On January 3, 2018, NBC Channel 5 reported that the City of Chicago Building Department is taking landlords to court during this cold snap. The report indicates that the Department of Buildings has received over 600 heat complaints. City building inspectors are going out in response to 311 calls. For those landlords who are not in compliance with the City’s heat ordinance, the City is bringing court actions to appoint receivers to run the buildings and provide the heat tenants are entitled to receive.
The Chicago Heat Ordinance (Section 13-196-410 of the Municipal Code) requires that for every rental area for which heat is furnished by the landlord from September 15 of each year to June 1 of the next, the landlord must maintain a minimum temperature of 68 degrees between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m and 66 degrees between 10:30 p.m. and 8:30 a.m.
Many landlords are surprised to learn that they must maintain these minimum standards. Even more landlords may complain that “the last tenant never complained” or that “the other tenants are not complaining”. Others will say “it’s really cold and the building is old, what can I do?”. The city ordinance is one of strict liability – fail to meet the requirements and face a penalty.
Those excuses will likely fall on deaf ears. As the City of Chicago mention on their website “Landlords face fines of up to $500 per day, per violation, for each day they do not supply adequate heat. The reason for lack of heat does not matter — landlords must follow the law, and apartments must be heated.”
There’s not much room for argument on this one. Landlords need to keep their buildings heated to the minimum standards. Those who do not face fines and possibly a temporary takeover of their building (a takeover that will not be inexpensive!)