Illinois Tenant's Rights After Domestic Violence

How Are Victims of Domestic Violence Protected in Illinois?

Illinois’ landlord tenant law contains general rules that protect all tenants. The law also includes rules that apply to a specific group of tenants. One group of people that are offered additional protections under Illinois law are victims of domestic violence. Here are the rights tenants who have been victims of domestic violence have after the act.

Illinois’ Safe Homes Act

The state of Illinois has put together a list of rules for victims of domestic violence.

This list can be referred to as the ‘Safe Homes Act.’

The purpose of this act is to give victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment or dating violence the ability to escape dangerous situations. One way to do this is by allowing these individuals the ability to move without any type of penalty. The goal is to minimize any future physical or emotional harm.

Definition of Domestic Violence in Illinois

In Illinois, domestic violence includes any of the following acts committed by a family or household member. This includes current spouses, former spouses, children, stepchildren, blood relatives, family members by marriage, those who currently or formerly shared an apartment, those who have had a child together, those who have dated or been engaged, and people with disabilities and their caregivers. The acts of domestic violence include:

  • Physical Abuse

  • Harassment- An example of harassment is constantly calling the victim at home or work.

     

    • Intimidation of a Dependent- This means to force a dependent to participate in or to watch physical abuse against a family or household member.

     

    • Interference with Personal Liberty- This means performing an act that causes the victim to do something that he or she would not otherwise have done or to refrain from doing something he or she would have otherwise done.

       

      • Willful Deprivation- This means to deny a necessity to someone who needs it. For example, refusing to give medicine or proper medical care to a disabled individual.

      Definition of Sexual Violence in Illinois

      In Illinois, sexual violence includes sexual abuse, sexual assault or stalking. This could be against an adult or a minor.

      Illinois Tenant’s Right to Terminate Lease Agreement

      In Illinois, tenants who have been victims of domestic violence have a right to terminate the lease agreement early without penalty if they meet certain conditions.

      • Recency of Domestic Violence

      The tenant has the right to vacate the rental property if the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household is under an immediate threat of violence.

      • Written Notice

      The tenant gave written notice to the landlord that he or she would be moving out of the rental unit because of an immediate threat of violence against the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household. This written notice must have been made within three days before or three days after the tenant moved out of the unit.

      Responsibility for Rent After Move-Out

      A tenant who has moved out of the rental unit because of sexual violence will not be responsible for paying rent that was due after their move out date if they meet the following three conditions:

      1. The sexual violence against the tenant or member of the tenant’s household occurred on the landlord’s premises and the tenant move out of the unit as a result of this sexual violence.

      2. The tenant provided the landlord with written notice within three days before or three days after they moved out of the unit. The written notice must include a statement that sexual violence was the reason for the move, the date of the sexual violence and at least one of the following pieces of evidence:

      • A medical, court or police document citing the sexual violence.
      • A statement from an employee of a rape crisis or other victim organization that states that the tenant or member of the tenant’s household was a victim of sexual violence.

      3. The act of sexual violence occurred not more than 60 days prior to the tenant giving the landlord notice to move out of the unit.

      Rent Due Prior to Notice

      The tenant will still be responsible for any rent due under their lease agreement prior to giving the written move out notice to the landlord.

      Illinois Tenant’s Right to Have Locks Changed

      Illinois’ Safe Homes Act grants victims of domestic violence the right to have the locks on their doors changed.

      If Perpetrator of Domestic Violence Is Not a Tenant:

      All of the tenants who have signed the lease agreement must provide the landlord with written notice of their desire to have the locks on their doors changed. The tenants must make it clear that they believe there is an imminent threat of violence against at least one of the tenants in the unit.

      The written notice must be accompanied by a copy of one of the following documents which verifies the tenant’s claim of domestic violence.

      • A medical, court or police document citing the sexual violence.
      • A statement from an employee of a rape crisis or other victim organization that states that the tenant or member of the tenant’s household was a victim of sexual violence.

      If Perpetrator of Domestic Violence Is A Tenant:

      If the individual who committed the act of domestic violence lives in the same rental unit as the victim, all tenants, except for the perpetrator, must sign and provide the landlord with written notice of the desire to have the locks changed. This written notice must be accompanied by a copy of either an order of protection or a civil no contact order, either of which gives the victim exclusive access to the premises.

      Oral Leases:

      Tenants who have oral leases must follow the same procedures for requesting new locks as those tenants who have the perpetrator of domestic violence living in their unit.

      48 Hours to Change Locks:

      After receiving written notice, as well as the supporting evidence of the domestic violence claim, a landlord has 48 hours to change the tenant’s locks or can allow the tenant to change their own locks. If the landlord changes the locks, he or she must provide the tenants with the new key within 48 hours of changing the locks. If the tenant changes the locks, he or she must use a lock that is of a similar or better quality to the existing lock. The tenant must also provide the landlord with a copy of the new key within 48 hours of changing the lock.

      Fee for Changing Locks:

      If a landlord changes the locks, he or she can charge the tenant a reasonable fee for changing the locks.

      Violations of Lock Changing Policy

      Landlord Violation:

      If a landlord purposely takes an action to prevent a tenant’s locks from being changed, the tenant can get a temporary restraining order or court injunction to get the landlord to quit the behavior. The tenant could also be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

      If a landlord fails to provide a tenant with a copy of the key to their new lock within 48 hours, the landlord may be liable for any damages that occurred from the tenant not being able to access their unit.

      Tenant Violation:

      If a tenant fails to provide a landlord with a key to their new locks within 48 hours, the tenant would be responsible if there are any damages to their unit or to the property that could have been prevented if the landlord was able to access the unit during an emergency.

      Illinois’ Law on Domestic Violence

      If you would like to view Illinois’ law regarding victims of domestic violence, please consult Illinois Compiled Statutes 765 ILCS 750.