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You're Not Alone: How Empowered Renters Get Things Fixed

Renting an apartment comes with plenty of upsides. Chief among them? Probably having a landlord to call when you find yourself faced with a leaking fridge, a clogged shower drain, or a creaking radiator (sorry homeowners, as Spiderman's uncle said "With great power comes great responsibility"). But what happens if your landlord brings in sketchy workers who provide faulty repairs, takes forever to get back to you, or is just plain unresponsive to tenant requests? Don't worry, you're not as helpless as you think.

If it's something minor and your landlord's just dragging his or her feet, put your request in writing. Be specific in your request, date it, and keep a copy for your records. Your landlord is required to make the requested repairs within 14 days or you have the right to withold "an amount of rent that reasonably reflects the reduced value of the unit." After 14 days you also have the option of getting the problem fixed yourself and deducting up to $500 or half a month's rent (whichever is more). Make sure you hold onto your receipt to show your landlord. If the repairs aren't made within that window, you also have grounds to terminate your rental agreement.

Your landlord is required to keep your building up to local code and that means providing the essentials (heat, running water, electricity, etc.). If you find yourself without these things (and you've asked nicely), you have a couple courses of action:

-Find someone else to repair the issue for you and deduct the cost from the following month's rent or secure alternative housing until the matter is resolved and be excused from that month's rent. -Again, put things in writing. If you request that your landlord make the essential repairs in 24 hours and he or she fails to, you can deduct a reasonable amount from the rent. If you request that he or she makes the fixes within 72 hours and he or she fails to, you can terminate your rental agreement. Keep in mind, neither of these is applicable if it's the utility company that's dragging its feet and not your landlord.

Still not getting results? File a complaint with the city's Housing Department or a violation with the Department of Buildings. Issues like bedbugs in apartment buildings have even been buzzing around City Council in recent months as an ordinance was proposed in January that landlords be held accountable for having the infestation removed after our fair city was named Orkin Pest Control's busiest bed bug locale last year. Yippie! There are tenants' rights groups that will let you file a complaint through them as well.

And there's always legal action if it comes to that. A tenants' rights lawyer can help you figure out how you might go about suing your landlord. The Cook County Sheriff's office even offers a list of tenants' rights resources. Finally, if damage is the issue and not malfunction — and it just so happens that you're the one responsible for it — be prepared to empty that wallet for anything beyond normal wear and tear.

For more resources try Illinois Legal Aid's page, the County Clerk's office, or Chicago apartment site Domu's tenant guide.
·Curbed University [Curbed Chicago]