Heat and Essential Services Factsheet

The Chicagoland Apartment Association publishes this as a public service. It is meant to inform and not to advise. Before enforcing any rights or remedies you may want to seek the advice of an attorney who can better analyze the specific facts of your case.

Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) Requirements

Landlord Responsibilities
  • At a minimum, the landlord must provide facilities to produce heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas and plumbing.
  • The lease determines who is obligated to pay for these services.
  • For services where the landlord is obligated to pay, the landlord must continuously maintain these services to the building and each unit.
  • For services where the tenant is obligated to pay, the landlord must continuously provide the facilities for service delivery.
  • Provide the tenant with any notice received from the City of Chicago or any utility provider to terminate water, gas, electric or other utility service to the building or unit.
Minimum Heat Requirements (Mun. Code Ch. 13-196)
  • Generally applies to all residential dwelling units, except owner occupied units.
  • Chicago's Heat Ordinance requires that from September 15th to June 1st, rental units must be supplied with heat in order to achieve the following minimum temperatures:
    * 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
    * 66 degrees from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.
Failure to Provide Essential Services
  • If the landlord fails to provide heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas or plumbing the tenant may provide written notice to the landlord and during the service interruption may:
  • Procure reasonable amounts of the essential service and upon presentation of paid receipts, deduct the cost from the rent; or
  • Recover damages based on a reduction in the fair rental value of the unit; or
  • Procure substitute housing, in which case the tenant is excused from paying rent, and may recover a reasonable cost for the substitute housing up to one month’s rent prorated for the period of non-compliance.
    *Note: These remedies cannot be used if the service interruption is due to the tenant’s failure to pay their bill.
  • In addition to the above remedies, if the landlord fails to restore service:
  • Within 24 hours of receiving notice, the tenant may withhold from the monthly rent an amount that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the unit due to the interruption. (eff. 1-1-92)
  • Within 72 hours of receiving notice, the tenant may terminate the lease and deliver possession within 30 days. If possession is not delivered, the lease remains in effect. (eff. 1-1-92)
    *Note: These remedies cannot be used if the service interruption is due to the tenant’s failure to pay their bill or a utility company’s failure to provide service.
Best Practices
  • Respond immediately to notices regarding interruptions in essential services.
  • During the winter months, maintain minimum heat temperatures even in vacant units to prevent damage to pipes.
  • Keep phone numbers for utility providers to your building in one place and maintain a record of all correspondence regarding service interruptions.
  • Provide frequent updates to your tenants during service interruptions.
  • Maintain a list of 24-hour emergency contact numbers for contractors that service the building’s key components (i.e. electrical, plumbing and heating)

The Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) governs tenancy in ALL residential units in Chicago except units:

  • In owner-occupied buildings containing six units or less;
  • In hotels, motels, inns, tourist houses, rooming houses and boardinghouses, but only until such time as the dwelling unit has been occupied by a tenant for 32 or more continuous days and tenant pays a monthly rent;
  • In a hospital, convent, monastery, extended care facility, asylum or not-for-profit home for the aged, temporary overnight or transitional shelter, or dormitory;
  • Occupied by a purchaser or seller pursuant to a real estate purchase contract prior to or subsequent to such transfer of title;
  • Occupied by an employee of a landlord whose right to occupancy is conditional upon employment in or about the premise; or
  • In a cooperative occupied by a holder of a proprietary lease

Provisions of the RLTO took effect on November 6, 1986 unless otherwise specified in parenthesis.