How to Protect Yourself from a Slumlord

Recently, I’ve shown apartments that have been made pretty gross by the current tenants. It’s really hard to show them to prospective tenants and not sound like a complete liar when you say the landlord takes good care of his property. Landlords don’t renew leases with tenants who are destructive- usually the landlord will wait until the tenant is almost due to move out before attempting repairs.

I’ve seen all kinds of gross situations:

-one guy worked 11 hour days but had a huge dog. He would just put carpet samples down for the dog to urinate and poop, and just throw them out when he was done. The landlord had to refinish the floors.

-carpet I knew for a fact had been put in new two years before that looked like it was 25 years old.

-litter box: making sense of smell overpower sense of sight. Bad smell makes everything look ugly.

-beautiful condos with hair clogged, moldy bathrooms.

I’ve heard stories about management companies refusing to replace stoves and have a tenant cook with electric burners. I’ve heard of landlords promise to fix a broken window when they were showing the place to prospective tenants, then ignore their tenants when they moved in. (We don’t work with slumlords, by the way.)

Chicago Municipal Code’s Residential Landlords and Tenants Ordinance (RLTO) talks about how to deal with slumlord-y behavior. The word ‘reasonable’ is used a LOT in the RLTO. It’s legalese for ‘use common sense.’ (Don’t have a dog if you work long hours, vacuum, clean up after yourself and your animals.) Once someone withheld rent because the dishwasher didn’t get lipstick off glasses. Um, no.

If there’s “material non-compliance” (something serious that needs to be fixed), the first step is to notify the landlord in writing. Usually you can just give your landlord a call and he/she will have someone come by in a day or so to get it fixed. The second step is to give him/her 14 days to fix it on his/her own. Then you can get it fixed yourself and deduct that cost from your rent, just send him/her a copy of the bill. The cost can only be half a month’s rent or $500. You can’t make the landlord pay for something if you broke it, though.

If you’re working with us, you can write in repairs that we (you, the landlord, the agent) have discussed in your application. This way everyone is on the same page, and the repairs will get done.

This is a rough interpretation of one part of the RLTO. If you have questions, just download it or contact us.

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