Finding An Apartment
Planning to live off-campus? Here are a few tips to help you in your search.
Before renting an apartment, determine what you are looking for in a home and learn what rights and responsibilities you will have as a tenant. Choosing an apartment is a collaborative decision with your roommates. We advise students to work with their roommates through the entire apartment-searching process. Begin your search on the Web, newspaper listings, campus postings, and conversations with friends. After you research your options, you will have a better idea about what you are looking for and can begin to narrow your search.
Check these sources for apartment listings:
When you think about your future apartment, are you more concerned about:
- the location
- the cost of rent
- other variables?
List and rank these items in order before you begin your search.
Now that you have an idea of what you want from an apartment, narrow down your choices, and shorten your list of possible apartments. Then, call the landlords or building managers to schedule viewing times. While at the apartment tour,check the general condition inside the unit, in the common areas, and on the street. If anything is in poor condition or not functioning properly, ask that the necessary repairs be made before your planned move-in date. If the landlord agrees, ask that these repairs be indicated in your lease.
Download/Print (available at LUC.edu/offcampus) copies of the blank apartment evaluation on pages 7–8 of the Off-Campus Living Guide, and fill one out during each apartment viewing. If there are other features that are important to you, add them to the evaluation. At each unit, ask the landlord about the utilities for which the tenant is responsible. Do not be shy about thoroughly investigating the apartment if you are interested in it. You have the right to take your time to check the unit thoroughly. Turn on the shower or faucets to check the water pressure and note the temperature. Turn on all the lights and take notes. If you fill out a thorough apartment evaluation, you will have an effective way to compare units.
Additional questions to ask the landlord:
- Are apartment doors re-keyed between tenancies?
- Are you notified of landlord/agent/maintenance person’s intent to enter premises?
- Does your property owner/manager routinely check and maintain all security features of the property?
- Do you know your neighbors and communicate with them? Are the other residents and neighbors students?
- Does the tenant have access to the fuse box?
Making a decision can be the hardest part of the apartment selection process. To get help, discuss your options with your family and your roommates. If you and your roommates are not satisfied with the apartments you have seen, then continue your search. If you started your search in our suggested time frame indicated on page 4 of the Off-Campus Living Guide, then you have extra time to look at a few more apartments.
Prior to committing to a property make sure you do your due diligence.
- Walk by the property after nightfall to make certain that the street, sidewalk, and property are well-lit. Keep the unit safe and clean.
- Ask around to see if you know anyone who has had experience with the landlord or property manager.
- Check the address on the Bedbug Registry to see if the property has had any recent bedbug infestations on bedbugregistry.com.
Think about your expenses during the next year and determine what you can afford. Use the budget sheet on page 10 of the Off-Campus Living Guide to forecast what your expenses will be and then keep track of actual expenses. Project and track your budget by month, semester or year, depending on your preference.
After you and your roommates make a final decision, review your tenant lease. Always read the lease BEFORE signing it! Leases are usually written, but they can also be made verbally. A lease is a contract between a landlord and tenant. Unless both parties agree, a lease cannot be changed while it is in effect. In addition to reading the entire document, inspect the unit, write necessary repairs into the lease, and ask the landlord questions about any parts of the lease that are not clear.
Leases can vary from landlord to landlord but the following are fairly common items on a Chicago residential lease:
Rent: How much your monthly rental will cost and the due date for monthly payments.
Late Payments: Applicable fees for submitting a late rent.
Security Deposit: The amount required as deposit or security for faithful performance of tenant.
Quiet Enjoyment: This portion indicates that upon paying rent in a timely fashion and maintaining the apartment adequately, the tenant has a right to live peacefully in the unit.
Utilities: It is important to make certain that any utilities that are included in your rent are expressly noted on the lease agreement. This includes heat/heating gas, cooking gas, electricity, hot and cold water, cable TV, free laundry, and wired or wireless internet. If it is not specified in the lease you will be responsible for paying the utility.
Heating Cost Disclosure: If you are responsible for paying your own heat, you will likely fall under the Heating Cost Disclosure Ordinance (Chicago Municipal Code; CH 5–16). This ordinance requires your landlord to provide you and your roommates with a fair, monthly estimate of your heating costs. If your rental falls under this ordinance, your landlord should provide you with a heating cost disclosure form from the city. You will also need to acknowledge that you received this form on your lease.
Pets: Typically indicates that pets are not allowed without written consent of the landlord. Often the tenant is required to pay a pet deposit and sign a pet addendum at the time of lease signing.
Rules and Regulations: Explains that the landlord’s existing rules and regulations, if any, shall be signed by the tenant, attached, and incorporated into the agreement. Landlords may adopt other rules at a later time if they have a legitimate purpose, and if they don’t substantially infringe on the tenant’s rights. New rules cannot become effective without two weeks notice.
Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance: If the property meets certain criteria and is in the City of Chicago, then the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance and a summary (which should be attached to the lease) shall govern the tenant and landlord.
Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) of Chicago
Knowing your rights as a tenant is crucial to navigating issues while living off-campus. The Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) is a legal document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.
For an abridged version of this document, click here: Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance Summary
For access to the full document, visit here: Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance