Right to damages under RLTO for undisclosed code violations even if tenant does not move out early

 

 

In this case the Tenant entered into a rental agreement at a property that had code violations cited against it in the previous12 months by the City of Chicago.  The Landlord did not disclose those to the Tenant.  The Landlord was supposed to disclose the violations under the RLTO.  If the Landlord fails to disclose the violations after receipt of a written notice written properly pursuant to the RLTO then the Tenant can recover damages of one month's rent.

 

The Tenant sent the Landlord a written notice and the Landlord did not disclose anything.  The Tenant sued for the month's rent damages.  The trial court dismissed the Tenant's case, deciding that the Tenant could not make any claim about the violations if he had not terminated his lease and moved out because of them.  We appealed this decision for the Tenant.

 

The Appellate Court reversed the dismissal.  The Appellate Court agreed that it was absurd to interpret the RLTO to requre a tenant to incur the costs of moving out in order to make a claim for a violation that the Landlord committed. 

 

The Appellate Court also held that the tenant has to tell the landlord in their written notice that they want to recover a month's rent.  This could be in connection with also terminating the lease early, or not.

Ranjha v. BJB Properties 2013 IL App (1st) 122155              

.pdf of the whole Opinion

 

¶ 21 * * * The end result of our interpretation will be an improvement to the rental housing in the City of Chicago because a material noncompliance will be cured, and, if not, a tenant will be compensated for the noncompliance without facing the great inconvenience of having to vacant the premises if he does not wish to or cannot afford to move. In the case sub judice, forcing a tenant to vacate the premises and surrender possession as a condition precedent to recovering the greater of one month’s rent or actual damages may lead to absurd results if the Code violations, if any, are not considered dire enough to the tenant to justify terminating the lease and finding alternative housing.


¶ 20 In sum, termination of the lease and surrender of the premises to the landlord are not required to recover the greater of one month’s rent or actual damages when a landlord, after receiving the required statutory written notice, has failed to provide a tenant with notice of code violations in accordance with section 5-12-100. We, however, render no opinion regarding the merits of Ranjha’s claim, but only conclude that his cause of action survives a section 2-615 motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the circuit court erred in dismissing Ranjha’s complaint with prejudice.

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