Thinking of Withholding Rent? Read this first!

Are you paying too much for an apartment that’s falling apart? Does your landlord continue to raise the rent, while refusing to fix problems, like water damage, mold, or broken windows? You might be tempted to teach your landlord a lesson by refusing to pay any rent, but this can spell big trouble since many landlords will just evict you for not paying.

You do have a right to live in an apartment that is up to code, but if you want to withhold, you must follow the process in the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO). Here are the steps:

Step 0: Determine if the RLTO Applies to you. 

You can only follow the below steps to withhold if the RLTO applies to you. Generally, you must (1) live in the City of Chicago, and (2) your landlord cannot live in your building (unless the building has 7 or more units).

Step 1: Write 

Send your landlord a letter. In the letter, tell the landlord what the issues are, tell them that they have 14 days to make repairs, and warn that you will withhold some rent if they don’t fix the problems.

Step 2: Wait

You must give your landlord 14 days from the day they receive the letter before you can start withholding any rent. Keep a copy of your letter and proof of the date your landlord received it (like a tracking number) for your reference.

Step 3: Withhold

If your landlord doesn’t make the repairs within 14 days, you can withhold a portion of your rent. You can only withhold an amount that reasonably reflects the reduced value of your apartment. If you ever find yourself in Court, you will have the burden to show that your withholding was reasonable. Even in the worst circumstances, Rentervention never suggests you withhold more than 50% of your monthly rent.

How Can Rentervention Help?

As you can see, withholding rent can be both technical and risky. You can use rentervention.com to view a sample letter, create a letter which Rentervention will directly mail to your landlord (for free!), and even connect you with a volunteer attorney who can answer questions and walk you through each step.