Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 12 CH 1559 Honorable Moshe Jacobius, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Sterba
JUSTICE STERBA delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Hyman concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Plaintiff Alexander Ranjha filed a single-count class action complaint alleging that defendants BJBP Properties, Inc., and Elm II, LLC (hereinafter referred to collectively as Landlord) violated the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) (Chicago Municipal Code §§ 5-12-090, 5-12-100, 5-12-110(a) (amended Nov. 6, 1991)) by failing to disclose to him and the other tenants in his building either before or at the time they executed their leases City of Chicago Building Code (Code) citations for the 12 months before their leases were executed relating to their leased apartments and the building's common areas. Ranjha appeals the circuit court's granting of Landlord's motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-615(a) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615(a) (West 2008)). On appeal, Ranjha claims that the circuit court erred in its interpretation of the RLTO by ruling that a tenant must surrender possession of the premises to the landlord as a prerequisite to receiving the remedy set forth in RLTO section 5-12-090 of one month's rent or actual damages, whichever is greater. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the circuit court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
¶ 3 When reviewing a circuit court's ruling on a section 2-615 motion to dismiss, this court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts. Pooh-Bah Enterprises, Inc. v. County of Cook, 232 Ill. 2d 463, 473 (2009). The following facts are obtained from the pleadings contained in the record. On April 26, 2011, Ranjha executed a lease for apartment number 507 in a building, consisting of 140 apartments, located at 18 E. Elm Street in Chicago, Illinois. The lease was for a term of 12 months commencing on August 1, 2011 through July 31, 2012, and the monthly rental amount was $1,165. During the 12 months prior to Ranjha's execution of the lease, the City of Chicago cited the building for the following Code violations: (1) on January 5, 2011, for the "failure to remove obstruction from exitway that hampers travel and evacuation," and "exterior rear, garbage containers blocking rear door" and (2) on November 9, 2010, for pending submission of plans and acquisition of ventilating system permits, and the furnace installed in stairwells needs "floor darns drip pan & combustion air." These Code violations were not disclosed in writing to Ranjha before or at the time he executed the lease.
¶ 4 On December 12, 2011, Ranjha sent Landlord the following written correspondence, which Landlord received on December 13, 2011:
"Hi - as you know we have discussed the various problems here. Can you please send me any of the code citations from the year before I signed up, in the next couple weeks after you get this. Or we might have to terminate. Thanks much for your help, and have a great holiday.
Landlord did not deliver notice of the previously cited Code violations to Ranjha or the other building inhabitants who executed leases from November 9, 2010 through January 2012. Because Landlord failed to disclose the Code violations, Ranjha filed a one-count class action complaint on January 17, 2012, against Landlord. The complaint alleged that Landlord failed to comply with RLTO section 5-12-100(a) because it did not disclose Code citations to tenants for the 12-month period prior to the tenants executing their leases either before or at the time they executed their leases. The complaint sought relief pursuant to RLTO section 5-12-100, which provides each class member exemplary damages equal to one month's rent or actual damages, whichever is greater, in addition to costs and reasonable attorney fees under RLTO section 5-12-180. On January 18, 2012, Ranjha filed a motion for class certification asserting that the class members were all tenants and former tenants of the building in the previous two years who did not receive from Landlord the written disclosures required by RLTO section 5-12-100.
¶ 5 On April 4, 2012, Landlord filed a section 2-615(a) motion to dismiss Ranjha's class action complaint asserting that Ranjha and the other tenants failed to comply with RLTO section 5-12-110(a)'s requirements because they did not surrender possession of their apartments. Landlord argued that the complaint failed to state a cause of action due to the tenants' failure to surrender possession.
¶ 6 On July 9, 2012, the circuit court entered a written memorandum opinion and order granting Landlord's section 2-615(a) motion to dismiss. The circuit court ruled that a tenant's recovery of damages arising from a landlord's failure to disclose Code violations is contingent on a tenant satisfying the requirements of RLTO section 5-12-110(a), including termination of the ...