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Suburban Chicagoland: Cook County commissioners urge passage of Residential Tenant Landlord law

By Ray Hanania

Cook County commissioners, housing advocates, and tenants held a virtual press conference Dec. 8, 2020 urging the Cook County Board to pass the proposed Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO), which would safeguard 245,000 suburban county renter households from landlord retaliation, illegal lockouts, and unreasonable fees. Cook County commissioners Scott Britton (14th District) and Kevin Morrison (15th District) are chief sponsors of the ordinance.

“Let me be clear: No renter in Cook County should face housing insecurity, arbitrary costs, or undue fear because they lack fair protections,” Commissioner Kevin Morrison said. “For decades, Chicago, Evanston, and Mount Prospect have barred landlord retaliation and illegal lock outs with common sense landlord-tenant laws. Now more than ever, we must ensure Cook County renters have the same rights.”

“This much-needed legislation lays out common-sense rules of engagement and creates a fair and level playing field for landlords and their tenants in suburban Cook County,” Commissioner Scott Britton said.

“In the absence of this Ordinance, renters are left with no recourse when moving is not financially feasible, and landlords don’t have options when maleficence occurs. It is egregious that rights, responsibilities, and remedies for landlords and renters do not exist throughout Cook County. We can, and should, do better for the residents of Cook County.”

The 2020 Cook County Board of Commissioners. Courtesy of the Cook County Board

“Structural racism is embedded in every institution of society, including housing,” Commissioner Brandon Johnson (1st District) said. “With Black residents facing eviction at a much higher rate than their white counterparts, protecting tenants is a civil rights imperative.”

“Equity is one of Cook County’s core values, and a strong RTLO is what equity looks like,” Michael Rabbitt with Neighbors for Affordable Housing said. “It’s what housing justice looks like. We make those words real when we pass ordinances like this.”

“This proposed measure would increase stability for both renters and landlords by clarifying their roles and responsibilities, making the rental process easier and fairer to navigate,” Sheila Sutton with Housing Action Illinois said. “When everyone understands the rules, it’s easier to play by them.”

Specifically, the proposed RTLO would:

Restrict retaliatory conduct and undisclosed landlord entry Protect owners against property destruction and abandonment Ban unlawful lockouts Provide consistency on how and when landlords can safely evict renters Prohibit lease terms that waive written notices and disclosures Block landlords from charging exorbitant late rent fees Improve procedures for completing minor repairs in a timely manner Guarantee fair security deposit returns Prevent nontransparent move-in charges and limit fees in excess of reasonable expense

Press conference participants included Commissioner Scott Britton; Commissioner Kevin Morrison; Commissioner Brandon Johnson; Sally Robinson, Lawyers Committee for Better Housing; Tim Hufman, former legal aid attorney; Nareen Kim, North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic; Michael Rabbitt, Neighbors for Affordable Housing; Sheila Sutton, Housing Action Illinois; and Cook County tenants.

The county Zoning and Building Committee will vote on the ordinance during the December board cycle. For the full proposed RTLO, visit:

View the full press conference here:

Organizations that have endorsed RTLO:

A Safe Haven Foundation Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County Arise Chicago BEDS Plus Care Inc. Beyond Legal Aid Center for Changing Lives Center for Disability & Elder Law Centro de Trabajadores Unidos Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA) Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Christian Community Health Center Citizens in Action Serving All (CASA) Blue Island Connections for the Homeless Connections of Illinois, Inc Dina and Eli Field Ezra Multi-Service Center Enterprise Community Partners Greater Chicago Legal Clinic Habitat for Humanity Chicago Housing Action Illinois Housing Choice Partners Housing Forward Illinois Legal Aid Online Impact Behavioral Health Partners Jane Addams Senior Caucus Jewish Council on Urban Affairs Joining Forces for Affordable Housing, Connections for the Homeless La Casa Norte Latino Policy Forum Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services Legal Council for Health Justice Manufactured Home Owners Association of Illinois Metropolitan Planning Council Metropolitan Tenants Organization Moran Center for Youth Advocacy Neighbors for Affordable Housing North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic Northside Action for Justice Northwest Side CDC Northwest Side Housing Center Open Communities Palos/Orland Progressives PASO – West Suburban Action Project (Proyecto de Acción de los Suburbios del Oeste) Progress Center for Independent Living Shriver Center on Poverty Law South Siders for Peace South Suburban Housing Center South Suburban PADS Supportive Housing Providers Association The ARK UNETE La Villita Uptown People’s Law Center Woodstock Institute

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