Tag Archives: landlords

If You’re From Out Of Town: Weirdness About Looking for an Apartment in Chicago

I get a lot of calls from people out of town. They don’t understand the rental market in Chicago- how could they? They’re from out of town.

Here are some scenarios I’ve come across a few times. Maybe they’ll be beneficial to you.

1. I had a client looking for a place in Wicker Park- two to three bedrooms, dining room, lots of space, close to the train, parking spot included. For $1100. I absolutely did not laugh. I tried to let her down gently. She didn’t know how expensive Wicker Park was compared to other neighborhoods, but she had heard good things about it. If you’re not familiar with Wicker Park, a rehabbed, nicer vintage 1 bedroom will be about $1450 in a prime spot (pictured below.) I told her if she wanted to stay at that price and still have space and amenities, she might be better off looking further north or west, as Wicker Park is a very popular (read: expensive) neighborhood. We worked together to find a place that could accommodate her budget and preferred amenities.

Click on the picture. It's available for a move in on 6/1/12.

2. I had someone looking for a place in “West Chicago.” Turns out that that’s actually a suburb north and west of Chicago. In the city where he was from, searching for the major city also included apartment options in the suburbs. Google searching for “apartments in Chicago” will not turn up suburban options. A suburb of Chicago is not Chicago. Be specific in your Google searches.

3. Dogs are harder to find an apartment for. This surprises people who are downsizing from a house and moving into the city. Some have even been surprised that an extra deposit and/or fee is required. Everyone who has a dog insists that they don’t bark, and that they’re well behaved and trained. Landlords have heard it all. It only takes one tenant to let a dog ruin a place for the landlord to say “never again,” unfortunately. And if your dog doesn’t bark when you’re home, it surely barks when you’re out. Other tenants will have a problem with that.

At the end of the day, you get to pick two out of three:

(a) cheap price

(b) upgraded loveliness and amenities

(c) prime location

Part of the fun of the hunt is seeing where you can get the most for your money. We can help you with that. Give us a call (773) 697-5100.

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When You Don’t Get the Place

Twice this week, I’ve had deals fall through.

As frustrating as that is for me the agent, it’s even more frustrating for the client(s).

No, it wasn’t that my applicants didn’t look great on paper, because they looked awesome.

No, it wasn’t that my clients didn’t have their paperwork in first, because they did.

It was that the landlord picked someone else. Sometimes, the landlord might choose to drag their feet for a day to see what else comes in.

There’s nothing that can be done about it. That’s just the way it goes.

As an agent, I can advocate for you, explain anything that might not look great, negotiate for pets, a parking spot, what have you.

We don’t take applications on units that aren’t available, because that would be a stupid waste of time; we’re here to help you find a place.

In the end, it’s always the landlord’s decision.

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How Soon is Too Soon?

When should you start looking for an apartment? Whenever you want.

Look at all the myriad apartment websites that are out there. Swim. Bask. Imagine.

If you want to make an effective use of your time, though, probably two months in advance at the earliest. Why?

Because landlords usually find out if their tenants will be moving out around that time. Also, because there is turnover in what’s available. What’s available in, say, summer, will be rented by fall. I got an email from one person looking with a move in date nine months from now wanting to make appointments to look at places. I guess this is common practice in other cities, but you don’t need to do that here in Chicago. Also, if someone has a ‘flexible’ move in date, I tend not to believe them. If you don’t have a move in date, you’re still in the swim/bask/imagine period. Committing to a date (give or take a bit) is essential for success.

Landlords are looking for tenants who can move in right after their other tenants move out, so as not to skip a month of rental income. If you’re not ready to move when an apartment is ready for new tenants, there is no point in looking at it in person. The rental market changes drastically and frequently in summer. More units are available and get snapped up as quickly as they come on the market. Once I rented an apartment that had only been on the market for 7 hours.

If you have questions about the rental process, please feel free to contact me: 773-697-5100. I’ll do my best to help.

Happy hunting!

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How to Get a Landlord to Accept a Cat

Even though cats can be just as destructive as dogs, landlords are more likely to accept a cat than a dog.

Cute kitty

As far as making it easier for a landlord to accept a cat, the same principles apply. (See how to get a landlord to accept a dog.)

Good cat

Bad cat

1. Show the landlord that you are a responsible pet owner:talk about how you brush the cat weekly, clip its nails biweekly and change the litter box every day. Demonstrate that you understand cat behaviors, and have a plan to correct any bad behavior. This will show the landlord that you are looking out for your animal’s needs, and by extension the landlord’s property. Offer evidence that your cat hasn’t destroyed anything at your last apartment.

2. Offer a larger security deposit: this means that you’re betting against the cat doing damage to the apartment. It’s a good faith gesture that will show the landlord that you are putting your money where your mouth is.


3. Play with your cat to wear it out: cats need to burn off steam like dogs, except cats were bred to kill things. If they don’t kill something every day, they will turn their hunting instincts on you and get destructive on your belongings. Help them channel their intense blood lust and give them something to chase and murder every day, like a fake mouse or stuffed animal.

Paw lick

4. A note on declawing: Have your cat spayed or neutered is almost always required by a landlord. Declawing is another matter entirely. Don’t just declaw your cat as a matter of course. Training your cat to scratch the right thing is part of owning a cat, and there are tons of resources to help you learn how. Declawing leads to behavioral problems, litterbox issues, and biting, not to mention being painful and traumatic to your animal. I have never had a landlord insist that a tenant declaw a cat as a condition of being accepted into an apartment.

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Bad Rental Advice

Sometimes I think I’m too exacting or specific when giving advice a client about how to find a place that’s right for them.

Then I meet someone who I have to remind that the goal of looking is to find something. Any activity without a defined goal is pointless. You’re just going to waste your time.

If you’re not an expert (and if this isn’t your job, you’re probably not an expert) it’s important that you find someone you can trust to educate you about what’s available.

That’s my job. For example, radiator heating will be in older buildings, new construction usually has granite and stainless steel, and if a place is pet friendly it might not be as nice.

granite, stainless kitchen

This unit is not pet friendly

Examples of bad advice:

1. Take your time: Once I showed a guy and his roommate a place in a very popular neighborhood for a great price during high season. I rented it the next day. Two weeks later, they decided they wanted to take it.

2. Assume that once you get in to the apartment, all the things you didn’t like from the listing will fade away: If you need an apartment at a lower price but can’t stand garden apartments, the apartment will not un-garden itself once you’re in. This is a hard one to face.

3. Say you don’t have pets when making an appointment to see a unit that doesn’t allow pets, then after the showing admit that you have a 60lb dog: Your agent should know how serious about pets the landlord is. It’s best to be up front with their agent so they can do some negotiating for you. Some have a $2000 fee if you bring an animal into a building.

4. Assume you’re going to find a place outside your preferred neighborhood. I think I’ve beat this topic to death.

5. Don’t tell the agent you have Section 8: This is bad advice because the buildings have to be certified for Section 8 compliance. A landlord doesn’t have to certify their building. Even if you like the place, you can’t use your vouchers.

Getting into a place and looking at an apartment will not help you if you don’t know what you want. Talking about needs and wants always helps my clients get a clearer visions of what their needs are, and brings us closer to finding a solution that works for them. Have a vision first. Then start looking.

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How to Get a Landlord to Accept a Dog

Chicagoans love dogs, and Chicago is pretty dog friendly. Stores have water dishes and treats outside their entrances, and loving owners parade their dogs around the neighborhood and bring their dogs to brunch. Dogs provide companionship, give their humans a reason to leave the house, and make it easier to get social with people.

And yet, landlords are wary of having dogs in their buildings. They can be dirty, stinky, slobbery, make your apartment smell like them, and somehow generate enough fur to coat every surface. Their bark can always be heard through walls, and annoy other tenants. They chew on everything and urinate on floors. But your dog is awesome: its barking is under control; you walk it regularly; it won’t destroy the apartment.  How can you make a landlord see how awesome your dog is, and that it will be okay dog in his or her building?

Sadie, our office mascott

Sadie, our office mascott

1. Have the landlord meet the dog. If the dog is sweet and eager to please, that will make the landlord like the dog and visualize it being a good tenant. (Hint: take it to the dog park to wear it out. A tired dog is less likely to be obnoxious.)

2. Show the landlord that you are a responsible pet owner. Provide a reference from the last landlord, stating that the dog, like you, was an awesome tenant. Tell the landlord that you walk your dog twice a day at least (because you do, right?) If you work long hours away from home, however, you shouldn’t have a dog. Get a roommate that has the opposite schedule who can take your dog for a walk and burn off its energy. Dogs have co-evolved with us and need us around to look after their needs.

3. Have the right kind of dog. Landlords are more likely to accept dogs under 20lbs. Bigger dogs usually need room to roam. (Weirdly, greyhounds are great apartment dogs.) Choose your breed wisely- some dogs are just not meant for city living. Aggressive dogs that haven’t been trained, dogs that were bred to herd animals, and dogs that need a lot of room to run around should not be kept in an apartment. Puppies are usually not welcome under any circumstances.

4. Offer a larger security deposit. This good faith gesture assures the landlord that you are betting against the dog destroying the apartment. If it does, the landlord protected financially and can use that money to repair any damage done to their investment. Some landlords ask for pet rent or a flat fee instead because they’ve been burned by other dogs.

If you have any other hints, please write them in the comments.

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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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How to Look for an Apartment I

Some think looking for an apartment is easy and fun. It is not. The paradox of choice is paralyzing.

As an agent, I have heard this a million times: “Well, we live in [insert neighborhood] now, but we’re open to anywhere, really.”

No. If you’re giving yourself the choice of more than two non-adjacent neighborhoods, you aren’t ready to begin making appointments to see apartments. You are in the swim-bask-imagine stage.

If this seems harsh, it’s because I’ve seen it come full circle many, many times.

Neighborhood is most important. I would suggest adjacent neighborhoods if you can’t find anything in your preferred neighborhood, but don’t look in Rogers Park if you have only lived in Lincoln Park and love it there. Also: Lincoln Square is not near Lincoln Park, or even similar to it.

I would only suggest you look in a neighborhood you’re unfamiliar with if these prime factors below lead you to believe you could be happy living there:

1. where do you work? A long commute decreases happiness. You can’t really escape the awesome convenience of the CTA, so consider: the train (EL) is faster than the bus.

2. do you currently live within a short walk of stuff to do? If you’re used to this, do not underestimate this factor.

3. where do your friends live?

Be specific about what you want, know what’s a deal breaker, and don’t look all over the city because it’s pointless and you might go insane.

How to Look for an Apartment II

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