If you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking, moving out of your apartment to a confidential location may be an important part of staying safe. Under this housing law, you may be able to leave your lease early, without penalty, or get your locks changed.
Basic info about the law
Who is protected by these housing laws?
Illinois’ housing laws (known as the “Safe Homes Act”) protects adult or child victims of domestic violence by a family or household member and victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and stalking.*
For the purposes of these laws, domestic violence includes:
- physical abuse
- intimidation of a dependent
- interference with personal liberty
- willful deprivation.**
For the purposes of these laws, sexual violence means any act of:
- sexual assault
- sexual abuse
- non-consensual sexual conduct
- non-consensual sexual penetration
- aggravated stalking
- criminal sexual assault,
- aggravated criminal sexual assault
- predatory criminal sexual assault of a child
- criminal sexual abuse
- aggravated criminal sexual abuse.***
* 765 ILCS 750/5
** 765 ILCS 750/10; 750 ILCS 60/103(1)
*** 765 ILCS 750/10
My landlord included a section in my lease saying that I could not terminate my lease. Does this mean that I cannot leave my lease early?
No. The law says that tenants can’t give up their rights under this law. So even if your landlord included a clause in your lease that you cannot terminate your lease early, you are not bound by this if you leave your lease with notice because of a qualifying circumstance. You can still request to get out of your lease early based on this law.*
* 765 ILCS 750/30
Leaving a lease early
If I am a victim, can I be let out of my lease early?
If you (or a member of your household) are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking, you may be able to get out of your lease early and without penalty. There are two different ways you may be able to break your lease:
- if you (the tenant) or a member of your household is under a credible imminent threat of domestic or sexual violence at the place where you are living; or
- if you (the tenant) or a member of your household has already experienced sexual violence within the last 60 days at the place where you are living or in the surrounding areas that are controlled by the landlord* (for example, in your apartment building’s parking lot).
Note: A “credible imminent threat” means that it is believable that if you do not move, you could very soon be the victim of domestic or sexual violence.
The requirements of the notice that you will have to give your landlord for each of the two scenarios above are slightly different. For more information, go to What notice do I have to give the landlord to break my lease?
* 765 ILCS 750/15
What notice do I have to give the landlord to break my lease?
If you (or someone in your household) are under a “credible imminent threat” of domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking at your unit, you must give your landlord three days’ written notice that you will leave your unit because of the credible imminent threat.*
If you (or a member of your household) have already been the victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking on the premises within the last 60 days, you must do both of the following:
- give three days’ written notice to your landlord that you are leaving due to the sexual violence and that notice must include the date of the incident; and
- give your landlord proof that you have been the victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking within the last 60 days. The proof has to be a medical report, court/police evidence of sexual violence, or a statement from an employee of a victim services or rape crisis organization where you sought services. Note: If you cannot reasonably give the notice within 60 days of the incident because of reasons related to the sexual violence, such as if you were hospitalized, then you must give the notice as soon thereafter as possible.**
* 765 ILCS 750/15(a)
** 765 ILCS 750/15(b)
Can my landlord charge me rent or fees after I vacate?
No. If your landlord brings any legal action against you to recover rent, you would not be liable for rent after you vacated the unit if a judge finds that you left because of one of the qualifying circumstances and you gave your landlord the proper notice that is required. In other words, you would have a defense against a breach of lease action brought by your landlord if you leave your unit based on this statute (law). However, this law is not a defense to any rent that was owed prior to giving notice and vacating the unit - you would still be responsible for that rent.*
* 765 ILCS 750/15
Can my landlord tell any future landlords that I broke my lease early because I was a victim of domestic or sexual violence?
No. If you break your lease because of one of the qualifying circumstances and you gave your landlord the proper notice, then your landlord is not allowed to tell other landlords who may be calling your landlord for a reference that you broke your lease because you were a victim of domestic or sexual violence.* If your landlord violates this law, then you can sue him/her in court for damages of up to $2,000 as well as for your attorney’s fees and court costs.**
* 765 ILCS 750/27(a)
** 765 ILCS 750/29
Changing the locks
If I want to stay in my apartment, can I get my locks changed?
If you choose not to leave your apartment, you may be able to get your locks changed (at your expense) by your landlord in certain circumstances. If you have a written lease and there is a credible imminent threat of domestic or sexual violence against you or a member of your household at the premises from someone who is not a tenant in the same unit, then you can request that your landlord change your locks if:
- you provide written notice from all tenants requesting that the locks be changed because one of the tenants or a member of the tenant’s household is under a credible imminent threat of domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking; and
- the notice is accompanied by proof to support a claim of domestic or sexual violence, which can be medical, court, or police evidence; or a statement from a domestic violence or rape crisis organization where the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household sought services.*
If the credible imminent threat of domestic or sexual violence is from someone who is a tenant in the same unit or if you do not have a written lease, then instead of providing the proof listed in #2 above, the proof you provide with the written notice must be a copy of a plenary order of protection or a plenary civil no contact order that specifically grants you exclusive possession of the premises.**
* 765 ILCS 750/20(a)(1)
** 765 ILCS 750/20(a)(1),(2)
How long does my landlord have to change my locks?
After you have provided proper notice to your landlord, your landlord must change the locks in two days or give you permission to change them. If your landlord does not change the locks or give you permission within 48 hours, then you are allowed to change your locks without your landlord’s permission. If you change your own locks, you must make a good faith effort to give your landlord a copy of the new key.*
* 765 ILCS 750/20(b)