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Landlords appeal to Chicago City Council for security deposit reform

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A change to Chicago’s rental ordinance could loosen mandatory penalties for landlords

A group representing the interests of Chicago’s landlords is pushing for a subtle yet significant rewording of the city’s Resident Tenant Landlord Ordinance. The change specifically targets a clause that governs how penalties are assessed if a security deposit plus interest is not fully repaid. As the ordinance now exists, Windy City landlords must pay two times the deposit and interest as well as cover any legal fees incurred by their tenants if the deposit repayment is off, sometimes by as little as one cent.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the measure would see penalties go from mandatory to discretionary by changing the words "will pay" to "may pay," affording judges a newfound degree of flexibility. Introduced by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and backed by the Chicago Association of Realtors, the amendment is also aimed at limiting the sometimes lucrative payouts often earned by tenants’ lawyers.

Not without advocates and notable clout of its own, Chicago’s tenants’ rights groups will surly have something to say regarding the proposal. As has been the case in the past, the modification might result in an additional tweak elsewhere in the ordinance in favor of renters as the document attempts to maintain some semblance of equilibrium and perceived fairness.