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Repair and Deduct Laws in Illinois

State law allows Illinois tenants to make necessary repairs and deduct the cost from their rent if their landlord hasn’t fixed the problem within 14 days.

Most states have some version of “repair and deduct,” a legal tactic that tenants can use to deal with a landlord who won’t fix major problems with their rental unit. As the name suggests, tenants are allowed by law to make repairs on their own and then deduct that amount from the rent.

In Illinois specifically, tenants must wait 14 days after informing their landlord of the problem (or fewer, if the problem is particularly severe) before making their own repair. Then, tenants may subtract up to $500 from their rent for reasonable repairs by a licensed professional—but only if they strictly follow state protocol.

Only certain issues are eligible for repair and deduct

Tenants can’t use repair and deduct for every problem they may encounter in a rental unit. There are two types of problems that qualify:

  1. Repairs that are mentioned in the lease as the landlord’s responsibility
  2. Any issues that violate Illinois’ warranty of habitability

Often, a lease lays out the scope of repairs the landlord will make. However, even if the necessary repair is not addressed in the lease, it may be a breach of the warranty of habitability. Landlords in Illinois are required to keep their rental units habitable, which in most cases means abiding by the local housing code—things like maintaining structural components of the property, and ensuring that electrical, heat, plumbing, and larger appliances like the stove and refrigerator are functioning.

That being said, if the damage is the tenant’s fault—deliberately or through carelessness—repair and deduct can’t be used.1

Tenants must follow a specific process to repair and deduct

Before hiring a repair technician, tenants are required by Illinois law to send their landlord a letter demanding that the problem be fixed within 14 days. The letter must be signed, copied, and sent via certified mail. If the issue is an emergency—something that would cause "irreparable harm" to the apartment, or that's an immediate threat to the health and safety of the tenant—the letter can demand that the repairs be made immediately.

If the landlord does not make the repair within the period stated in the letter, the tenant can hire a contractor. This contractor must be a licensed, insured professional and cannot be related to the tenant. After the repair is made, the tenant must mail the landlord a copy of the paid bill—at which point they can finally deduct the repair from their rent.2

The cost of the repair can’t exceed $500 or half a month’s rent

Any repairs must be less than $500 (or half the monthly rent, whichever is lower). For example, if a tenant pays $1,500 in rent, the amount deducted must be $500 or less; if rent is $500, repair deductibles would max out at $250. In addition, the cost must be considered reasonable, which state statute defines as the current market price “customarily charged for the repair.”3

If the repair would cost more than $500, there's another tactic tenants can consider: withholding rent until the landlord finally makes repairs.

Repair and deduct isn’t applicable in all types of rental housing

Illinois bars tenants from using repair and deduct in the following types of housing: 4

  • Residences with six units or less, with the owner living in the property
  • Public housing
  • Condominiums
  • Residential cooperative housing
  • Commercial tenants
  • Mobile homes located in a mobile home park

[1] Section 765 ILCS 742/5

[2] Section 765 ILCS 742/5

[3] Section 765 ILCS 742/5

[4] Section 765 ILCS 742/10

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.