By Isabelle Sarraf
Suburban Cook County renters will have stronger legal protections under an ordinance unanimously passed by County Board commissioners Thursday.
Commissioners Scott Britton and Kevin Morrison, chief sponsors of the ordinance, worked with housing advocates, tenants rights groups and property owners groups to create a resolution that strengthens renters’ rights and includes some protections for landlords.
The Residential Tenant and Landlord Ordinance blocks landlords from locking out tenants without proper eviction notices and protects owners from property destruction and abandonment. One provision prevents landlords from charging late fees greater than $10 a month for the first $1,000 in rent, plus 5% per month for rent over $1,000. The ordinance will also create a consistent procedure for landlords to evict renters and outlines how tenants can guarantee security deposit returns.
The anti-lockout provision takes effect immediately; the rest of the ordinance will take effect June 1.
Britton cited Mayor Harold Washington’s sponsorship of a 1986 Residential Tenant and Landlord Ordinance for Chicago residents as a model for the county ordinance. The months of revisions allowed Britton and Morrison time to hear from landlord and tenant groups.
“The residents of suburban Cook County have been waiting 35 years for the same rights,” Britton said. “I believe this ordinance is appropriate, it is balanced, it is fair and it’s time.”
Morrison said he ran on a platform to create policies that help the most disadvantaged residents in the county, especially low-income renters. A resident of Mount Prospect, Morrison’s village has benefitted from the “basic protections” granted by an RTLO.
“This ordinance is long overdue,” Morrison said in a news release. “For decades, suburban renters have lived without the same basic protections guaranteed to Chicago, Evanston, and Mount Prospect tenants. That is why I spent months fighting for and writing this ordinance.”