Are security deposits more trouble than they are worth?

Q. I have owned rental property in the Chicago suburbs for many years. Over the past year or two, many of the folks that I know that also rent property in the area stopped taking security deposits. They tell me that taking a security deposit creates more problems than it’s worth, though they generally cannot tell me why. I think most of them are just taking advice from other landlords or their attorneys.

Can you tell me why I would stop taking a security deposit from my new tenants?

A. These issues started with the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance enacted in Chicago in 1986 and amended from time to time. In January 2021, Cook County enacted the Cook County Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance, adopting many of the same provisions of the Chicago ordinance.

Almost all rental units in Cook County are covered by the ordinance with the exception of units in owner-occupied buildings with six or fewer units, units in hotels, motels and rooming houses unless rent is paid on a monthly basis and the unit is occupied for more than 32 days, and school dormitory rooms, shelters, employees quarters, non-residential properties and owner occupied co-ops. There is an additional exception for a single family home or condominium if this is the owner’s only rental and the owner or family member has lived at the property within the past year. In the event this exclusion applies, certain notices must be made to the prospective tenant prior to any fees being collected.

The ordinance contains certain tenant rights and requires the landlord to provide certain information to the tenant. The ordinance contains provisions regarding what can be included in a lease, what can be done if the unit is not maintained properly and what the tenant can do if essential services are not being provided. The ordinance further contains provisions regarding tenant’s duties and rights of the landlord. And, to address your concerns, the ordinance contains numerous provisions regarding security deposits.

There is a long list of requirements regarding security deposits. Failure to comply with one or more of these provisions may make the landlord liable to the tenant for damages equal to twice the amount of the security deposit plus attorney fees. Google the Cook County Residential Tenant Landlord Ordinance for further information and details regarding security deposit requirements. It is these provisions of the ordinance that has many owners of rental properties abandoning the collection of security deposits.

The above is in no way a complete description of the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants under the above ordinances. Anyone owning rental property in Cook County (or any other county) should consult with an attorney experienced in this area to determine how best to operate their rental enterprise. Failure to adhere to the applicable ordinances may result in the tenant suing the landlord alleging violations under the ordinance.

Q. A number of years ago, a judgment was entered against me and a lien was put on my property. I have never done anything about this and I have never heard another word from the guy that sued me. Is there anything I can be doing to protect myself from this judgment?

A. Mostly, just wait. In our area, judgments are good for seven years, though a judgment can be revived. Once seven years lapses from the date of the judgment, the judgment and the associated lien lapse, unless revived.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 910 E. Oak St., Lake in the Hills, IL 60156, by email to or call (847) 359-8983.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.