It is fitting that today is a cold day in Chicago. Many Chicago lessors are caught unaware of their obligation to supply a minimum level of heat to their rental units. Today, September 15, is the first day of 2011 that heat requirements are in effect for lessors in the City of Chicago.
Section 13-196-410 of the Municipal Code, the City of Chicago sets the heat requirements for every family unit or rooming unit to which heat is furnished. The code requires that heat be supplied between September 15th and June 1st of the following year. The heat requirements are as follows: 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.
So this means, at a minimum, that landlords need to have those boilers on today pumping out the heat. Does this mean that landlords have to pay for it? Well, that is an entirely different question and depends on the agreement of the parties embodied in the lease agreement. Lessors following the proper procedures who want tenants to pay for the heat also need to make a Chicago Heating Cost Disclosure to their tenants.
Section 5-16-010 of the Chicago Municipal Code governs heating cost disclosures and requires that a lessor shall not execute an oral or written lease, contract to lease, or accept any money in an application for an oral or written lease for a dwelling unit which is primarily heated by natural gas or electricity and in which the heating costs are the responsibility of the tenant 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 projected average monthly cost of utility service from the utility providing the primary source of heat based on energy consumption during the most recent annual period of continuous occupancy by one or more prior occupants, current or expected rates and normalized weather by the method approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Lessors should also make sure to get a receipt from their tenants as proof that the information was disclosed.
Penalties for a lessor’s failure to comply can be severe. Any lessor who fails to provide or who falsifies information required to be provided by Chapter 5-16 shall be subject to a fine not exceeding $500.00 for each offense.
I review lots of leases in my practice and it has been my experience that many lessors are not doing the job right when it comes to protecting themselves from liability for heating issues. At Reda | Ciprian | Magnone, provide services to lessors in the form of lease review and drafting and general landlord counseling for best practices.