New Rental Laws for 2020: Illinois, Cook County and Chicago

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This is now the third year in a row that we've led off with a list of all the new laws that took effect on January 1 that might be of interest to renters and people in the rental industry. Make sure to share it with those you know in the multifamily industry throughout Chicago and Cook County. Note that some of these are applicable only to commercial rentals, but since they make up a huge portion of the rental industry of this area we're including them as well.


As always this is only a partial list of the many laws that took effect on January 1, 2020. We've culled it down to just the laws we feel are pertinent to renters, landlords or leasing professionals. You can view a full list of all the new laws that took effect on January 1 in Illinois here.

There are some important changes not listed there because the laws governing them actually took effect earlier. Included in the list of missing laws are the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act and Minimum wage increases.

Landlords must allow Support Animals. Both emotional support animals and service animals are covered under this new act. Landlords must allow them and allow reasonable adjustments to their properties for the accommodation of these animals. Proper documentation must be provided confirming the existence of a disability if it is not apparent. This is a huge law, so we recommend that you read the full text for more info.

Community Association Managers no longer need licenses. The Community Association Manager Licensing and Disciplinary act was repealed.

Real Estate License Act heavily altered. The Real Estate License Act of 2000 was heavily altered. Changes include alteration of hours required for broker licenses, reduction in minimum license age from 21 to 18, addressing the modern practice of real estate teams in advertising, and many other changes. For this one it's best to review all the changes in depth.

Persons with Arrest Records are a Protected Class. Employers, landlords, agents and sellers cannot enquire about arrest records or use arrest history as a reason for refusing employment/housing. This includes arrests without convictions, juvenile convictions and expunged or vacated convictions. [Read more]

Funds available for Training in Building Trades. In the interest of creating more skilled workers in the Building Trades a whole lot of funding has been allocated to a training program including recruitment of youth under in foster care or the supervision of DCFS and acquisition of abandoned residential property for use in hands on training. Included in the umbrella of Building Trades are not only the expected fields such as contractors and subcontractors but also real estate agents and property managers. Read more.

County boards may clean up private property. If the county board finds excessive waste (including trash, organic matter, carcasses or other unhealthy material) on a residential property within unincorporated land, they may file a request with the courts to clean it up themselves and bill the owner for any costs. More info.

Limits eased on rent assistance grants. The prior cap on rental assistance grants funded through the Homelessness Prevention Act was 3 months of rent/mortgage payments, or a security deposit and two months of rent/mortgage payments. This limit has been adjusted to a flat cap equivalent to six months of rent or mortgage payments. Fees have been capped at 15% of the total amount granted. More info.

Enhanced regulations of alternative utility providers. Multiple restrictions and changes were made to the laws governing alternative providers of energy and fuel. Those door to door electricity salespeople may not be going away, but at least they'll have to speak your language and get some training now. This is another one with lots of detail so make sure to check out the full new law.

Foreclosure Filing Fees Reduced. Fees which had been collected for use in the Foreclosure Prevention Program and Abandoned Residential Property Municipality Relief Fund have been discontinued, reducing the price of filing a foreclosure by $250-500 each. Read more.

Foreclosures permitted without service. If the owner of a property in foreclosure cannot be located for service of notices in person or has left the state, the lender may instead publish notice of the foreclosure in a local newspaper within the county where the foreclosure lawsuit is filed and mail copies of the publication to all defendants in the case. More info.

Personal data security breaches must be reported. Any agency or business that collects non-public personal information must disclose any security breaches affecting 500 or more people to the State Attorney General's office, which will in turn publish a list of all such breaches. Landlords and property managers who retain credit reports or application data from renters are considered to be data collectors. More info.

Home Based Businesses Privacy Protection. Owners of home based businesses operating under assumed names may list the County Clerk as their registered agent in lieu of publishing their own home address if they have valid reason to believe that the publication of their home address would put their own safety at risk. Not a bad idea for landlords. More info.

Community Integrated Living Arrangements. Facilities licensed as community integrated living arrangements (CILA) must notify the state department when any emergency calls are made from the facility. A CILA is a property where 8 or fewer unrelated adults with developmental disabilities are living under the supervision of a social services agency. More info.

Single occupancy restrooms. All single-occupancy public restrooms must be available for all genders. This includes publicly accessible restrooms in lobbies and common areas of apartment buildings. Only applicable to new construction and properties that alter at least 50% of the entire place after January 1, 2020. More info.

Driver's Licenses and State ID cards. Many changes to procedures here, mostly to allow for issuance of ID cards to immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Too many changes here for us to summarize in full. See full text of law..

Orders of protection. Emergency orders of protection will not be available for public reference until after they have been served on the offender in question. This means they will not show up on criminal background checks should the offender evade service for long enough. More info.

Baby changing stations. Publicly accessible restrooms including those located in open apartment building lobbies, retail stores of 5000+ square feet and restaurants seating at least 60 persons must provided clearly marked baby changing stations in restrooms accessible by all genders. More info.

Townships may extend assistance programs. Townships may elect to create programs that use public aid funds to provide in-kind donations of food, staple goods, clothing and other life-essential products to those in immediate need of assistance, poor or homeless instead of only providing money. More info.

No truck idling in suburbs. Diesel vehicles weighing more than 8,000 lbs may not idle for more than 10 minutes in each hour in public parking lots or within 200 feet of residential property. Valid for any city or town in Cook County with less than 2 million residents, which means pretty much everywhere except within Chicago itself. School buses, trash trucks, ambulances, Dept of Transportation vehicles and utility company repair vehicles are exempt. More info.

Takedown procedures for published compromising photographs. The state criminal code now has procedures on the books for the takedown of compromising photographs and prosecution of those who photograph them or publish the photos without the consent of the subjects. More info.

State leases capped at 10 years. The state will not accept leases of longer than 10 years for facilities rented for their use. The leases may however include a renewal option. Month-to-month holdovers beyond the expiration date of the lease will only be funded for a maximum of six months. More info.

Pet kennels must have fire alarm or sprinkler systems. Operators of dog or cat kennels must have working fire alarm systems or sprinkler systems installed. Veterinarians and pet hospitals are exempt.

Cook County

Restrictions on use of Criminal records in tenant screening. Covered in depth in last week's article about the Just Housing Amendment.

Tax rate freezes have expired. The county froze increases to tax rates for the Retail Occupation Tax, Service Occupation Tax and Real Estate Transfer Tax in 2016 in conjunction with the start of the now repealed Sweetened Beverage Tax. Those freezes may not have been repealed along with the SBT. However, all three had built-in expiration dates of December 31, 2019 so the County may begin increasing all three again upon review.

City of Chicago

Note that the full text transcriptions of laws on the City's legislation site are spotty at best due to severely flawed OCR technology. We recommend that if you use the links to read more that you download the actual PDF files and use those instead of the scanned text on the website. Many of Chicago's laws take effect as soon as they pass the city council, so there's not many here that were held until the first of the year.

Cannabis penalties amended. The city has amended several sections of the municipal code to bring it in line with the state's legalization of marijuana. Read more and here for zoning changes made to accommodate cannabis dispensaries.

Wheel Tax lowered for Seniors with large vehicles. City sticker fees for vehicles over 16,000 lbs have been lowered to $135 from $200 if the owner is at least 65 years old. Property managers may want to consider transferring titles of their trucks accordingly. Read more.

Minor fixes to the Building Code. Several fixes of technical errors. Read more

Do you approve of these new laws and changes? Do you dislike them? If you have a strong opinion either way, make sure to dig into the history behind each bill and take note of which elected representatives voted for and against them. Campaigns for local legislatures are often ignored, especially during years with Presidential elections such as 2020. However, as renters and landlords the decisions made at the state, county and municipal levels can have a far greater effect on our day to day lives than anything occurring in Washington.

If you feel that we missed a major new law or amendment, please let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.

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Published by

Kay Cleaves