If the repair is required by law, or by the lease, the landlord has 14 days (or less, if it is an emergency) to make the repair. If not, the tenant can "repair and deduct." This means they can pay to have the repair made, and then pay less rent the next month to cover the bill.
If the landlord then tries to evict the tenant for not paying rent, the tenant can have the case dismissed. But only if the tenant follows the rules:
- Notice before: Before they hire someone to make the repair, the tenant must send the landlord a letter demanding that they fix the problem within 14 days. The letter should be signed, copied, and then sent via certified mail.
- Notice after: After the repair is made, the tenant must send the landlord a copy of the paid bill.
- Cost: The repairs must be $500 (or half the monthly rent, whichever is lower) or less. In Chicago, it's whichever number is greater.In Urbana, the cost can be up to 2 months' rent, but only if the tenant first reports the issue to the Building Safety Division.In Evanston, it's whichever number is greater. The amount must be reasonable.
- Professional: The tenant must hire someone who is a licensed, insured, professional. They must do the work in a professional way.
A tenant that lives in the following types of housing cannot repair and deduct:
- Public housing
- Residential cooperative housing
- Commercial tenants
- Residences with six units or less, with the owner living in the property
- Mobile homes located in a mobile home park
A tenant cannot repair and deduct if they caused the damage on purpose or by being careless.
Note: In Chicago, instead of doing repair and deduct, the tenant can reduce the rent they pay by the reduced value of the unit. They must still give 14 days' notice.
There might also be local laws that provide other legal actions the tenant can take. In Chicago, the tenant can terminate the lease with 14 days' notice. The tenant must then move out within 30 days.In Evanston, the tenant can terminate the lease with 30 days' notice.
Essential services and threats to health and safety
Some issues are so severe that they require emergency response. This includes heat, electricity, and things that threaten health and saftey. There may be local laws where you are about things a tenant can do about this, so you should talk to a lawyer if this applies to you. In Chicago, a tenant can find other housing and be excused from rent, withhold rent due to decreased value of property with 24 hours notice, or terminate the lease with 72 hours notice.In Urbana, a tenant can pay for new services and deduct the cost from their rent, or find substitute housing and deduct from the rent the average cost for a hotel room in Urbana.In Evanston, the tenant can terminate the lease after 7 days' notice, pay for new services and deduct the cost from their rent, find substitute housing and sue for the cost, or be excused from rent for that period.In Mount Prospect, the tenant can repair and deduct, find other housing and be excused from rent, withhold rent due to decreased value of property with 24 hours notice, or terminate the lease with 72 hours notice.
Updated: February 2018