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Landlord/Tenant: Can my landlord keep my security deposit?


By: Janice Dantes


Recently, I had to hire an attorney to represent me in a landlord/tenant matter. This is not my area of expertise, but has been a great learning experience for me. Chicago has some very tenant-friendly laws under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance CRLTO (CRLTO). There are strict guidelines about how to properly handle security deposits.

Below are some important provisions of the CRLTO I learned being a client seeking the return of my own security deposit:

1. The security deposit is always the tenant’s money. The security deposit is always the tenant’s money and must be kept in a separate credit-bearing account. This means that the landlord cannot deposit the security deposit in his personal bank account and commingle it with his funds. Further, the tenant is entitled to the interest earned on the security deposit.

2. The landlord can only keep the security deposit under specific circumstances. At the end of your lease-term, the landlord must return your security deposit within 45 days unless he provides you an itemized list with receipts of repairs made to the unit from which he can deduct from your security deposit. The landlord cannot just keep your security deposit without explanation. If your landlord is withholding your security deposit from you, you may be entitled to return of twice the security deposit plus attorney’s fees and court costs.

3. Do what you are supposed to do under the lease. Make sure you are the model tenant. Be sure you pay your rent on time. Take care of the unit. Make sure the landlord is aware of any roommates you may have. The last thing you want when you bring a lawsuit like this is to have your landlord bring a counterclaim.

4. Don’t wait too long. Seeking the return of your security deposit does have a statute of limitations. Be sure to bring your claim within two years.

5. Be nice to your landlord. Even though you may be frustrated that your landlord is withholding your security deposit, be careful with your communications. Disrespectful communications can definitely hurt your case in front of a judge. If you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all.

6. Hire a lawyer. This type of case is typically handled on a contingency basis and my good friend Andy Brabender owns a firm focused solely on the return of security deposits in Chicago. Don’t waste your time getting into a fight with your old landlord. Talk to an attorney with expertise in this area. Not only does it alleviate your stress but you can also benefit with a potential return of double your security deposit.

If you believe you have a claim for the return of your security deposit, please contact me at (312) 546-5077 or janice@pinaylaw.com. Thank you for reading. Until we meet again, love one another. (Sponsored Content)

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