Illinois Appellate Court: Violation of a Tenants’ Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance Rights are “Germane” to Forcible Entry and Detainer Actions as Both an Affirmative Defense and Counterclaim


Case Summary: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. McCondichie, 2017 IL App (1st) 153576.

In July of 2014, a large multi-national bank became the owner of a Chicago residential rental property pursuant to a judicial foreclosure sale. Within a year, the bank began filing lawsuits under the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act (“eviction lawsuits”) against the tenants within the property. Historically, eviction lawsuits are a special “summary proceeding” wherein “no matters not germane to the distinctive purpose of the proceeding shall be introduced.” Meier v. Hilton, 257 Ill. 174, 100 N.E. 520 (1912); 735 ILCS 5/9-106.

One of the tenants responded to the eviction lawsuit by arguing the bank’s violation of her Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (“KCRO”) rights was both (1) an affirmative defense to the eviction lawsuit; and (2) the basis for a counterclaim for damages. Ultimately, the Circuit Court decided against the tenant’s interpretation of the KCRO was incorrect and the tenant was forced to appeal.

On appeal, the Appellate Court reversed the Circuit Court and unambiguously found in favor of the tenant in both their contentions. The Appellate Court held that the bank’s noncompliance with the KCRO was a “closely allied” issue “germane” to the eviction lawsuit. As such, KCRO noncompliance was both a “viable [affirmative] defense” and a valid counterclaim to eviction lawsuits. The Appellate Court noted that this holding was a necessity under law because the KCRO requires tenants to “bring a claim for relocation assistance prior to the entry of a judgment of possession of the rental unit.”

Cameron & Kane, LLC has been advocating for the “germane-ness” of the KCRO as an affirmative defense and counterclaim to eviction lawsuits from our first day of practice within the field. We wholeheartedly agree with the Appellate Court’s reasoning and look forward to future citation of this important opinion.

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