If areas outside a unit are included in the utility meter, a landlord may only put the utility in the tenant’s name if they:
- Tell the tenant in writing that areas outside the unit are on the meter;
- Give the tenant copies of that meter’s last 12 months of bills; and
- Propose in writing how much the tenant's rent will be decreased for paying a utility bill that includes more than their unit.
If a landlord agrees to pay for utility services but does not pay them, the tenant can pay the utility company directly to avoid a shut-off. The tenant can do this for utilities in a common area in the apartment building too. The tenant can then let the landlord know of the payments they made and their plan to subtract the amount they paid from their rent payment. If the building has 3 or more apartments, the utility company cannot cut off service without giving notice to the tenants.
Late fees must be agreed to in a written lease.
Illinois does not have a limit on how much landlords can charge for late payment fees. Late fees cannot be used to punish tenants who pay late. This means that they can only cover interest charges and the landlord’s administrative costs. Any amount more than 5% of monthly rent is probably too much.
In Chicago, the late fee amount is limited to $10 for the first $500 of rent and 5% on the rest.
Landlords do not have to give a grace period for the tenant to pay rent after the due date. There is an exception for mobile home parks. A landlord must offer a 5-day grace period for tenants in mobile home parks.
Working for rent
A tenant can pay rent by working on the building. An agreement between the landlord and tenant must be made before work is done. If not, a court will assume the work was a gift to the landlord.
If work is being done in exchange for rent reductions, the landlord and tenant should agree in writing how much rent is being reduced and what work is being done. Oral agreements can be valid, but it is difficult to prove their terms. Without written proof of what was agreed, it ends up being an argument between the tenant and landlord.
When there are several tenants living together each tenant that signed the lease is responsible for the full amount of rent, not just their share. If one roommate doesn’t pay their share, the landlord may serve a 5-day notice and then file for eviction against all of the tenants for that roommate’s portion.
Example: Two roommates rent an apartment with a monthly rent of $1,000. They agree with each other that each roommate will pay $500 toward the rent. One roommate moves out of the unit before the lease is over. A landlord can sue either one or both roommates for any unpaid rent.
Increases in rent
Rent increases depend on the type of lease:
- Written lease: The landlord may not increase rent until after the lease expires unless the lease says rent can be increased;
- No written lease: The landlord can increase rent by giving the tenant a 30-day notice stating the new rent amount and the date the increase starts;
- Mobile home parks: The landlord has to give written notice 90 days before any rent increase. Landlords in mobile home parks must also offer 24-month written leases. Landlords of mobile home parks can also put in the lease a rent increase between the first and second year of this 24-month lease. The tenant does not have to accept a 24-month lease. This means that the landlord and tenant can create a one-year lease or a month-to-month lease as long as the landlord has offered the 24-month lease in writing; and
- Subsidized housing: Subsidized housing includes Section 8 and public housing. The tenant pays rent based on their income, and must report any change in income. Learn more about Rent changes in subsidized housing.
Illinois does not have a law that limits how much a landlord can increase rent, but landlords cannot use rent increases to punish or discriminate against tenants.