Its still cold out and we are not done with winter yet, so I want to talk about the Chicago heating cost disclosure. It’s the forgotten attachment in the landlord-tenant world! The form gets lost among ordinance summaries, security deposit receipts and lead-based paint disclosures. Why? Well, because many landlords and their agents are… lazy. You see, it takes effort to get a heating cost disclosure. Effort, you say? How hard is it to get one? Not hard at all. The City of Chicago provides the Energy Disclosure Application form on its website (it takes up all of one page) and all a landlord has to do is fill it out and send it in to the energy provider (a landlord can even
So what’s the big deal? Timing. As in other aspects of life, timing is everything. Let’s look at what the law (Chapter 5-16 of the Chicago Municipal Code) has to say:
(a) A building or dwelling unit owner, or agent thereof, shall not execute an oral or written lease, contract to lease, or accept any money or other valuable consideration in an application for an oral or written lease for a dwelling unit in which utility service for heat is individually metered to the dwelling unit and the tenant is directly responsible to the utility company for paying the cost of heating without disclosing to the tenant or applicant in written form:
(1) That the cost of heating shall be the responsibility of the tenant; and
(2) The annual cost of service from the utility providing the primary source of heat based on energy consumption during the previous twelve months.
The tenant or applicant shall be required to execute a receipt acknowledging that these written disclosures have been made. [emphasis added]
Now that is pretty interesting, right? Neither a landlord nor the landlord’s agent can execute a lease, contract to lease, or accept money in an application for lease without first proving the tenant a written disclosure that the cost of heating is the responsibility of the tenant and the annual heating cost information. Once the information is actually provided, the tenant needs to execute a receipt acknowledging that these disclosures have been made!
How many landlords or their agents actually do that? I bet not many.
The penalty for failure to provide the disclosure is $500.00. Keep in mind, the law does not apply to renewal leases provided the landlord has already provided the appropriate disclosure. In addition, the law requires the law requires the utility company to respond to the landlord’s request within two weeks. A landlord is not held responsible if the utility company fails to provide the information in the time required. The disclosures are valid for six months. So, the first thing a landlord should do when a unit becomes vacant or is expected to become vacant is to order up a disclosure, right?