$300 to fix your mistake.
May 28, 2008 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Can a Chicago landlord transfer storm liability for the structure to the tenant? Can I get out of it?

I'm (re)leasing an apartment at a large complex. The contract has two clauses which bother me. One clause clearly makes the renter liable for window damage from any cause (except landlord negligence). I don't want to be on the hook for storm damage, birds, etc. Renter's insurance isn't going to cover storm damage to windows, since I don't own them. I have six huge panels of double-paned glass; I'd image that they'd cost thousands to replace.

The second clause states that making any change to the contract which the landlord agrees to will result in a $300 fee. That's almost reasonable since they'd probably have a lawyer think about it for 5 seconds (and get billed an hour). The contract is taken directly from the National Apartment Association.

I'm looked to see if the first clause is contrary to law here (Chicago), but I can't find anything saying so.

Does anyone have experience working with large landlords and getting contract fixes? I don't want to be part of their property insurance, but I also don't want to have to pay $300 to avoid getting screwed. Obviously if I’m asking for a change I can ask for the $300 to be waived and am going to do that.

If I sign and return the contract in the next few days I get $150 off a month of rent, which would be nice. Anyone have good arguments that I should walk into the management office with?
posted by a robot made out of meat to Law & Government (16 answers total)
 
I think you're getting screwed. Both clauses are outrageous.
posted by WCityMike at 9:18 AM on May 28, 2008


I am not your lawyer, nor am I a lawyer at all. The window thing appears to be a clear violation of the Chicago Tenant-Landlord Ordinance:

5-12-070 Landlord's Responsibility to Maintain

The landlord shall maintain the premises in compliance with all applicable provisions of the municipal code and shall promptly make any and all repairs necessary to fulfill this obligation. ( Prior code §193.1-7; Added. Council Journal of Proceedings, September 8, 1986, page 33771)

5-12-110 Tenants Remedies.

In addition to any remedies provided under federal law, a tenant shall have the remedies specified in is section under the circumstances herein set forth.

For purposes of this section, material noncompliance with Section 5-12-070 shall include, but is not limited to, any of the following circumstances:

Failure to maintain the structural integrity of the building or structure or parts thereof;

[...]

Failure to maintain windows, exterior doors or basement hatchways in sound condition and repair and substantially tight and to provide locks or security devices as required by the municipal code, including dead latch locks, deadbolt locks, sash or ventilation locks, and front door windows or peep holes;
posted by WCityMike at 9:21 AM on May 28, 2008


5-12-140 Rental Agreement

Except as otherwise specifically provided by this chapter, no rental agreement may provide that the landlord or tenant:

(a) Agrees to waive or forego rights, remedies or obligations provided under this chapter;

[...]

(c) Agrees to the limitation of any liability of the landlord or tenant arising under law;

[...]

A provision prohibited by this section included in a rental agreement is unenforceable.
posted by WCityMike at 9:23 AM on May 28, 2008


I can't find anything that prohibits the $300 contract-alteration fee. Perhaps a lawyer could point you to something.

But, yeah, this raises all sorts of red alarms with me. I'd not choose this place unless there were really, really strong "pro" factors to counterbalance this mega-"con" factor.
posted by WCityMike at 9:24 AM on May 28, 2008


Response by poster: Yeah, I saw that. The landlord has to maintain the windows (else I can break the lease), but I don't see that they're prohibited for billing me for that maintenance. Hm, it does say that I can deduct up to $500 for repairs that I conduct.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:36 AM on May 28, 2008


IAAL, IANYL.

I don't necessarily interpret the CTLO as WCityMike does. Without getting into tortured contractual analysis, you should not assume that you will not be liable if something does happen.

The fee for changes is probably enforceable, but it sounds like you would have to perform immediately (i.e. pay them) if you want to make changes, so the smarter thing to do is just negotiate it out. I agree that the mere fact that they are asking for it makes it seem like they are a shady bunch of louses.

I would propose that the landlord waive the fee for that change and and others you want to propose, including not charging you for storm damage to the building or windows. If they don't agree to that, walk the other way unless this place is OMG-type nice or a great deal.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 9:39 AM on May 28, 2008


I'm not a lawyer, so this is just a layman's interpretation, but I personally think that the word in the title — "responsibility" — is the key here.
posted by WCityMike at 9:39 AM on May 28, 2008


Up to $500 or half your rent, whichever is greater, so it could be over $500 if you're paying over $1k/mo.
posted by WCityMike at 9:41 AM on May 28, 2008


> IAAL, IANYL. I don't necessarily interpret the CTLO as WCityMike does. Without getting into tortured contractual analysis, you should not assume that you will not be liable if something does happen.

Well, if you are a lawyer ("IAAL"), then I will most definitely defer to you. I'm not a lawyer.
posted by WCityMike at 9:42 AM on May 28, 2008


Go here. They specifically address this question.
posted by aramaic at 9:43 AM on May 28, 2008


Best answer: I agree with iknowizbirfmark -- the CTLO is saying (in my opinion) that the landlord has to fix the windows, not that he has to pay for the repairs himself without any help from the tenant. It's a provision to make sure that people's basic needs are met.

Think about it this way: let's say you take a sledge hammer and put a 3' hole in an outside wall in February. Landlord has a responsibility to fix that hole (because otherwise the structure would be unlivable) but there's nothing in the statute which says he can't get the money back from the person responsible for the hole (you).

That said, I understand were the window policy is coming from. There's hardly a good way to word the policy that doesn't leave an opening for the tenant to screw the landlord. As it stands, the landlord can choose not to enforce the provision (if, say, a bad storm comes through) but if something is fishy (you claim a light rainstorm did it) he doesn't have to go out of his way to prove that you're lying. It does suck, though.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:05 AM on May 28, 2008


Response by poster: aramaic: can you say where? I saw similar things: landlords are required to fix things. Residents can repair and bill except in cases where they caused a problem. Did you see something about landlords billing for maintenance?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:34 AM on May 28, 2008


can you say where?

I was unclear -- I meant that they, as an organization, address this kind of thing. Upon rethinking, I can definitely see how I came across as saying they've got an answer on their website. Which they don't. And for which, I apologize.

What I meant was: you should get in touch with them.
posted by aramaic at 11:12 AM on May 28, 2008


I suspect that getting the insurance to cover the window liability will be alot cheaper than the $150 discount (which they aren't committed to until you sign, right?)
posted by winston at 11:20 AM on May 28, 2008


(and/or you can bank the $150 a month to cover the potential $300 fees and still come out ahead unless you have six changes per year)
posted by winston at 11:21 AM on May 28, 2008


Response by poster: The $150 is just the first month.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:23 AM on May 28, 2008


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