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Basics of Landlord-Tenant Law

Landlord-tenant law, also known as rental law, plays a crucial role in governing the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants in rental relationships. Whether you are seeking a place to rent or have property for lease, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of these laws to ensure a fair and harmonious rental arrangement. Let’s look at the basic aspects of landlord-tenant law.


A lease is a legally binding contract that outlines the conditions and terms of the rental arrangement. It establishes the rights and obligations of both the landlord and the tenant. The lease should include information such as:

  • Duration of the tenancy
  • Amount of rent
  • Payment due dates
  • Security deposit requirements
  • Rules regarding maintenance and repairs
  • Other specific terms agreed upon by both parties

Security Deposits

A security deposit is an amount of money provided by a tenant to a landlord as a form of insurance against potential damages or unpaid rent. Landlords are required to hold these deposits in a separate account and return them, minus any legitimate deductions, at the end of the tenancy. Common deductions may include unpaid rent, cleaning fees, and repairs beyond normal wear and tear. Landlord-tenant laws often specify the maximum amount that can be charged as a security deposit and the timeline for its return.

Maintenance and Repairs

Landlords are legally obligated to maintain their rental properties in a habitable condition. This means ensuring that the property is safe, structurally sound, and free from hazards. They must promptly address any necessary repairs or maintenance issues that may arise during the tenancy. Tenants are generally responsible for reporting issues to their landlords in a timely manner.

Rent Increases

Landlords have the right to increase rent, but they must follow specific legal procedures. Typically, a landlord is required to provide advance notice before raising the rent. The length of the notice period varies depending on local regulations.


Eviction is a legal process that can only be initiated under specific circumstances, such as non-payment of rent, violation of lease terms, or illegal activities on the premises. Evictions must follow a formal legal procedure and generally can’t be carried out through self-help measures, such as changing locks or removing a tenant’s belongings.

Tenant Rights and Privacy

Tenants have certain rights that protect their privacy and well-being. Landlords are generally required to provide notice before entering a rental unit, except in emergencies. The notice period typically ranges from 24 to 48 hours, depending on the jurisdiction. Additionally, tenants have the right to live in a rental property free from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, or familial status.

Ensuring a Fair Rental Relationship

Understanding the basics of landlord-tenant law is crucial for ensuring a fair and harmonious rental relationship between landlords and tenants. By familiarizing themselves with these fundamental aspects, they can navigate the rental process with confidence and protect their rights.

For more specific legal advice or in-depth information, consulting with a local estate planning, business, or real estate attorney or relevant housing agency is always recommended. Contact our Chicago area office at 630-568-6656 today to learn how we can help you with any landlord-tenant questions or issues you may have. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

This article offers a summary of aspects of landlord-tenant law and how an estate planning, business, or real estate attorney can help. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

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