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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Cook County Adopts Landlord Tenant Ordinance

Last week, the Cook County Board adopted an ordinance to enact landlord-tenant regulations in Cook County. Although the ordinance itself does not expressly regulate the conduct of municipalities within Cook County, the ordinance will still be of interest to municipalities because the scope of these new regulations are not limited to the unincorporated areas of Cook County. 

The approved ordinance, most of which goes into effect in June, includes among other provisions, the following:

  • Provisions mirroring statutory restrictions that prohibit landlords from retaliating against tenants who file complaints with government agencies or from evicting tenants without following the proper eviction process.
  • A prohibition on landlords charging late fees greater than the ordinance allows.
  • Provisions for termination of leases by tenants.
  • Limits on the amount of required security deposits and a requirement that these deposits be returned within 30 days.
  • Time-lines for landlords to address maintenance issues.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the new regulations.

The ordinance does contain some exemptions. For example, landlords of buildings with six or fewer units are not subject to the ordinance. Rentals of single family homes are also exempt.

In addition, the County ordinance contains the following provision which attempts to preempt municipal authority to regulate the landlord-tenant relationship in a different manner:

This Ordinance is subject to the home rule as established by the Constitution of the State of Illinois Article VII Section 6. Powers of Home Rule Units. This Ordinance regulates all residential buildings and structures that exist or are erected, constructed, altered, demolished, or relocated within the boundaries of Cook County, excluding those cities, villages, and incorporated towns that maintain promulgated regulations that establish both the rights and obligations of both the tenant and the landlord in the rental of dwelling units. The regulations must contain specific language defining and regulating the relationship between the tenant and landlord, policies protecting and promoting the public health, safety, and welfare of tenants, and remedies under a rental agreement in order to be excluded from this Ordinance.

Based on the language in the ordinance, it appears the County is attempting to preempt local control, including a municipality's authority to adopt contrary regulations on the landlord-tenant relationship or to decide not to regulate the relationship at all. Of course, this ordinance still has to be interpreted in light of the limitations on home rule authority in the Illinois constitution. Specifically, Article VII, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution provides that if a home rule county ordinance conflicts with a municipal ordinance, the municipal ordinance will prevail within the municipality. So, just as Cook County municipalities did when Cook County adopted its minimum wage and sick leave ordinances, these municipalities may want to analyze this County ordinance in the context of their own municipal ordinances.



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