10 Key Terms to Include in Illinois Leases and Rental Agreements

If you're a landlord renting out residential property in Illinois, you want to make sure that your lease or rental agreement complies with state law on issues such as interest payments on security deposits (Illinois requires in some circumstances). Here are a dozen items Illinois landlords should include in their leases and rental agreements.

Terms to Include

1. Names of All Tenants

Every adult who lives in the rental unit, including both members of a married or unmarried couple, should be named as tenants and sign the lease or rental agreement. This makes each tenant legally responsible for all terms, including the full amount of the rent and any damage to the property.

Your agreement should clearly specify that the rental unit is the residence of only the tenants who have signed the lease and their minor children. The value of this clause is that it gives you grounds to evict a tenant who moves in a friend or relative, or sublets the unit, without your permission.

2. Type and Length of Tenancy

Every Illinois rental document should state whether it is a rental agreement or a fixed-term lease. Here's the difference:

  • Rental agreements usually run from month-to-month and self-renew unless terminated by the landlord or tenant. Your rental agreement should specify when the rental agreement begins and how much notice you (and the tenant) will give to end the tenancy, as well as how much notice you will give to change the rental agreement. Under Illinois law, landlords must give tenants 30 days' notice to end or change a tenancy, and tenants must give landlords 30 days' notice to end a tenancy.
  • Leases, on the other hand, set a specific beginning and expiration date. A lease obligates both landlord and tenant to a specific term, typically a year.

3. Rent, Late Fees, and Related Issues

Your lease or rental agreement should provide specific details on the rent, including:

  • the amount of rent
  • when it is due (typically, the first of the month), and whether there's any grace period
  • how rent is to be paid, such as by mail or delivered to your office
  • acceptable payment methods (such as personal check only)
  • whether late fees will be due if rent is not paid on time and the amount of the fee (Chicago has specific limits on late fees), and
  • any bounced-check fee you'll charge if the tenant gives you a check that the bank will not honor.

4. Security Deposit

To avoid confusion and legal hassles with tenants, Illinois leases and rental agreement should be clear on all the details of deposits, including the dollar amount, how it will be used (such as to cover unpaid rent), and how and when you will return the deposit. Illinois landlords who are renting 25 or more units in either a single building, or a complex located on contiguous properties, must pay interest on deposits held for more than six months. Chicago landlords must comply with special requirements regarding interest payments and the type of account where you keep tenant deposits.

5. Repairs and Maintenance

To avoid rent-withholding hassles and disputes over security deposits, it's a good idea to spell out the following in your lease or rental agreement:

  • the tenant's responsibility to keep the rental premises clean and sanitary and to pay for any damage caused by his or her abuse or neglect
  • a requirement that the tenant alert you to defective or dangerous conditions in the rental property, with specific details on your procedures for handling complaint and repair requests, and
  • restrictions on tenant repairs and alterations, such as painting walls or installing a dishwasher without your permission.

6. Entry to Rental Property

To avoid tenant claims of illegal entry or violation of privacy rights, your lease or rental agreement should clarify your legal right of access to the property -- for example, to make repairs -- and state how much advance notice you will provide the tenant before entering. The state of Illinois does not require landlords to give tenants a specified amount of notice before entering, but the city of Chicago does have special rules regarding landlord entry.

7. Restrictions on Tenant Illegal Activity

To avoid trouble among your tenants, prevent property damage, and limit your exposure to lawsuits from residents and neighbors, you should include an explicit lease or rental agreement clause prohibiting disruptive behavior, such as excessive noise, and illegal activity, such as drug dealing.

8. Pets

If you do not allow pets, be sure your lease or rental agreement is clear on the subject. If you do allow pets, you should identify any special restrictions, such as a limit on the size or number of pets.

9. Disclosures

Federal law require landlords to make certain lead-based paint disclosures before tenants move in. Illinois also requires that you inform tenants if one or more meters are master-metered and explain how you will allocate costs. Chicago landlords must comply with additional disclosure requirements, such as previous citations for building code violations.

10. Other Restrictions

Be sure your lease or rental agreement complies with all relevant state and local Illinois laws, including health and safety codes, occupancy rules, and antidiscrimination laws. Any other legal restrictions, such as limits on the type of business a tenant may run from home, should also be spelled out in the lease or rental agreement. Important rules and regulations covering parking and use of common areas should be specifically mentioned in the lease or rental agreement.

Where to Find Illinois Lease and Rental Forms

For Illinois rental documents, including leases and rental agreements, see the Real Estate and Rental Property Forms section of Nolo. These ready-to-use legal forms include detailed, clause-by-clause instructions that cover the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in Illinois. The documents also include specific language for clauses that require it under the city of Chicago's landlord-tenant ordinance. Options include the following:

Downloadable Form

Illinois Residential Lease

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