This article was originally going to be "questions to ask your next landlord about package delivery," but once I got about 2 paragraphs in I realized that it's a problem that extends far beyond something that landlords can address on their own. So I'm framing it from the perspective of a discussion that Chicago residents and residents of other cities nationwide need to have as a community, involving the US Postal system, landlords, property managers, third party parcel carriers, logistics innovators, and municipal governments.
We've stuck our fingers in our ears for too long on the matter of increasing package delivery volume. Today I'm going to simply try and outline the problems we're facing. Hopefully it will serve as launchpad for discussion, because I'm not really sure of a way forward but I'm also not sure how much longer we can afford to ignore the matter. Continue reading The Problems of Package Delivery in Chicago Apartments
I was recently contacted by the PR guy for a relatively new mobile/web app called "Rentervention". (Hi, Gordon!) He asked me to do a profile piece on the app, which I am doing today in conjunction with a somewhat similar app called "Squared Away Chicago". Neither of the sponsoring groups have paid me for this coverage, nor did I ask them to. But I wanted to get it out in the open right off the bat that this is probably tying in with someone's marketing campaign. So be it.
Logos in the header image are property of their respective companies.
In this digital age there's plenty of renters out there who shy away from talking to authority figures, doubly so when potentially controversial issues are at stake. In cases of landlord-tenant relationships the issues can be particularly thorny, ranging from simple problems like broken appliances to major ones like retained security deposits, illegal evictions and life-threatening conditions. The impostor's syndrome is real when you have to confront someone who probably knows the law far better than you do. If a landlord fails to respond to reports of trouble at their property, tenants are additionally faced with the potentially expensive and time-consuming prospect of turning to the court system.
RentConfident's apartment safety reports seek to inform you about severe, chronic issues with a landlord or building which have escalated to the point where they've been documented in government sources. These include problems such as foreclosures, housing code violations, bankruptcy filings and registered sex offenders living nearby. However, we cannot always discern from government data if a landlord is simply a poor communicator, or if smaller problems exist which may be severe, but not severe enough to merit attention from the city or county inspectors. We rely on tenants taking serious matters to the government if we're ever going to be able to include them in our reports.
Over the past six years, two homegrown apps have emerged to help Chicago renters communicate with their landlords when big drama problems emerge in their apartments. Both are backed by non-profit organizations. Both help renters shift problems from person-to-person communication into legal proceedings should such a step be necessary. However, each one takes the character of the organizations that created them, and each one works in a slightly different way. Today I'll be profiling both of them to help you decide which, if any, might best help you to get that broken thing in your apartment fixed in a timely manner. Continue reading Two Apps for Chicago Renters with Problems: Squared Away Chicago and Rentervention
For the past two articles I've been looking at Chicago's 311 non-emergency service hotline data from the past year with a focus on snow removal complaints. But that is only one of 96 separate categories used by 311 to sort the many calls they receive in a year. Today I pulled a list of all of the complaints from December 6, 2018 through December 6, 2019. I then grouped them by rough umbrella categories and added up the calls within each category to see the types of things that will spur Chicago residents to pick up the phone (or open an app) and file a complaint with the city. Continue reading Complaints, Campaigns and Conspicuous Flaws: Chicago’s 311 Calls by Category
I received a comment from my father on last week's post about apartment hunting for frail tenants asking, "What options does a tenant have if she or he becomes 'frail' or otherwise incapacitated during a lease?" On the surface the answer is simple: break the lease as you would in any other situation where you need to leave quickly. But in this scenario there is an underlying problem. In most cases the tenants who break a lease do so of their own volition or out of willing acceptance of necessity. They know that they will probably have to pay a fee or do some work to replace themselves, but it's a speed bump rather than a stop sign.
But what if the tenant doesn't want to leave? What if they are, as suggested by my father, frail or incapacitated but unwilling to accept this about themselves? In that case the lease break fees and sublease requirements become less of a hurdle and more of an excuse to remain in an unhealthy situation. It falls to the family or friends of the renter to persuade them that it's time to go. Continue reading How to Persuade Someone to Move
At the time when this article goes live, Hurricane Florence will be smacking the Carolinas around. A lot of news coverage this week has focused on evacuating the coastal areas in preparation for the coming storm. Events like this tend to nudge our thoughts towards our own disaster plans even if we live very far from the epicenter. Residents of Chicago should certainly always have a plan for getting out of their buildings in the case of localized disasters like fires. But as I watched the Florence coverage this week I started to wonder if there would ever be a scenario where I would have to get out of Chicago quickly in anticipation of a major catastrophe.
As a developer, scope creep is something that's always lurking in the back of my mind. That's the tech term used to describe a project that keeps growing out of control due to small requests from clients or creative bursts. I do like to have plans in place for responding to catastrophes. But I don't want my emergency plans to be so extensive that I wind up spending money or stressing out over disasters that will never actually happen. Continue reading Would Chicagoans Ever Have to Evacuate the City?