unit; or by interfering with the services to said unit; including but not limited to electricity, gas, hot or cold water, plumbing, heat or telephone service; or by removing a tenant's personal property from said unit; or by the removal or incapacitating of appliances or fixtures, except for the purpose of making necessary repairs; or by the use or threat of force, violence or injury to a tenant's person or property; or by any act rendering a dwelling unit or any part thereof or any personal property located therein inaccessible or uninhabitable. The foregoing shall not apply where:
(a) A landlord acts in compliance with the laws of Illinois pertaining to forcible entry and detainer and engages the sheriff of Cook County to forcibly evict a tenant or his personal property; or
(b) A landlord acts in compliance with the laws of Illinois pertaining to distress for rent; or
(c) A landlord interferes temporarily with possession only as necessary to make needed repairs or inspection and only as provided by law; or
(d) The tenant has abandoned the dwelling unit, as defined in Section 5-12-130(e).
Whenever a complaint of violation of this provision is received by the Chicago Police Department, the department shall investigate and determine whether a violation has occurred. Any person found guilty of violating this section shall be fined not less then $200.00 nor more than $500.00, and each day that such violation shall occur or continue shall constitute a separate and distinct offense for which a fine as herein provided shall be imposed. If a tenant in a civil legal proceeding against his landlord establishes that a violation of this section has occurred he shall be entitled to recover possession of his dwelling unit or personal property and shall recover an amount equal to not more than two months' rent or twice the actual damages sustained by him, whichever is greater. A tenant may pursue any civil remedy for violation of this section regardless of whether a fine has been entered against the landlord pursuant to this section.
This section of the RLTO forbids landlords from changing the locks or otherwise blocking access to the unit or interfering with the utilities without first getting an order of eviction from the court and using legal process, like the sheriff.
Even threatening to take the above actions is prohibited. The landlord can be fined by the city for such violations, and the tenant can recover two-months' rent damages or two-times their actual damages, whatever is greater.
The landlord does not have to be cited by the city for violations of this section in order for the renter to recover damages of two-months' rent.