DeKalb Tenants' Bill of Rights 

The old saying, “Knowledge is power,” is never more true than when you are dealing with an overbearing landlord.  If you do not know your legal rights as a tenant, or fail to exercise your rights, you stand a strong chance of being taken advantage of and, quite possibly, losing hundreds or thousands of dollars.  The following enumeration of your rights as a tenant under Illinois Law and the City of DeKalb Landlord-Tenant Ordinance should help you overcome the knowledge gap between you and your landlord.  Note: this list is not exhaustive nor is it intended to substitute for legal advice that you should obtain if you encounter a problem with your current or prospective landlord.  LEARN YOUR RIGHTS!


  1. YOUR LANDLORD MUST GO TO COURT TO EVICT YOU.  This process, while expedited, takes at minimum of one week and the judge will almost certainly give you some brief additional time to move, even if the landlord has cause to evict you. 
  2. BEFORE INITIATING AN EVICTION ACTION, your landlord must give you written notice of the basis for which he is seeking the eviction – a five day notice for failure to pay rent and a ten day notice for other lease violations.  The five day rent due violation is a grace period; that is, if you pay the full rent due within the five days, the landlord cannot evict you.  The ten day notice is not a grace period but you may be able to work out the problem with the landlord such that he/she decides not to take you to court. 
  3. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONTEST the landlord’s attempt to evict you in which case the landlord must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has the right to his premises back. 
  4. THE LANDLORD CANNOT ENGAGE IN SELF-HELP means to evict you such as cutting off your utilities or changing the lock on the door. 
  5. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CALL THE POLICE if the landlord or his agents forcibly come into your apartment to collect rent or harass you.  If you tell the landlord or his agents to leave and they refuse to do so, you can file a complaint against them for trespassing.
  6. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO “QUIET ENJOYMENT” OF THE PREMISES.  The landlord cannot initiate major renovations in your apartment or in the complex which interfere with your “quiet enjoyment” of the premises without your permission. (Your landlord can, of course, make necessary repairs to the premises.) 
  7. YOUR LANDLORD MUST PROVIDE YOU WITH THE SAME APARTMENT that he rented to you and cannot compel you to accept a different apartment than the one you rented. 
  8. IF YOUR APARTMENT IS NOT READY FOR OCCUPANCY on the date you are to move in, you may have the right to terminate your lease and get your prepaid rent and security deposit back plus other damages, if you incur them, such as moving expenses, storage, etc.  See an attorney immediately. 
  9. YOUR LANDLORD MUST PROVIDE YOU WITH AN APARTMENT THAT IS “HABITABLE” and must maintain your apartment in livable condition throughout your tenancy.  If your apartment is located within the city limits of DeKalb or another city that has a local building code, “habitability” is measured by compliance with the building code in question; elsewhere, “habitability” is determined directly by the courts. 
  10. YOUR LANDLORD CANNOT CHANGE THE TERMS OF YOUR LEASE during the lease without your agreement.  This agreement must be based on an exchange of benefits known as “consideration.” 
  11. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SUBLEASE YOUR APARTMENT.  Your landlord can object only if he has good commercial reasons; for example, if your prospective sublessee is a bad credit risk or a known troublemaker.
  12. YOUR LANDLORD CANNOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST YOU based on your race, sex, ethnic or national origin, marital status, age, sexual orientation or (in DeKalb) your status as a student.
  13. YOUR LANDLORD CANNOT WITHHOLD ANY PART OF YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT FOR DAMAGES WITHOUT WRITTEN JUSTIFICATION provided to you within 30 days after you vacate your premises.  If you live in a premise or a complex containing at least 5 units anywhere in Illinois, the landlord must return your deposit in full or provide you within 30 days a written itemization of alleged damages.  Statutory penalties can be assessed against the landlord for violation of these laws. 


Most people renting within the city limits of DeKalb have additional rights.  These include:

  1. COPY OF LEASE. The right to a copy of your lease and all addendums, rules and regulations, etc.
  2. A RIGHT TO ONE (1) HOUR’S NOTICE before a landlord or his agent enters your apartment for one or more of the following purposes:
    1. inspection for maintenance;
    2. to make necessary or agreed repairs or improvements;
    3. supply necessary or agreed services;
    4. conduct inspections required by governmental agencies;
    5. when repairs elsewhere in the building require such access;
    6. to show the unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees or tenants;

      The one(1) hour notice is not required in cases of emergencies, or where the tenant gives consent, as by requesting the repair.
  3. RIGHT TO DISCLOSURE OF HOUSING CODE VIOLATIONS. The landlord is required to inform you of any existing housing code violations that have been cited by the City of DeKalb relating to the property.  This disclosure must be made in writing before you sign the lease.
  4. RIGHT TO MAKE EMERGENCY REPAIRS. In an emergency situation, where a defective condition exists which threatens your life or safety, you have a right to make the necessary repair, but only after engaging in reasonably diligent efforts to notify the landlord.  Such attempts should be substantially documented.  You are not authorized under the ordinance to deduct the repair costs from your rent.  Rather, you should present the paid bill to the landlord who is required to reimburse you for “reasonable” expenses.  You should obtain several estimates of the repairs and pick the most reasonable one.

  5. SCOPE
    The ordinance does not apply to persons living in residences zoned “single family” or in “owner-occupied” properties containing no more than two (2) rental units.