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updated: 2/8/2011 10:31 AM

Tenant must follow rules regarding repairs

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Q. I have been renting a townhouse for about two years. There are many things that need repairing but the landlord will never fix anything. Some things I just let go but others, like the dishwasher not working or plumbing leaks, I have to get fixed.

I have tried to subtract what I spend off the rent, but the landlord throws a fit when I do that and threatens to have me evicted if I don't pay the full amount. My kids are in school here and it would be too hard to find another place so I always back off and pay her the full amount.

Does a tenant have any rights in these situations? It doesn't seem fair that I have to keep fixing the landlord's property or face being evicted.

A. The issue of repairs in the landlord-tenant arena is addressed in the Residential Tenant's Right to Repair Act, 765 ILCS 742. Section 5 of the Act states that if a repair is required under either the lease agreement or required pursuant to a law, ordinance or other regulation and the reasonable cost of repair does not exceed the lesser of $500 or one-half the monthly rent, the tenant may inform the landlord, in writing, via certified mail or other restricted delivery, of the tenant's intention to repair at the landlord's expense. In the event the landlord fails to make the repair within 14 days after being notified of the tenant's intentions, tenant may make the repair in a workmanlike manner and in compliance with any applicable rules or regulations. Emergency repairs must be made sooner by the landlord as conditions exist or the tenant may effectuate the repair.

Emergencies include conditions that will cause irreparable harm to the premises if not immediately repaired. Emergencies also include any condition that poses any immediate threat to the health or safety of any occupant of the property.

After submitting a paid bill to the landlord from an unrelated contractor or supplier the tenant may deduct from his or her rent the amount of the bill, not to exceed the above limits and not to exceed the customary cost of such repair.

Damage caused by the deliberate or negligent act of the tenant or tenant's family or guest does not qualify under this statute. In addition, this Act does not apply to public housing, condominiums, commercial tenancies or mobile homes.

To specifically address your situation, you must review the provisions of your lease regarding repair. To fall under this Act, the repair must either be required under the lease or required under a law or ordinance.

There are other provisions of this Act to consider. I would suggest speaking to an attorney before taking further action.

We submitted an offer to purchase a short sale property. It has been almost three months and we have heard little regarding when or if this may ever close.

Last weekend, we found another property we liked that is not a short sale. We would like to get out of the short sale deal and sign a contract for this property. Can we do this? If there a risk of being obligated under two contracts?

A. The terms and provisions of your first contract dictate when and if you can terminate that transaction. I almost always attempt to insert language in my short sale transactions providing that in the event the short sale is not approved by the seller's lender within X (usually 2-3) months, purchaser has the option of terminating the transaction.

You could simply go ahead and execute contract No. 2, insert language making contract No. 2 subject to you being released from contract No. 1 and then attempt to terminate contract No. 1. If you run into trouble with contract No. 1's seller, you could always exit contract No. 2 under the "subject to" clause.

I would suggest you have a real estate attorney review your current contract and advise you as to how best to proceed.

•Send your questions to Attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by e-mail to or call (847) 359-8983.