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The Tenant Union provides FREE services to University of Illinois students including:

  • Help Finding Apartments and Houses
  • Landlord Complaint Records
  • Lease Reviews (BY APPOINTMENT ONLY)
  • Tenant-Landlord Conflict Help
  • Educational Programming (including workshops & presentations)

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.


  • 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.
  • 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.


"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.

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 infestation, 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:

  • Exercise your rights under the Residential Tenants' Right to Repair Act
  • File a complaint with the Housing Inspector
  • File a complaint at the Tenant Union

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.
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