For small problems: Repair and deduct
Small or minor problems are anything that would cost up to $500, or half the monthly rent, whichever is lower, to repair.
If the lease, a local law, or regulation says that the landlord must make certain repairs, the tenant has a right to 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. If the landlord does not make the repairs, the tenant can pay a professional to fix the problem, and deduct the cost of the repair from the next month’s rent.
A landlord cannot evict a tenant for non-payment of rent if the tenant has given the landlord 14 days prior notice and followed the requirements in the Residential Tenant's Right to Repair Act. The landlord has a right to a copy of the paid bill, and the charges must be reasonable for the repairs that were made.
Note: 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
For major problems: Withhold rent (Chicago and Evanston only)
Major problems are anything that costs more than $500 or one half the monthly rent, whichever is greater, to fix. In Chicago and Evanston, if the lease, a local law or regulation says that the landlord must make certain repairs, the tenant can withhold part of the rent if the landlord does not fix the problem within 14 days of the written notice. The tenant can legally pay the landlord the reduced value of the apartment for as long as the problem is not repaired. Withholding rent should only be used as a last resort, and a tenant should talk to a lawyer before trying it.
It is important for the tenant to communicate with the landlord directly to resolve any problems before contacting or involving other people. Involving other people before talking to the landlord can escalate issue. Most problems can be resolved by communicating and exploring possible solutions. The tenant should always tell the landlord immediately of any problems or issues with the property, even if they seem small. Small problems can turn into big problems if they are not addressed in time.