Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in Illinois

Excessive late fee because jointly and severally on lease only but not in actual practice?

On lease with 3 other people and we are listed as jointly and severally on lease. However, each month, we are each responsible for our portion of the rent and pay our rent separately. Not in one rent check each month. When the landlord contacts me regarding the rent, it is never about the entire rent amount as listed on the lease ($2,800), but always specifically about my rent amount ($700).

Since we are each treated as responsible for our portion of the rent each month, can't the argument be made that we are not really jointly and severally on lease and that late fee for rent should be for whatever portion of rent is late?

I'm in Chicago, IL.

Asked on 10/28/19, 12:56 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Without seeing the actual written lease, it's really impossible to say. On the one hand, the landlord may just be doing each of you a favor by separately dealing with each of you. Or, if there's enough written communications, one could say that the landlord effectively modified the lease so that it is only 'several' and not 'joint'. But if there are no verifiable communications that do so, it could very well be that again the landlord is doing you each a favor but still expects each of you to get the others to make sure the rent is paid in full and on time. It does not seem fair to have it both ways, but the result could be the landlord says "fine", either the 4 of you pay the monthly rent in full and I don't care how, but I won't take less...." Luckily in Chicago late fees are not 'rent' for which you can be evicted.....and they are set by ordinance anyhow. You might have an argument to have the delinquent apartment mate pay the late fee in full, however. Some depends on whether this is student housing, or a co-living apartment.....

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Answered on 10/28/19, 1:23 pm

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