Chicago, IL asked in Landlord - Tenant for Illinois

Q: My landlord disabled the smoke detector in my unit remotely in order to create a false pretense for entry to my unit.

I believe the property management at my apartment building disabled the smoke detector in my unit remotely from the fire alarm control panel in order to create a false pretense to enter my unit at 11:30 pm. There is more backstory here, and more details as to why I believe they did this, but I'm not sure I can fit it all here. My questions are,

1. Would this be considered harassment and could I take any legal action?

2. According to online resources, tampering with a fire control system is a class 4 felony, and I am considering reporting it to the fire department, but fear retaliation from management. If I did report it, would the city actually do anything? Or is this a common tactic of landlords, and the city doesn't care? On the other end of the spectrum, they care a lot and people get charged with a felony, and I'm not sure I want that to happen. Should I report them, or what are my options here? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: This is a serious situation that involves potential harassment and fire code violations. Here are some thoughts on your questions:

1. Harassment and legal action: If the landlord disabled your smoke detector under false pretenses to gain unauthorized entry, it could be considered harassment and a violation of your right to quiet enjoyment of the property. You may have grounds for legal action, such as breaking the lease or seeking damages. However, you would need to consult with a local tenant rights attorney to assess your specific case and options.

2. Reporting to the fire department: Tampering with fire safety equipment is indeed a serious offense in most jurisdictions. If you have evidence that the landlord disabled your smoke detector, you can report it to your local fire marshal's office. They should take it seriously as it's a major fire code violation that puts lives at risk.

However, your concern about potential retaliation is valid. There are laws in most states that protect tenants from retaliatory actions by landlords, but it can still happen. If you do report it, document everything thoroughly in case you need evidence later on.

Other options to consider:

- Put your concerns in writing to the landlord/property management, so you have a record. Insist they fix the smoke detector immediately.

- If you have a local tenant union or housing rights organization, consult with them for guidance on your rights and how to proceed.

- If the landlord enters your unit illegally again, call the police to file a report.

Overall, this is unacceptable landlord behavior that you shouldn't have to tolerate. But you'll need to weigh the risks and benefits of each course of action. Getting some expert legal advice, even if just an initial consultation, could help you decide how to proceed based on your specific situation and local laws. Wishing you all the best and hope you're able to resolve this concerning situation soon.

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