If you rent an apartment, house or room located in the City of Urbana, you have certain rights and obligations provided under Chapter 12.5 of the Urbana City Code, "Landlord-Tenant Relationships." This law applies only if you live within the corporate limits of Urbana. If you rent outside city limits or in Champaign, Savoy or anywhere else in Illinois, this law does not apply to your rental situation.
Following is an explanation of the provisions of the Ordinance. These include privacy and access, prohibited lease clauses, security deposit refund and interest, remedies for dealing with code violations, and certain requirements affecting oral leases, abandonment, eviction and late fees and other charges. For a copy of the exact text of the law, go to the City of Urbana web site.
Privacy and Access
Your landlord has the right to enter your apartment, house or room either with your permission, or after giving you notice as required by Urbana law. A tenant can be sued in court and the lease could be terminated for denying the landlord access. The landlord has the right to enter to inspect, make needed or requested repairs, supply services, to show the place to prospective buyers or tenants, or to make alterations or improvements if the work does not interfere with the tenant's use of the place.
Except in case of an emergency, or with the tenant's permission, a landlord can enter a rental unit in Urbana only between the hours of 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. on weekdays or between the hours of 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. on weekends, and only after giving the tenant 24 hours notice. Exceptions are allowed for repairs and for showing the unit, as explained below.
From the time that either the landlord or the tenant notifies the other party that the rental agreement will not be renewed, the landlord shall have the right to access, without twenty-four (24) hours advance notice, for the purpose of showing the rental unit to prospective tenants, provided that:
(1) The rental unit has not already been leased for the twelve (12) month period subsequent to the expiration of the rental agreement;
(2) The landlord enters only during two (2) specific one-hour periods on weekdays and three (3) specific one-hour periods on weekends, selected by the tenant from among choices offered by the landlord, during which the landlord will have daily access; and
(3) The landlord shall notify the tenant when the rental unit has been leased for the twelve (12) month period subsequent to the expiration of the rental agreement.
If the tenant requests repairs and the landlord enters the rental unit to perform said repairs within fourteen (14) days of the tenant's initial request, the landlord shall not be obligated to provide the tenant with advance notice of entry. If the landlord fails to perform said repairs within fourteen (14) days of the tenant's initial request, the landlord shall be required to provide the tenant with at least twenty-four (24) hours' advance notice of the entry. The notice shall only be effective for a seven-day period.
Landlord Must Leave a Note
Section 12.5-15(f) states: The landlord or landlord's agents shall enter the rental unit only after knocking on the door and providing the tenant a reasonable opportunity to answer, shall leave the premises in as good condition as when entered, shall clean and remove dirt and debris that result from the performance of maintenance and repairs, shall leave a note indicating the names of the persons who entered the rental unit and shall lock the rental unit when leaving.
Sec. 12.5-16 Remedies for Abuse of Access Rights
(a) If the tenant refuses to allow lawful access, the landlord may obtain injunctive relief to compel access or terminate the rental agreement. If either case, the landlord may recover damages and reasonable attorney's fees.
(b) If the landlord makes an unlawful entry or a lawful entry in an unreasonable manner the tenant may obtain injunctive relief to prevent the recurrence of the conduct and recover an amount equal to not more than two (2) months' rent or the damages sustained, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorney's fees.
(c) If the landlord makes a lawful entry to make alterations or improvements that materially interfere with the tenant's use of the premises or if the landlord makes repeated demands for entry otherwise lawful, but which have the effect of harassing the tenant after being notified in writing by the tenant that the tenant feels harassed by such repeated demands, the tenant may obtain injunctive relief to prevent the recurrence of the conduct or terminate the rental agreement. In each case, the tenant may recover two (2) months' rent or the damages sustained, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorney's fees. The provisions of this section shall not apply to alterations or improvements done by the landlord to correct cited housing code violations, except in the cases of the landlord's unreasonableness, neglect or negligence in correcting the violations.
Prohibited Lease Clauses
Section 12.5-10: An Urbana lease should not contain any of the following clauses. If one of these prohibited clauses appears in your lease and your landlord deliberately attempts to enforce it, you can sue the landlord for up to two months' rent, plus costs and attorney's fees.
- Waiver of tenant's rights under federal, state or Urbana law
- Confession of judgment
- Entitlement of landlord to recover attorney's fees without provision for tenant to recover attorney's fees under identical terms and conditions
- Limitation of liability
- Prohibition of tenant's right to sublet
- Late fee in excess of 5% of monthly rental payment per month unless landlord can demonstrate actual costs are higher
- Sublet fees, lock-out charges, late check-out charges or any other fees or penalties that exceed the landlord's actual costs for services
- Automatic renewal of the lease by tenant's failure to provide notice
A landlord would be considered to have deliberately attempted to enforce a prohibited lease clause if the landlord:
- refused to approve a sublease or requires, as a condition of approving a sublease, payment of a prohibited sublease charge, payment of a higher rental rate than the original tenant contracted to pay, or advance payment of future rent not yet due;
- refused to provide a service because of the tenants non-payment of a prohibited fee or charge;
- served the tenant with written demand stating the intention to terminate the Rental agreement for the non-payment of a prohibited fee or charge;
- filed suit against the tenant to enforce the prohibited provision.
Section 12.5-11. Notice of non-renewal: If a landlord decides not to renew the tenant's lease, or decides to raise the rent or change the provisions of the lease upon renewal, the landlord must give the tenant written notice at least 30 days before the end of the lease. If the landlord does not give this notice, the tenant may consider the lease to be extended on a month to month basis until required notice is given.
Section 12.5-11. Month to month oral lease: A landlord and tenant are each obligated to give the other party written notice, not less than 30 days before the last day of the rental period, of their intention to end the month to month, oral lease at the end of the rental period. See section of this handbook "When You Have No Lease" for further explanation of oral leases.
If the landlord fails to give the tenant the required notice to terminate, the tenant does not have to move out until the landlord provides the proper notice. If the tenant fails to give proper notice, the tenant would be responsible for the landlord's lost rent, up to one month after the tenant moves out. However, if the landlord fails to give the tenant a summary of the Urbana Landlord-Tenant Ordinance, the tenant will NOT be liable for failure to give written notice to end the oral lease.
Section 12.5-12. Copy of this Chapter to be provided: A copy of the Urbana Landlord- Tenant Ordinance, or a summary prepared by the city must be given by the landlord to every tenant at the time of signing a written lease or entering into a rental agreement with no written lease. For a copy of the official summary of the law prepared by City of Urbana Legal Department, click here.
Section 12.5-13. Late charges: An Urbana landlord may not impose a late charge unless (1) the amount of the charge is stated in the lease and (2) if rent is mailed, the envelope containing the rent payment is postmarked after the date payment is due.
Section 12.5-14. Notice of charges: An Urbana landlord may not impose any charge or fee that is stated in the lease, including late charges, unless the landlord notifies the tenant in writing, within 30 days after the charge is incurred, that the tenant owes the fee or charge.
Section 12.5-22. Abandonment: If a tenant abandons a rental unit, the landlord may take possession of the unit. Section 12.5-22(a) defines abandonment as follows:
The tenant shall be deemed to have abandoned the rental unit by being absent with visible intent not to return and with rent unpaid.
If a tenant leaves property in a rental unit after abandoning it or after vacating at the lease end, the landlord must hold the property, either in the rental unit, or in storage (for which the landlord may charge the tenant the actual cost). The landlord may dispose of the property 30 days after mailing written notice to the tenant's last known address, if the tenant does not claim the property within that time.
Section 12.5-19. Interest: If a security deposit of $100.00 or more is held for six months or longer, the landlord must pay annual interest to the tenant, computed from the date the deposit was first paid and due within 30 days after the end of each twelve month rental period. The rate of interest required is equal to the interest paid by the largest bank in Champaign County on minimum deposit passbook savings accounts as of the June 30 immediately prior to the lease starting. A landlord who fails or refuses to pay the required interest can be sued by the tenant for an amount equal to the deposit itself, plus court costs and attorney's fees.
Section 12.5-20. Refund: A landlord may not withhold money from a deposit for the cost of cleaning or repairs unless the landlord provides the tenant with an itemized statement of damages, including actual costs for each item, and copies of paid receipts for the work done, within 30 days after the tenant vacates the premises.
If a landlord fails to provide this statement, the deposit must be refunded in full within 45 days after the tenant vacated. A landlord who fails to comply with these requirements can be sued for twice the amount of the deposit plus attorney's fees. These requirements, which under state law apply only to properties with 5 or more units, apply to ALL rental properties in the City of Urbana.
Section 12.5-20 (D). Decorating: The costs of decorating, including painting and carpet cleaning, may not be deducted from the deposit unless the walls or carpets are damaged beyond normal wear.
The following Section (12.5-20(c)) was repealed 7-17-00 and is no longer in effect: Section 12.5-20 (C). Joint Inspection: If requested by either the landlord or the tenant, a walk-through inspection will be made by both parties at the beginning and end of the lease term and an inspection check list made with copies for both parties. The request for a joint inspection must be made in writing and either mailed five days before the date of the inspection or hand-delivered at least 48 hours in advance. A landlord who refuses to perform the inspection may not deduct from the deposit any charges for property damage. A tenant who refuses to perform the inspection waives his or her right to challenge any deductions made for damage that could have been determined by the inspection.
Disclosure of Ownership
Section 12.5-21 requires that a landlord must disclose to a tenant, within 72 hours after being asked, the name and street address of the owner or the owner's authorized agent. A representative of the landlord who fails to disclose this information after being asked becomes the agent of the owner for the purposes of service of process and performance of the landlord's legal obligations.
Repair and Deduct
Although you cannot withhold all or part of your rent as a penalty to the landlord for failing to do repairs, there are certain conditions under which you may be able to deduct the actual costs of repairs from your rent.
This applies only in the City of Urbana for the purpose of repairing code violations after following certain specific procedures (Section 12.5-23 of the Urbana City Code)
If you live outside the city limits of Urbana, go to the section of this handbook "Repair Problems" about to find out about the state right to repair law. If you pay any amount of rent less than the full amount required by your lease, you risk eviction and a lawsuit for all rent due.
How to repair and deduct in Urbana:
- Contact the Building Safety Division for an inspection (400 S. Vine Street, in Community Development office). Once the inspection is completed, a written report will be sent to the landlord. Obtain your own copy of that report from the housing inspector. The report will indicate the deadline for repairs to be completed.
- Send a letter to your landlord stating your intent to repair and deduct if the work is not completed by the deadline set by the City. Your letter must be served in person or by certified mail.
- Usually, giving notice works, and the landlord does the repairs. If repairs are not done by the deadline, and any extension of the deadline that might be granted by the city, you may contact a qualified tradesperson to have the work done. You must obtain a certificate of insurance and a waiver of lien. These are required by the city ordinance.
- Once you have repairs done, send your landlord a copy of the bill as explanation of the amount deducted from your rent.
There are two important restricitions on repair and deduct:
- You cannot deduct more than two months' rent during any 12-month period.
- You cannot use the repair-deduct remedy more than 3 times in one year. This applies to subtenants as well as to the original tenants.
If your problem involves lack of water, heat, hot water, gas, electricity, sanitation, or substantially functional cooking facilities or refrigerator, or if the violation is one "giving rise to a hazardous condition which materially and immediately affects health and safety", you have additional options under the city ordinance. After the deadline for compliance, you may:
- Procure reasonable amounts of heat, hot water, running water, electricity, gas or other essential service during the period of the landlord's noncompliance and deduct the cost from the rent; or
- Procure substitute housing during the period of the landlord's noncompliance and deduct from the rent the actual cost of substitute housing, provided that the amount may not exceed the average cost for a hotel/motel room in Urbana.
If a landlord is cited by the city more than three times in a twelve-month period for failure to provide essential services or to correct a hazardous condition, the tenant may vacate the premises and terminate the rental agreement.
Section 12.5-25: It is unlawful for a landlord to add or change door locks, to block entry to the rental unit, to remove doors or windows, to shut-off utilities, to remove the tenant's personal property from the rental unit, or to in any other way use force, violence or the threat of violence to evict a tenant. A landlord must obtain a court order to evict.
An Urbana tenant who is a victim of illegal eviction may sue the landlord for possession of the rental unit or personal property and an amount equal to two month's rent or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus attorney's fees.
Section 12.5-26: An Urbana landlord may not retaliate against a tenant by decreasing services, bringing or threatening to bring action for possession or by refusing to renew a rental agreement because the tenant has:
- Complained in good faith of a code violation to a government agency charged with the responsibility for enforcement of such codes;
- Complained to the landlord of a violation of any provisions of the Urbana law;
- Organized a tenant association or complained to the Tenant Union, Student Legal Service, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance or any similar private or governmental organization about a violation of the law or the rental agreement;
- Exercised or attempted to exercise any rights or remedies under Urbana law.
If a landlord violates Section 12.5-26, the tenant has a defense in any retaliatory action against him or her for possession and shall be entitled to recover possession, an amount equal to two months' rent and reasonable attorney's fees.
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.