Attorneys’ Fees in Postjudgment Petitions under the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance

The Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO), which governs residential leases and the interactions between Chicago landlords and tenants, includes an attorneys’ fees provision in favor of the tenant. Specifically, it states that if a Chicago tenant sues a Chicago landlord under the CRLTO and wins, the Tenant gets to collect attorneys’ fees and costs from the landlord.  Fortunately for tenants and unfortunately for landlords, this happens all the time.

But what happens when the landlord appeals the judgment? If the tenant wins again, does the landlord have to pay their attorneys’ fees again?  This question arose in a recent case, Trutin v. Adam, 2016 IL App (1st) 142853 (May 12, 2016) Cook Co., 4th Div. In Trutin, after the tenant vacated her unit per the lease, the landlord did not return the full security deposit. Instead, the landlord deducted $400 for various repairs, and itemized them. The tenant sued the landlord citing various breaches of the CRLTO, all related to the security deposit.

The tenant won, and pursuant to the CRLTO, the tenant was awarded attorneys’ fees and costs. A few months later, the landlord filed a motion to vacate the court’s order. The court denied the petition based on the fact that the motion to vacate was not timely filed. The court did not mention attorneys’ fees at all in the order.

A month after the court denied the petition, the landlord filed another motion – a Section 2-1401 Petition for Relief from Judgment. Two months later, the court denied this petition also. At the hearing, Trutin’s attorney attempted to get attorneys’ fees for the tenant, based on the fact that the landlord’s petition had been denied. The judge did not grant attorneys’ fees to Trutin.

Subsequently, both parties appealed. The landlord did not prosecute the appeal much further, and was denied. The court did find in favor of tenant, however, stating that she could apply to collect attorneys’ fees and costs from the landlord. The court determined that the fee-shifting provision of the CRLTO applied not just to trial, but also to postjudgment petitions. The court stated that in including the fee-shifting language in favor of the tenants in the CRLTO, the legislature’s intent was to strengthen the tenant’s bargaining power against the landlord.

Bottom line – the fee-shifting provision of the CRLTO applies not just to trial, but also postjudgment petitions. Landlords and tenants should be aware of this as it could increase their costs substantially!