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Repair Problems

If you think you smell a gas leak call 800-755-6000

Any time you have a repair problem, or any property maintenance issue including roach, bed bug or rodent infesation, report it in writing to your landlord. Describe the problem completely. Don't just say the toilet is broken. Does it leak? Is it running? Does it take a half hour for the tank to re-fill? The more clear your explanation, the easier it will be for the landlord to arrange repair service.>

Be persistent if you do not get a response to your initial request.

Call the landlord and send a second written request through Certified Return-Receipt Mailing (about $5).

If your landlord fails or refuses to perform repairs, you have the following options:

For best results, try all three options if applicable.

Residential Tenants' Right to Repair Act

The Residential Tenants' Right to Repair Act 765 ILCS 742/1 - 742/30 enables tenants under certain circumstances, to use rent money to pay for repairs that are required by law or by the lease if the landlord fails to perform the repairs within 14 days after receiving notice by certified or registered mail. Read this section carefully and check with the Tenant Union to be certain that you are following the law. The risk is severe if you make a mistake. If you use rent money to perform repairs in any manner not allowed by law, you will face eviction and serious damage to your credit record.

Certain Tenants may not use this Law

This law does not apply to public housing, condominiums, not for profit corporations organized for the purpose of residential cooperative housing, non-residential tenancies, owner-occupied rental property containing 6 or fewer dwelling units or to any dwelling unit that is subject to the Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant Rights Act.

The tenant may not repair at the landlord's expense if the condition was caused by the tenant, a member of the tenant's family, or any other person on the premises with the tenant's consent.

Specific Requirements of the Right to Repair Act

1. The repair must be required by law or by your lease. Check with the Tenant Union to find out whether your repair need is required by law or by your lease.

2. The amount you spend on the repair is limited to $500 or half of one month's rent -- whichever is the lower amount and the cost of the repair may not exceed the reasonable price customarily charged for such repair.

3. You must notify the landlord in writing by registered or certified mail of your intention to have the repair made at the landlord's expense.

4. You must wait 14 days after notice is given to the landlord before you have the work done.

5. The work must be done by an appropriate tradesperson or supplier unrelated to the tenant who holds a valid license or certificate required by State or municipal law to make the repair and who is adequately insured to cover any bodily harm or property damage that is caused by the negligence or substandard performance of the repairs.

6. After submitting to the landlord the paid bill for the repair, along with the name, address and telephone number of the tradesperson or supplier who provided the repair service, the tenant may deduct from the rent the cost of the repair, not to exceed the limits specified by this law.

Emergencies

"Emergencies include conditions that will cause irreparable harm to the apartment or any fixture attached to the apartment if not immediately repaired or any condition that poses an immediate threat to the health or safety of any occupant of the dwelling or common areas." (765 ILCS 742/5)

If a repair is an emergency, as defined above, the repair may be performed after notice is given to the landlord without waiting an additional 14 days. CAUTION: you must be absolutely certain that the repair need really is an emergency if you do not wait the 14 days. An error in judgment about what constitutes an emergency could cost you thousands of dollars, eviction and serious damage to your credit record. It is best to check with the Tenant Union before you assume a serious repair need is an emergency. Many serious problems that a reasonable person would expect to be fixed within 24 hours do not constitute an emergency as defined above. For example, mold is not an emergency, even if you are allergic to it.

Responsibilities of the Tenant

The tenant is responsible for any damages to the premises caused by the tradesperson or supplier hired by the tenant.

The tenant will not be entitled to the remedies provided for in this law if the tenant does not comply with all of the requirements of the law. The tenant may not assert as a defense to an action for rent or eviction that the rent was withheld under this law unless the tenant meets all the requirements provided for in this law.

If you live in Urbana

If you live in the City of Urbana, Urbana law allows you to use up to two months rent for repair and deduct, and some properties exempted under state law are covered by Urbana law; however, Urbana's repair-deduct law applies only to code violations cited by the city inspector and the time period is different.

Under Urbana's law, a tenant may not use rent money for repairs until after the housing inspector's deadline for compliance or any extension of that deadline has expired. The deadline is usually 15 days, but for certain violations, the city gives shorter deadlines.

The Urbana city inspector will give no more than 3 days to correct:
(a) Defective, dangerous or nonfunctioning plumbing, electrical, gas or other utility
(b) No heat or a malfunctioning heating system
(c) Blocked or locked fire exits
(d) Burned out or inoperable lights in hallways, stairwells, entry ways, parking areas or common areas
(e) Serious structural problems that render the premises uninhabitable
(f) Unsanitary or unhealthy conditions of such a magnitude that they pose an imminent health threat to the occupants and/or nearby dwellings.

The Urbana city inspector will give no more than 5 days to correct:
(a) Broken or missing locks on windows or doors
(b) Broken door frame, door or window
(c) Lack of hot water
(d) Inoperable toilet
(e) Leaking pipes or plumbing fixtures
(f) Inoperable or missing smoke detectors
(g) Inoperable or missing carbon monoxide detectors
(h) Inoperable oven/range or refrigerator
(i) Leaking roof that poses a safety or health risk
(j) Torn or missing screens (in the summer and fall)
(k) Broken or malfunctioning air conditioning (in hot weather).

Before you repair and deduct under Urbana's law, you must have a city inspection, send the landlord written notice of your intent to repair and deduct and wait until the deadline date stated on the notice of violation issued by the city. For more information, go to the section entitled "Repair and Deduct" in the Urbana City Code (Chapter 12.5-23). If you live in Urbana, you may use either the Urbana city code provisions or the Residential Tenant's Right to Repair Act.

Housing Inspectors and City Codes

If your housing unit is located in a city that has adopted property maintenance and life safety codes, you may be able to get assistance from the City government to persuade your landlord to perform needed repairs. Within the city limits of Champaign and Urbana, a wide variety of repair needs are covered by city codes, although every repair problem is not a code violation.

Covered by Codes (A few examples)

Illinois state law requires that after January 1, 2007 a "Carbon Monoxide" alarm must be installed in all dwelling units within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes, unless the building is exclusively electric (no gas appliances) and does NOT have an attached garage.

Not Covered by Codes

You should notify your landlord of any problems and give him/her a reasonable amount of time to make repairs before asking the city to inspect for code violations. When considering what is reasonable, keep in mind that if you do have to get the city involved, the city will give the landlord a minimum of 30 days to comply with any notice of violation, except the few violations listed above under "if you live in Urbana."

Champaign - Department of Neighborhood Services

102 N. Neil Street, Champaign: 217-403-7070

You can request an inspection online. On your complaint, you should list everything that you want the inspector to look at. The city will contact your landlord to see if he/she wants to be present for the inspection. Inspections are usually conducted three working days after you file your complaint. The office is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Urbana - Building Safety Division of Community Development

400 S. Vine St., First Floor, Urbana: 217-384-2436

You need to appear in person to file a written complaint and arrange for an inspection. The office is in the City Building at 400 S. Vine St., across the street from Lincoln Square. Inspections are usually conducted the day after you file your complaint. Be sure to include on your complaint everything that you want the inspector to examine. The office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. People with disabilities for whom personal appearance at the office would be difficult should telephone 384-2436. (The office is wheelchair accessible).

If violations of code are cited by the city inspectors, your landlord will receive a written notice with a date for correction of the violations. You should request a copy of the notice from the city. Usually, the city will allow the landlord 30 days to complete repairs and the landlord may apply for an extension of time which is likely to be granted for most major items.

Rental Registration is now required for all rental housing in Urbana.

The existence of code violations does not "break" your lease. The city does have the power to declare the place "unfit for human habitation," but that does not happen often. In a few cases, where the tenant has leased "an apartment" in a building or complex - or where the lease has a relocation clause, the lease isn't broken even if the apartment is condemned, as long as the landlord offers another apartment under the terms described in the lease.

If you are considering withholding rent or moving out of a place because of repair problems covered by codes, consult with the attorney at law who will represent you in court when the landlord sues you for non-payment of the rent.

Roaches, Bed Bugs, & Other Pests

Signs you have bed bugs:

○    Waking up with red bites that are usually in a line or semi-circle
○    Small red stains or smears on your sheets, mattress, or other furniture near your bed
○    Black spots that look like mold (bed bug droppings)
○    Seeing the actual bug (about the size & shape of an apple seed), eggs, or shed skin

Bed Bugs (not actual size)

What you can do RIGHT NOW:

○ Pull your bed away from the wall
○ Wrap duct tape, sticky side out, around the bed legs to keep bed bugs from climbing up
○ Wash clothes and bedding & put in the dryer on high heat for at least 20 minutes (heat is very effective in eliminating bed bugs); do this for bed linens once a week.
○ After removing items from the dryer, store them in plastic bags
○ Vacuum on a regular basis
○ Remove things from around the bed

Do not use bug bombs—they are not effective on bed bugs, and will encourage the bugs to spread to other apartments to get away from the fog.

What you should ask your landlord to do:

○ Buy a bed bug cover for your mattress and box spring
○ Caulk all cracks and crevices, such as along the baseboards and around windows
○ Steam clean the carpets and upholstered furniture
○ Exterminate using a licensed exterminator (generally, it will take more than 1 treatment  AND all of the other suggestions here should be implemented)
○ Explain to the landlord that it is much cheaper to eliminate bed bugs while they are contained in one apartment, than to wait until there is a problem in several (or all) apartments in the building.  Bedbugs are excellent hitchhikers, and move around easily.  Treatment can run anywhere between $400-1200 per apartment.

You can also let others know there is a bed bug problem at your building by registering at www.bedbugregistry.com

In most cases, your landlord will be responsible for extermination to eliminate pests but there are some exceptions. If you are identified as the cause of the infestation, the landlord might refuse to exterminate or will charge you for extermination. If the building has roaches and you are a very bad housekeeper, the landlord might even try to charge you the cost of exterminating the entire building. With bed bugs, if you discover them soon after first moving in, it's hard for the landlord to blame you. But a few months after you move in, the landlord might say you brought the bed bugs into the apartment. Given that bed bugs can be dormant for several months AND they can travel on the pants of workers or people to whom the landlord shows the apartment for leasing, it's hard to establish who brought in the bed bugs. Tenant Union would encourage a landlord to exterminate for any pests, including bed bugs, to prevent the problem from spreading to other units. Including a pest control clause in your lease increases the likelihood that you will get the landlord to provide and pay for pest control when needed. In the cities of Champaign and Urbana, the property maintenance codes require a landlord to exterminate before leasing and to eliminate infestation if it is in more than one apartment.

Filing a Complaint in the Tenant Union

If your landlord fails or refuses to perform a repair required by your lease or by law (including housing codes) you may file a complaint at the Tenant Union. The Tenant Union will send a copy of the complaint to the landlord with a request for a response. Tenant Union staff will follow up with the landlord to encourage a swift response.

While the Tenant Union has no enforcement power, most area landlords realize that more than 4,000 prospective tenants check landlord complaint records every year. Once a landlord receives a copy of your complaint, s/he knows that the complaint will be part of this record. If the landlord responds quickly and performs the repairs, that will look much better in the record than if the landlord delays. Consequently, many landlords who ignore tenants' requests for maintenance change their tunes quickly when they hear from the Tenant Union. Don't hesitate to contact us if your landlord is not responding to your reasonable requests. TENANT UNION HOURS AND LOCATIONS

Check Your Lease about Charges for Repairs

Be careful about requesting repairs for which you will be charged. Check your lease to see what it says. A growing number of landlords charge tenants who call them about stopped up toilets if the problem is solved by plunging.

Check your circuit breaker or fuse box before calling the landlord about loss of electrical power. Many landlords also charge for these calls.

Tenant's Radon Protection Act

This is a new law - 420 ILCS 46/25 requiring disclosure of radon hazard under certain circumstances.

Sec. 25. Disclosure of Radon hazard to current and prospective tenants.

    (a) A lessor of a dwelling unit shall disclose to lessees the existence of a radon hazard consistent with the provisions of this Section. For the purposes of this Section, "dwelling unit" means a room or suite of rooms used for human habitation and for which a lessor and a lessee have a written lease agreement.
    (b) The provisions of this Section apply only to dwelling units located below the third story above ground level.
    (c) If a current lessee has provided in writing to the lessor the results of a radon test that indicate that a radon hazard exists in a dwelling unit covered by this Section, then the lessor shall disclose in writing to any individual seeking to enter into a lease of that dwelling unit that a radon test has indicated that a radon hazard may exist in the dwelling unit. After receiving a notification of a radon test that indicates a radon hazard, the lessor may choose to conduct a radon test in the dwelling unit. If the lessor's radon test indicates that a radon hazard does not exist on the premises, the lessor shall not be required to disclose that a radon hazard exists in the dwelling unit.
    (d) If a lessor conducts a radon test in a dwelling unit and the radon test indicates that a radon hazard exists in the dwelling unit, the lessor shall disclose in writing to the current lessee, and any individual seeking to enter into a lease of that dwelling unit, the existence of a radon hazard in the dwelling unit.
    (e) If a lessor has undertaken mitigation activities and a subsequent radon test indicates that a radon hazard does not exist in the dwelling unit, then the lessor is not required to provide the disclosure required by this Section.
    (f) Nothing in this Section shall be construed to require a lessor to conduct radon testing.

 

The Tenant Union does not provide legal services of any kind. All information provided in this publication is intended to help the average person prevent problems and deal with common concerns of renting. When legal help is needed, always consult with an attorney at law.