RTLO: What you need to know

Commissioner Kevin Morrison
3 min readJan 28, 2021


After months of hard work and negotiations, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed the Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance — which I was proud to help write and serve as a chief sponsor— in January.

This is a huge step forward for suburban Cook County renters.

For decades, renters in more than 245,000 households in the suburbs did not have the same protections as tenants in Chicago, Evanston, and Mount Prospect. Now, every renter in Cook County is on the same playing field.

But what does the RTLO mean for you? Here are the highlights.

The RTLO sets uniform rights and responsibilities for tenants and landlords.

When everyone knows the rules, it’s easier to play by them. Rather than a patchwork of ordinances throughout suburban Cook County, the RTLO puts everyone on the same page, ensuring they know their rights and responsibilities.

Landlords cannot lock out tenants without a court order.

According to Illinois case law, it’s illegal for landlords to lock out tenants without being granted legal authority. However, the RTLO makes certain by a matter of local law that suburban landlords cannot lock out tenants — unless an eviction court grants it. This is proactive policy that guarantees an added layer of protection.

Landlord groups agreed this measure was important to include in the ordinance.

Late rent fees are capped at $10.

Renters don’t pay rent because they can’t afford it — the RTLO attempts to get rents current, not penalize tenants if they’re temporarily struggling to make ends meet.

Late fees are capped at $10 for the first $1,000 — after that, late fees are 5% of the overall rent.

Landlords cannot charge exorbitant move-in fees.

Yes, landlords can charge move-in fees. The RTLO just makes sure those fees are transparent and go to actual move-in expenses. This will make getting housed easier for many people.

Landlords must make repairs in a timely manner.

The RTLO requires landlords to make repairs within 14 days — after that, tenants may fix issues themselves and deduct the expenses from their monthly rent.

Tenants must pay rent.

This goes without saying: Tenants must pay rent.

Additionally, the RTLO gives landlords consistent countywide rules to know how and when they can evict renters in humane ways and what their obligations are in extreme cases such as foreclosure — all with the mutual goal of getting rent current and resolving cases.

When crafting the RTLO, everyone had a seat at the table.

For months, we met with landlord groups, county commissioners, and housing advocates to go through this ordinance line-by-line and ensure all concerns were addressed and discussed.

Good landlords are already providing these basic protections.

The vast majority of landlords in suburban Cook County are already doing their best to protect renters. The RTLO simply safeguards tenants from bad apple landlords.

The RTLO doesn’t go into effect until June 2021.

Until then, Commissioner Scott Britton and I are committed to reaching out to landlord groups to ensure everyone has the resources they need.

Please reach out to me at District15@cookcountyil.gov with any questions —I’m here to help.

For more information on the RTLO, view the full ordinance here: https://bit.ly/3iT0VQQ