Getting Your Security Deposit Back in Chicago

Getting Your Security Deposit Back in Chicago

Last updated: March 2012

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Your landlord must return your security deposit within 45 days after you move out. Your landlord can deduct rent you owe them from your deposit, including your last month's rent. Your landlord can also deduct from your deposit some or all of the cost of repairing damage that you or your guests caused. Your landlord cannot keep your deposit for normal wear and tear to the apartment.Within 30 days after you move out, your landlord must give you a written statement describing any damage to the property if they want to deduct repair costs from your security deposit. The landlord must list the actual or estimated cost of repair and give receipts for repairs.Remember: You can be evicted if you try to use your security deposit as rent.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.Can my landlord keep my security deposit? Yes. The landlord can deduct rent you owe her/him from your deposit, including your last month's rent. You can be evicted if you try to use your security deposit as rent. Your landlord can also deduct from your deposit some or all of the costs of repairing damage that you or your guests caused. Your landlord cannot keep your deposit for normal wear and tear to the apartment. Does the landlord have to send me a written statement of damages? Yes. Chicago law requires that within 30 days after you move out, your landlord must give you a written statement describing any damage to your apartment that he believes you caused. He must do this if the landlord wants to deduct repair costs from your security deposit. Your landlord must list the actual or estimated cost of repair and give receipts for repairs. Your landlord does not have to send you a statement if your landlord kept the security deposit because you owed rent. When must the landlord return the security deposit? Your landlord must return your security deposit within 45 days after you move out. If your landlord claims that you damaged the apartment, but fails to give you a written statement of the damages, then your landlord still must return your security deposit in full within 45 days. If you moved out because your apartment was damaged in a fire, your landlord must return your security deposit within seven days after you ended your lease. Does the landlord have to pay interest? Yes. Your landlord is required to pay you interest if she has held the security deposit for six or more months. If you stay in your apartment 12 or more months after you signed your first lease, your landlord can choose between paying the interest on your security deposit or reducing your rent for one month by the amount of interest she owes you. After you move out, your landlord must pay you all the interest she owes within 30 days. If you signed your lease in the year: Interest rate is:2012 0.057%2011 0.073%2010 0.073%2009 0.12%2008 1.26%2007 1.68%2006 1.71%2005 1.01%2004 0.42%2003 0.52%2002 0.83%2001 3.10%2000 2.71%1999 2.63%1998 3.38%1997 3.42%1996 5.00%1995 5.00%1994 5.00%Check with the Chicago City Comptroller to find out the rate for other years. You can call the Comptroller's office at 312-744-7752.Do I need to send a letter? Yes. As soon as possible after you move out, send a letter to your landlord asking for your deposit. This will show that you gave the landlord a chance to return the deposit before you sued your landlord. Send the letter by certified mail, and request a return receipt. If the letter is returned by the post office, you should send another copy of the letter to the landlord by regular mail. You must keep a copy of your letter to the landlord and the return receipt showing the landlord's signature. You will need these papers if you sue your landlord. Go to the "Forms/Letters" section to view a form of a letter that you can send to your landlord.What amount can I sue for? You can sue your landlord for the amount of your security deposit that the landlord improperly failed to return to you in 45 days. You can also sue for the costs of going to court to get your security deposit. Also, Chicago law allows you to sue your landlord for twice the amount of your security deposit if your landlord has improperly withheld your deposit.What information do I need to have before I sue my landlord? You need to have the correct name and address of your landlord. You will list your landlord as the defendant in the case. You should list the owner of the building as a defendant. Also, you should list the manager of the building as a defendant if the manager received and held your security deposit.How do I find out the name of the owner of the building? If you do not know the name of the owner, you can find this information online or check the records kept at the Cook County Building at 118 North Clark Street in Chicago. For both an online search or a search of the records, you need to obtain the Property Identification Number (PIN) for the building. You may look up the PIN on the Cook County Treasurer's website or in the Cook County Treasurer's office on the first floor of the County Building.After you have obtained the PIN, you can search the Cook County Recorder of Deeds' website under "Property Identification Number (PIN) Search" for information about the property, including the owner's name. You can also use the title search index computers at the office of the Recorder of Deeds to find this information. The office of the Recorder of Deeds is located in room 120 at the Cook County Building. You may ask the staff at the office of the Recorder of Deeds to assist you in obtaining the name of the owner.How do I start a lawsuit? You need to prepare a summons and a complaint to start your lawsuit. The complaint explains why you believe that you should be able to get your security deposit back, plus any added money you believe that you are owed. The summons lets your landlord know that he or she must appear in court on a specific date to answer the charges you are bringing against him. Go to the "Forms/Letters" section to prepare a summons and a complaint. You can also get a summons form from the Cook County Court Clerk. After you have completed the summons and complaint, you will file them with the court clerk's office.Where do I file a lawsuit? You may file a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Circuit Court has a separate branch, known as "Pro Se Court," for persons who sue their landlords without an attorney. The court is located at the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, in Chicago. In Room 602 of the Daley Center, there is a counter marked "Pro Se Court." You may sue in Pro Se Court for up to $1,500. If you want to sue for an amount greater than $1,500, you should talk to an attorney. To learn more about going to pro se court, see the information listed under "Related Articles."Is there a fee to file a lawsuit? Yes. You must pay a fee of $111.00 to file a lawsuit in Pro Se Court if your claim is between $1,001 to $1,500. You also must pay a fee of $9.92 for sending the papers to one defendant by certified mail. If you do not pay, the court can dismiss your suit. If you cannot afford to pay the fees, the court may waive the fees, so that you do not have to pay. To learn more about waiving court costs, see the information under "Related Articles."Should I sue? Things to think about are:How much will it cost you?How much is the amount you are owed?How much time will you have to take off from work?Does the landlord have an attorney?What could the landlord bring up in court against you?If you decide to file a lawsuit, your landlord can also file claims she may have against you such as damage to the apartment, unpaid rent, moving out without the required notice and any other claims that may have cost the landlord money.How should I prepare for court? If you decide to sue your landlord for the return of your security deposit, when you go to court you should take any documents and materials related to your security deposit, such as:Your receipt showing that you paid the security deposit to the landlordYour cancelled check or money order copyYour lease, if you have oneYour letter to the landlord asking for the return of your security depositThe return receipt "green card" showing that the landlord got your letterTo learn more about going to court, review the information under "Related Articles."When can a person sue to get their security deposit back? You should wait for 45 days after you have moved out and returned the keys to your landlord before you bring a lawsuit. However, you must bring your lawsuit within two years.Send a Letter to Your Landlord As soon as you move out, send the Security Deposit Demand Letter to your landlord asking for your deposit. Send the letter by certified mail, and request a return receipt. If the letter is returned by the post office, send another copy of the letter to the landlord by regular mail. Keep a copy of the letter and the return receipt showing the landlord's signature.Wait 45 Days for the Landlord to Return Your Security Deposit Your landlord must return your security deposit within 45 days after you move out. You should wait for 45 days after you have moved out and returned the keys to your landlord before you bring a lawsuit.Get Information About Your Landlord, Building Owner and Building Manager Make sure you have the correct name and address of your landlord.If your building manager held your security deposit then you will also need his or her correct name and address.If you do not know the name of the building owner, you should check records kept at the Cook County Building at 118 North Clark Street in Chicago. You need to get the Property Identification Number (PIN) for the building. You may look up the PIN at the office of the Cook County Treasurer in room 112 of the County Building. After you have the PIN, use the title search index computers at the office of the Recorder of Deeds. The office of the Recorder of Deeds is located in room 120 at the Cook County Building. The title search index will show you the name of the current owner. You may ask the staff at the office of the Recorder of Deeds to help you find the name of the owner.Prepare Your Forms Prepare your Security Deposit Complaint using the interview in the "Forms/Letters" section of this guide. Make sure you have at least 3 copies (plus one for each additional defendant) of the Complaint.Attach copies of these documents to your Complaint: - Receipt for security deposit or lease - Demand LetterFile Your Case in Court You may file a lawsuit in the Pro Se Court at the Circuit Court of Cook County if your claim is $1,500 or less. The court is located at the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, in Chicago. In Room 602 of the Daley Center, there is a desk marked "Pro Se Court."Bring all copies of your Complaint with the attachments. At the Pro Se Court desk, the Clerk will give you a "Return Date." The Return Date is the date when the defendant must file an appearance with the court. You do not go to court on the Return Date! The Clerk will also give you a "Trial Date." The Trial Date is your court date. On that day you must appear in front of a Judge for your hearing. The Trial Date is two weeks after the Return Date. The Pro Se Court desk will prepare a Summons form for you. The Return Date and Trial Date will be written on the Summons.Serve the Defendants with the Summons When you sue someone you must give them official notice of the lawsuit. If you sue someone but you do not give them proper notice, they may be able to have the lawsuit dismissed.In Pro Se Court, the clerk's office will send the Summons and Complaint to the defendant by certified mail. If the defendant does not sign the receipt for the certified mail then you must have the sheriff's office serve the Summons and Complaint on the defendant.Go to Your Court Date Go to Courtroom 1308 of the Daley Center on your Trial Date, which is shown on the Summons. Take all the remaining copies of your forms to court, and the originals of any attachments, including:Your receipt showing that you paid the security deposit to the landlord.Your cancelled check or money order copy.Your lease, if you have one. Your letter to the landlord asking for the return of your security deposit.The return receipt 'green card' showing that the landlord got your letter.Arrive at court around 9:00 a.m. to sign in. There will be a list of cases on a bulletin board outside the court room. Find your case and write down the "line number." This is the number to the left of your case name. If your case isn't on the list check with the clerk inside the court room. Court begins at 9:30. Sit in the back of the court room and wait for your case to be called by the clerk. You may have to come back to court one or more times. The judge will decide if the case is ready for a trial or if the case must be "continued" (rescheduled). If you have the trial and win the case, the judge will award you a "Judgment." A Judgment is a court order stating that the defendant owes you a certain amount of money. If the defendant does not voluntarily pay you the amount owed, you will need to take further steps in court to collect the judgment. You should contact a legal aid office or a private attorney about how to collect a judgment.

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