Cook County Illinois landlords must change locks at end of lease term

keys and locks for tenantsThe 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.

13 thoughts on “Cook County Illinois landlords must change locks at end of lease term”

  1. How does this apply to a 60-unit condominium? This does not include re-keying the common area doors but just the door to the individual unit, correct?

    • Correct – a 60 unit building in Cook County would be covered by this law. The law does not require the landlord (or the condo building) to re-key the entry to the entire building. The landlord would, however, be obligated to re-key the “the immediate access to the lessee’s individual dwelling unit”. In other words, just the individual unit needs to be re-keyed.

      I suppose there could be situations where there are units within a unit that may require re-keying, so each individual situation is different and must be analyzed based on its particular facts, so landlords are well advised to consult an attorney for assistance with questions about how the law specifically applies to them.

  2. The new law is effective as of January 2012 and obligates landlords to rekey when a tenant moves out and before a new tenant moves in. How about leases that were signed before January 2012 with a term that ends in 2012. Are those leases subject to the rekey provision or does the law apply when the next lease is signed or current renewed?

    • For properties that are otherwise covered by the law (remember, there are a few exceptions), if 2012 “begins” and a lease was signed prior, the law did not apply inasmuch as the locks do not need to be changed for the current tenant. However, when the pre-2012 lease expires in 2012 (or later), then the law must be complied with (ie. change locks/security or give the tenant the right in a written lease to do so). Be sure to consult with your attorney before taking any action.

  3. If lessor adds to its leases a tenant right to rekey the apartment but requires the tenant to use lessor’s locksmith (because building is part of master key system) and requires tenant pay for the lessor’s reasonable out-of-pocket cost, would that type of provision meet the requirements of the subsection d exception? There does not seem to be any prohibition on requiring tenants to pay for rekeying. The law seems to be intended to ensure tenants can have new locks. Passing the cost to the tenant is not inconsistent with that objective. thank you.

    • You raise an interesting question. The relevant portion of the statute is

      765 ILCS 705/15(d) 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.

      This section indicates that the law – and the penalties for failure to change locks – do not apply if the tenant is given the right in writing in the lease agreement to change or rekey the unit lock. Can a landlord put reasonable restrictions on this right of the tenant? The statute doesn’t say. As you point out, there is no guidance as to who must pay for the tenant to rekey.

      Because this law is so new, we have no case law to provide guidance. I think reasonable constraints (such as requiring the tenant to pay to rekey the unit or requiring the use of an approved locksmith) would likely pass muster. Although I can’t bless that situation as “legal advice” or “legal opinion” upon which folks can rely, I think it is quite likely that a landlord can implement a policy such as the one you suggest.

  4. We didn’t know about this new law and new tenants moved in in April, 2012. The rules say that keys must be changed between tenants so do we wait till the current ones move out or are we required to change the keys for the current tenants now since we didn’t know about this previously?

    • Regretfully, not knowing about the existence of a law is rarely a good excuse for failure to comply and will almost never excuse performance. The law is new and, on its face, it obviously has no “cure” provision. However, it cannot hurt to change the locks at this time – with the full notice and knowledge of the tenant and making sure that the tenant gets copies of the new keys and is not locked out! It cannot hurt to comply with the law at this time. Certainly, if there is failure to comply, you will be responsible for the law’s penalties if the tenants are robbed.

  5. I have signed a lease with 3 other renters. We all have rooms that do not have working locks on them. Under this law are we allowed “new” locks to our bedroom doors?

    • I don’t have enough facts about your situation to give any sort of answer. You should consult with a tenant’s rights attorney on this issues.

  6. After a bad separation, I had my ex removed from my lease. Given that a tenancy technically ended, is my landlord responsible for changing my locks?

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