suburban renters don't have basic rights and protections

Cook County Commissioners have the opportunity to give them basic rights and protections by voting to pass the Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance (RTLO).

The RTLO creates the kind of basic floors for landlord conduct that have existed for more than 30 years in Chicago, Evanston, and Mount Prospect. Landlords who foster good working relationships with their tenants are already doing what it requires, such as offering fair lease terms, ensuring safe living conditions, and respecting tenants’ dignity and privacy.

What the Ordinance Does

  • Creates safeguards against illegal lockouts and guidance on when a landlord can enter a unit
  • Creates procedures for withholding rent until building problems are addressed
  • Protects against lease terms that waive the basic tenant right to notices
  • Prevents landlords from charging outrageous interest rates on late rent payments
  • Prohibits excessive security deposits and certain non-refundable “move-in” fees

…and more. For more details, download our fact sheet »

Why It's Critical

The ordinance will make a key difference for low-income renters who already face far too many challenges to their housing stability. The majority of renter households in Cook County—64 percent—are low-income. The economic distress of the pandemic has only made their situations more precarious. These renters are most likely to encounter predatory landlords, and they are the ones for whom exorbitant late fees, the refusal to return a security deposit, disguising a security deposit as a “move-in fee,” or the cost of taking a landlord to court can set off or deepen a spiral of financial insecurity.

Message Your Commissioner

Our elected officials need to hear from us. Our comment portal makes it easy for you to email your representative and urge them to vote YES on the RTLO.

Photo of Black woman on couch near window

Sharon Norwood at her home in Evergreen Park on Dec. 6, 2020. (Youngrae Kim / Chicago Tribune)

Evergreen Park renter Sharon Norwood has experienced nightmarish apartment conditions herself and backs the potential ordinance because her repeated complaints about lack of air conditioning and heating circulation, mold, and plumbing issues went ignored. At one point, she draped large quilts over her doors to keep warm during the winter.
“It was a nightmare for me to be there,” Norwood said. “When you are a renter, you feel like you have no voice out here.”

Read Chicago Tribune article featuring Sharon Norwood, renter advocate with Housing Choice Partners »

“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. 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…We can, and should, do better for the residents of Cook County.”

Commissioner Scott Britton, Chief Sponsor

“Structural racism exists in every aspect of our society. That of course includes housing. What’s clear is that Black families in particular are susceptible to the handful of landlords that would seek to take advantage of the residents of Cook County.”

Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Co-Sponsor

“With tenants and landlords working together, we would have less evictions, and this ordinance would give us that help.”

Kevin, renter advocate with Progress Center for Independent Living

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

Commissioner Kevin Morrison, Chief Sponsor

“When I was renting in the suburb of Maywood, the owner hid so as to not give back my deposit…[another] apartment didn’t have heat. And another thing that the landlady did, every time I went out—I found her several times inside my home…Renting, I’ve had many experiences good and bad, but most have been bad, because as a Spanish-speaking person, we don’t know our rights. How are we going to defend ourselves against people like this who mistreat someone, and more because of speaking Spanish?”

Maria, renter advocate with PASO

About Our Initiative

Housing Action Illinois, Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance, Housing Action Illinois, Housing Choice Partners, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, Neighbors for Affordable Housing, North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic, PASO – West Suburban Action Project, and Progress Center for Independent Living are partnering on this initiative, along with an increasing number of allies, including renter advocates.

More than 60 community organizations have endorsed the proposal, including housing advocates, social service providers, legal aid organizations, tenant rights groups, and disability rights activists.

See all endorsers & add your organization »

Graphic with people grouped as a speech bubble, text saying Protect Cook County Renters

Get Involved

To learn more about our campaign and get involved, contact Housing Policy Organizer Sheila Sutton: sheila@housingactionil.org

Latest News & Updates

RTLO Week of Action

RTLO Week of Action

We need your help to pass protections for 245,000+ renter households in Cook County living in communities without a comprehensive tenant-landlord ordinance. For thirty years, renters living in Chicago, Evanston, and Mount Prospect have benefited from municipal...

read more
Urge Your Commissioner to Protect All Renters in Cook County

Urge Your Commissioner to Protect All Renters in Cook County

We need your help to pass protections for 245,000+ renter households in Cook County living in communities without a comprehensive landlord-tenant ordinance. For thirty years, renters living in Chicago, Evanston, and Mount Prospect have benefited from municipal...

read more