There may be a time when a tenant feels so comfortable in your rental that they want to add their own personal touches. Stories of tenants who alter the rental property are fairly common. Whether it’s performing repairs, painting the walls, installing fixtures, or even demolition activities, a rental agreement will prohibit such actions without the prior written consent of the landlord. And, even with approved consent the work must be of a professional standard of quality and all work becomes the property of the landlord. There are, however, situations where a tenant in Illinois can repair a property and deduct the cost of such repairs from the rent.

Tenant’s Right to “Repair and Deduct”

In Illinois a tenant can repair and deduct for up to the lesser of $500 or one-half the monthly rent. Specifically, as per 765 ILCS 742/5, if a repair is required under the rental agreement or required under a law, administrative rule, or local ordinance or regulation, and the reasonable cost of the repair does not exceed the lesser of $500 or one-half of the monthly rent, the tenant must notify the landlord in writing of tenant’s intention to have the repair made, ultimately at the landlord’s expense. The landlord then has 14 days to make the repair, and if the landlord fails to do so the tenant can have the repair made and seek reimbursement from the landlord. The tenant must have the repair made in a workmanlike manner and in compliance with the appropriate law, administrative rule, or local ordinance or regulation. Finally, the timeframe for the tenant taking action on their own is compressed if the repair is of an emergency nature.

Reimbursement to the tenant is in the form of a rent reduction. After submitting to the landlord a paid bill from an appropriate tradesman or supplier, the tenant may deduct from the rent the amount of the bill, not to exceed the lesser of $500 or one-half the monthly rent. And, if not clearly indicated on the bill submitted by the tenant, the tenant must also provide to landlord in writing, at the time of the submission of the bill, the name, address, and telephone number for the tradesman or supplier that provided the repair services. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that the tenant may not repair at the landlord’s expense if the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent act or omission of the tenant, a member of tenant’s family, or another person on the premises with tenant’s consent.

There are some exceptions to the repair and deduct remedy. The remedy does not apply to the following situations:

  • public housing as defined in Section 3(b) of the United States Housing Act of 1937;
  • condominiums;
  • not-for-profit corporations organized for the purpose of residential cooperative housing;
  • tenancies other than residential tenancies;
  • owner-occupied rental property containing 6 or fewer dwelling units; or
  • any dwelling unit that is subject to the Illinois Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant Rights Act.