The State of Illinois, by way of Public Act 097-0470, just amended the Illinois Landlord and Tenant Act, adding new section 765 ILCS 705/15, effective January 1, 2012, requiring landlords in counties with a population in excess of 3 million people (ie. Cook County) to change or re-key the locks on a dwelling unit after a tenancy ends. Exempt from the law are (1) owner occupied buildings containing four or fewer units or (2) rentals of a room in a private home.
The law basically requires covered landlords to change or re-key the locks when a tenant moves out and before a new tenant moves in. There is an exception when the tenant, by way of lease, has obtained the right to change or re-key the dwelling unit. The changing or re-keying must occur after the dwelling unit has been vacated and on or before the day a new tenant takes possession. The law defines “changing or re-keying” as any of the following (1) replacing the lock; (2) replacing the locking or cylinder mechanism in the lock so a different key must be used to unlock the lock; (3) changing the combination on a combination or digital lock; (4) changing an electronic lock so that the means or method of unlocking the lock is changed; or (5) changing the means of gaining access to the locked unit so it is not identical to the prior tenant’s means of gaining access to the unit.
There is one very big exception to compliance. Subsection “d” states:
The provisions of this Section do not apply if the lessee has obtained the right to change or rekey the dwelling unit lock pursuant to a written lease agreement.
Thus, if a landlord uses a written lease agreement and provides in it that the tenant has the right to change or rekey the lock, then the landlord need not do so.
The law imposes a harsh penalty on landlords who fail to comply. A landlord who violates the law is liable to the tenant for any damages the tenant may incur if a theft occurs at the dwelling unit that is attributable to the landlord’s failure to rekey or change the lock.