Illinois Tenants Union

Illinois Tenants Union We believe all persons have a right to safe, decent, affordable housing. We work with tenants to assist in evictions and break lease. We help tenants exercise their rights in Cook County.

Mission: Tenants' rights before property rights

Operating as usual


In 2016, the Electoral College elected a notorious scam artist, slumlord to be President of the United States. Now, as he rants at a black Maryland Congressman about how bad Baltimore is, it seems that the President's own son-in-law (Jared Kushner) is a notorious slumlord in Baltimore. Making America worse, one building at a time.


Tenants in Cook County being sued for eviction? Call us 773-478-1133. We can find you legal representation!


Housing Industry: No industry in America greater demonstrates the inadequacies of the capitalist market place to provide adequate service. It starts with a necessity of life--housing--and then turns it into a commodity in which profit, not need determines what type of housing is available, and to whom.

Like other industries, governments (local, state and federal) have intervened to regulate how and what is offered. There are Building Codes, construction standards, tax incentives, smattering of rent control, and rent subsidies. Unfortunately, most of these have either been woefully inadequate--only 3% of all tenants in the USA receive a rent subsidy, for example, compared to 40% in Sweden--or actually encouraged the availability of affordable housing crisis we are now suffering.

Greatest example of the failure of government to ameliorate the inadequacies of the housing market for the bottom 50% of Americans is the collapse of public housing. Huge, impersonal high rise housing was built as bunkers for minorities and the poor, rather than integrating poorer tenants into the larger community. In response to a lack of funding and lack of imaginative policy and hopelessly corrupt bureaucracy, public housing became a blight on the community instead of havens against the rapacious capitalist marketplace.

So, what was the response to this? Coming up with ways to actually provide affordable housing to millions? No. High rises are torn down and the tenants are scattered to the wind with false promises of adequate subsidies for better housing.

Chicago is great example of this housing failure. Despite anti-discrimination laws, housing remains dramatically racially segregated by neighborhood and sides of town. Tearing down the segregated high rise public housing projects has not changed that, as was promised.

Partially due to rental costs, and due to discrimination by landlords--in violation of city ordinance--against Section 8 voucher holders, Chicago has exported tens of thousands of poor people to poor suburbs, and even out of state.

In the past several decades in Chicago, even during booms in real estate development, nearly all housing construction has been in either pricey condo buildings and/or luxury single family homes, or expensive high rises located in or close to the Loop. No one is building multi-unit, reasonably-priced apartment buildings. There have been very few of them built since the 1920s. Fortunately for Chicago's tenants, many of those buildings are still standing and serviceable.

Not only was this a failure by the city, state and federal governments; it was their planned policy. Political decisions were made by administration after administration to skew tax laws to benefit rich developers and not poor and working class tenants.


Only 10% (or fewer) of tenants in Cook County who are sued for eviction are able to hire an attorney to represent them in their case. These 90%+ are almost always have an eviction order entered against them the same day they show up in court, often "stayed" for only 7, or maybe 14 days.

We are able to obtain legal representation for tenants, getting them far more time to move than that, and often avoid a money judgment, too. BEFORE tenants go to court, they should call us first 773-478-1133 or email "[email protected]".


Some tenants mistakenly think that suing their former landlord to retrieve an illegally withheld security deposit costs too much or isn't worth it. Some things to consider before deciding:

In Chicago, Evanston, Mt. Prospect, & Oak Park, IL, there are city ordinances which allow a tenant to sue their former landlord not only for the amount improperly withheld, but also for DOUBLE the deposit as damages, AND attorney's fees if they hire a lawyer. This means that the former landlord can be forced by the court to pay damages and the tenant's costs in pursuing the case--IF the tenant wins.

Also, money can be legally withheld from a deposit for owed rent, not just damage to the property. So, if a tenant leaves a property owing rent, even the last month's rent only, that can be counted against the deposit.

Elsewhere in Illinois, other than the cities listed above, the state law allows tenants to sue for damages and costs, too, but ONLY if the former property had at least 5 apartment units or more.

Lastly, whenever contemplating pursuing a lawsuit of any kind, the person thinking of filing it must feel that the money is collectible from the other party. Some landlords are adept at hiding money, or are broke, or hide behind shell companies. A little research makes sense before filing a case.


Need to move before the end of your lease? Landlord isn't helpful? Call ITU at 773-478-1133 or email "[email protected]" for assistance! One of our specialties.


IL Legislature has passed a statute requiring the courts to charge an appearance fee to any attorney or legal services company representing tenants in eviction court. This fee will be charged EVEN IF the tenant qualifies for a waiver of fees due to low income!

This requirement will discourage legal representation of tenants--already only about 10% in Cook County--as it will require legal service providers to either pass on the cost to clients and/or "eat it" and be able to represent fewer tenant clients.

We can only conclude that these supposedly "progressive" Democrats in the legislature want to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants without the "interference" of attorneys who are trying to assist tenants in the process. Despicable.


One of most frustrating problems we encounter in helping tenants isn't just landlord selfishness or cruelty, but simply them acting irrationally--not even in their own interests. Greed is understandable; obstinate irrationality is less so.

Case in point: we often help tenants being sued for eviction for non-payment of rent who relate to us that they obtained rental assistance from government or a private charity but their landlord refused to fill out paperwork so he could be paid--and simply sued to evict them instead.


Over the past several decades, there has been a lot of new housing building in Chicago, but mostly for purchase by upper middle class or wealthy people. No new apartment buildings are built which aren't also considered "luxury".

Chicago lost 10,000s of public housing units which were never replaced. Since city has never enforced its Fair Housing Ordinance which prohibits discrimination against Section 8/subsidized rent tenants, tenants w/vouchers were largely forced to flee the City or accept substandard housing in dangerous neighborhoods.

Much is made of the fact that Chicago is losing population faster than any other major city in America. Few mention that a major factor in that has been the driving out of poor ppl to suburban towns or even other states.


Our advice for new Chicago administration and new aldermen? Start enforcing the Building Code, stop letting slumlords get away w/over-charging for mold-filled, pest-ridden apartments. Tell eviction court judges to stop evicting tenants for complaining about non-repairs. Come up with a plan to encourage building housing in which working class tenants can afford to live.


Tenants rights in Chicago is a good news, bad news joke: on 1 hand, tenants' rights ordinance (RLTO), is a good law w/lots of rights for tenants. OTOH, the courts often ignore the requirements of that law, & rule in favor of landlords anyway.

This is why the I.T.U. has stopped advising tenants to exercise their right under the RLTO to pay a reduced rent for reduced services. Law allows tenants to pay a reduced rent by following a written procedure when a landlord fails to maintain his or her building. Law also prohibits a landlord from suing to evict a tenant because he or she has properly exercised that right.

However, we have seen in case after case, judges in Cook County's notorious eviction court reject that argument out of hand because they "don't believe in it". They rule in favor of the landlord and evict the tenant. Excuse me, but it isn't judges' job to decide what laws they like and refuse to enforce those they do not like.

So, we have stopped advising tenants to pay a reduced rent because we now know that the law really does not protect them because of bad judges. We do not want to be responsible for sending tenants off to fail.


Recent survey shows 89% of Chicago tenants in eviction court are NOT represented by attorneys. They are evicted quickly, court gives them short shrift. ITU can help tenants find representation. Call 773-478-1133


Tenants in metro Chicago who need to legally terminate their leases early can get help from the I.T.U. by calling 773-478-1133 or emailing us at "[email protected]"


We often hear from tenants that their landlords charge them for repairs the landlord has done in their unit. This is illegal. Landlords are required by law to maintain properties. A tenant can only be charged if a repair is necessitated by negligence of the tenant.


Evictions are routinely the gateway to homelessness. We interviewed a woman recently who said she'd probably end up sleeping in her car because she has 3 dogs, which made it that much harder to find a new rental.


Evictions are treated like no other lawsuit in IL. A landlord can get a tenant in court in as little as 2 weeks, and get an eviction order at that time. The law facilitates evictions, leading many to homelessness--35,000 eviction cases each year in Cook County alone!

The Tenants Union can help tenants with legal representation in eviction cases. We can guarantee more time to move, and usually a better settlement of the case.


Shout Out to Metroplaza - insurance brokers who have helped our small organization navigate the Byzantine medical insurance industry. They've helped us provide good health insurance to our employees, & we are grateful for their professional & friendly help! 😊


When landlords tell you that you're responsible for finding your own replacement tenant if you move b4 end of your lease, then aren't telling you the truth. IL & Chicago law REQUIRES THEM to find your replacement, w/penalty if they don't.


Tenants in metro Chicago who need to legally terminate their rental leases should contact ITU at 773-478-1133 or email at "[email protected]"

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Healthy bodies and healthy communities start with housing security!

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The Illinois Tenants Union advocates for the rights of tenants over property-management giants.

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Get out and vote! Polls are open until 7 pm and you can register at the the polls!

Follow along for live updates throughout Election Day as Chicago decides who to send to City Hall.

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Check out this resource to learn about the issues and candidates. And then, make a plan to vote!

No matter if you’re a rookie voter or a veteran, we have everything you need.


4616 N Drake Ave
Chicago, IL

Kimball Brown Line stop, 81 bus, 82 bus, 78 bus

Opening Hours

Monday 09:00 - 17:00
Tuesday 09:00 - 17:00
Wednesday 09:00 - 17:00
Thursday 09:00 - 17:00
Friday 09:00 - 17:00


+1 773-478-1133


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Our Story

We are an organization which advocates for residential renters firmly rooted in the belief that tenant rights come before property rights. We serve those who rent in apartment buildings, condos, or houses in the City of Chicago and suburban Cook County. Whether the tenant has a problem with a landlord who does not make repairs or has been served a summons to go to court, tenants need to know their legal rights. Residents of Chicago and Evanston are governed by a Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) and residents of Mount Prospect by the Residential Landlord and Tenant Regulations. Tenants living anywhere else are governed only by state law. You do not need to be a lawyer to read the law, but you do need someone experienced to help you exercise your rights under the law. Besides offering advice over the phone, we focus on helping tenants break their leases and in eviction proceedings. Full-time professionally trained staff assist tenants when they call. Our executive director is a licensed Illinois attorney and has been serving tenants since 1980. Please call us for a personal consultation at (773) 388-5888. Appointments with a tenant advocate are available Monday through Saturday. If you have any questions or would like more information, or to discuss your rights please contact us (773) 388-5888.

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Comments Chicago Housing AUTHORITY Trumbull park homes Outside My apartment With Illegal contractors Harassing Residents
Ok, I really need answer for lady I know, she is renting from owners and she is sick, have cancer and chimo, owners want her to leave and raised rent payment, she also said they filed paper on court, I am really concern and she don’t know what to do, can she be evicted and the worse part is she does not have contract, thank you
I live in a trailer park. The owners supply water from city and bill separately to tenants. Their metering system isn't perfect, neither is their water grid, therefore there are frequent mistakes on bills that they expect paid regardless, no questions. I went through this five years ago with them and was barraged with complaints afterwards (this is their tactic to keep people here from complaining). I now have a bill with another customer's number on it, math that doesn't add up, and hand-written corrections that don't add up either. Their system leaks, I have told them of solid matter in my water before, but they have no plans on fixing it. Whenever a main leak occurs, they simply charge residents more for their water to compensate for the cost. What can be done?