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Left out in the cold? Make landlords feel the heat

City ordinance holds landlords to significant penalties for failing to keep units warm during cold season

With extremely cold temperatures forecast for Chicago this winter season, the city is reminding landlords and tenants to be aware of the requirements of the Chicago Heat Ordinance. In addition, residents are strongly encouraged to take extra precaution if using space heaters, never rely on ovens for heat, and to make certain they have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their homes.

The Department of Buildings encourages residents to first contact their landlords when they have no heat or inadequate heat and to call 3-1-1 if no action is being taken.

The Chicago Department of Buildings enforces the Chicago Heat Ordinance. The Heat Ordinance mandates that during cold weather months landlords supply heat to rental units or to any unit where owners do not have individual control of the heat. From September 15 through June 1, the temperature inside a rental residence is required to be 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and 66 degrees from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Landlords can face fines of $500 to $1,000 per day, per violation, for each day they do not supply adequate heat. The reason for lack of heat does not matter – landlords must follow the law, and apartments must be heated.

“We take heat complaints very seriously,” said Buildings Commissioner Judy Frydland. “During extreme cold weather, our first priority is responding to heat calls and we reassign inspectors to handle the increased number of heat complaints. We work diligently to respond to calls promptly and we will seek maximum penalties from delinquent owners.”

The Department of Buildings will be closely monitoring heat-related complaints this week and for the remainder of the winter season. When warranted, the Buildings Department works closely with the Department of Law to file court cases to ensure property owners restore heat and hot water to bring their building into compliance or appoint receiverships to restore heat or abate the situation. To date this winter the City has filed more than 100 cases impacting 620 units, and receivers were appointed on 30 cases impacting about 200 residential units.

Important Tips for Fire Prevention and Safety

Residents are strongly encouraged to check to ensure they have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors inside their homes. If a resident does not have a smoke detector and is unable to obtain one, they should contact 3-1-1 for assistance.

An oven or stovetop should never be used to heat a residence.

Use of space heaters is not recommended, however, if used, the space heater should be UL certified and located at least three feet from anything that can ignite. Use of a space heater in children’s rooms should be monitored closely as children sometimes move them close to or into the bed with tragic results.

If extension cords are used, they should be UL certified, medium gauge or higher and should only be connected to one appliance. Cords should never be put under a carpet.

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