Landlords/Tenants, Be Aware
Safe Homes Act
By: David B. Pogrund
The State of Illinois enacted a law entitled the Safe Homes Act on January 1, 2007 (the 'Act'). The Act is little known in the landlord/tenant arena as most landlords are not aware of a tenant's statutory right to flee an existing home/apartment in order to avoid domestic violence or sexual violence by a family member or any other person. The purpose of the Safe Homes Act is to enable victims of domestic or sexual violence and their families to flee existing dangerous housing in order to leave violent or abusive situations, achieve safety, and minimize the physical or emotional injuries from domestic or sexual violence, and to reduce the devastating economic consequences thereof.
Under the Safe Homes Act, if a tenant experiences domestic or sexual violence as defined by the Act, upon written notice from the tenant to the landlord, the parties are affected as follows:
- 1. A tenant will not be liable for payment of rent for the period after which the tenant vacates the apartment, provided that the tenant gives the landlord written notice prior to or within 3 days of vacating the premises. The notice must set forth that the reason for vacating the premises is because of a credible imminent threat of domestic or sexual violence against tenant or a member of the tenant's household;
- 2. A landlord shall be required to change the locks of the apartment if one or more of the tenants reasonably believes that one of the tenants or a member of tenant's household is under a credible imminent threat of domestic or sexual violence at the premises.
- 3. If the threat of violence is from a person who is not a Lessee under the written lease, notice to the landlord requesting a change of locks shall be accompanied by at least one of the following types of evidence to support a claim of domestic or sexual violence:
- A. Medical, court or police evidence of domestic or sexual violence.
- B. A statement from an employee of a victim services, domestic violence, or rape crisis organization from which the tenant or member of the tenant's household sought services.
- 4. If the threat of violence is from a person who is also a Lessee under the written lease, the landlord shall not be required to provide written notice of the changed locks to the tenant committing the abuse, provided that the victim-tenant's notice to the landlord is accompanied by an Order of Protection or a Civil No Contact Order granting the tenant exclusive possession of the premises.
- 5. The landlord may charge a fee for the expense of changing the locks. That fee must not exceed the reasonable price customarily charged for changing a lock.
- 6. If a landlord fails to change the locks within 48 hours after being provided with the notice and evidence, the tenant may change the locks without landlord's permission.
- 7. The landlord who changes the locks or allows the change of locks under the Act shall not be liable to any third party for damages resulting from a person being unable to access the dwelling.
- 8. A tenant who changes the locks must make a good-faith effort to provide a copy of the key to the landlord within 48 hours of changing the locks. A tenant who does not make this good-faith effort shall be liable for any damages to the dwelling or building in which the dwelling is located that could have been prevented had landlord been able to access the dwelling unit in the event of an emergency. The same holds true for a landlord who changes the locks and does not make a good faith effort to provide a copy of the key to the protected tenant within 48 hours of changing the locks.
- 9. A landlord is specifically prohibited from disclosing to another prospective landlord that the tenant or member of tenant's household exercised his or her rights under the Act or to provide any information provided by the tenant or member of tenant's household in exercising these rights.
It is critical that landlords and tenants be familiar with the Safe Homes Act, summarized above. Landlords in particular must be familiar with the Act's requirements in order to comply with this law in the event that any of the landlord's tenants give written notice regarding domestic or sexual violence and demand any of the remedies afforded under the Safe Homes Act.
To see the Act in its entirety, please visit: