Life… in an Apartment Pt 2 (in the style of Sir David Attenborough) Another nature documentary.

Share Button

Editor’s Note: This article is written in the style of Sir David Attenborough, a well-known narrator of nature documentaries for the BBC. If you are not familiar with his enormous body of work, you can find some examples on Youtube.

Here, in the middle of the vast urban expanse of Chicago, humans are not the only citizens. Some of the great wonders of the natural world take place in and around the Chicago Apartment. Join me… as I explore this world of extraordinary creatures.

Just outside the back door above the third floor landing, a section of roof hides a quiet little space. Sheltered from the driving rain and the howling wind, two determined and resourceful creatures endure the unpredictable and sometimes violent spring weather. These creatures are...


The existence of majestic creatures like these raises many questions. The most compelling question may be how these pigeons manage to thrive in both a hostile climate and an urban landscape fraught with danger.

As I get closer, I see that this very beautiful pair of dirt-colored birds are keeping each other warm. There is little doubt that this monogamous couple have done this all winter. Because their attachment to home is so deep, the pigeon does not migrate like other birds. These special and precious birds are true city-dwellers.

(pigeon cooing)

Is there a bird that makes a more elaborate, more beautiful, more complex sound? There are contenders, yes, but the pigeon is certainly near the top of the list.

With his orange eyes, the male is peering out from their shelter. Now, with a dramatic flap of his wings, he has left the nest and landed on the porch railing. The female, drawing her head inward, does not want him to leave.

The male surveys the rain-soaked landscape, perhaps looking for an overturned dustbin or perhaps just showing off the breathtaking greenish band on his neck. A great variety of the pigeon's ornamental plumage evolved because the females find it irresistible.

He has spotted what appears to be a piece of popcorn tossed on the porch by a well-meaning tenant. This one morsel will ensure that he and his lifelong mate will remain at their current nesting spot for years to come.

Despite their beauty, these pigeons carry within them a microcosm of their own, full of tiny creatures that can be dangerous to humans. Hidden within their colorful plumage are fleas and mites that will merrily colonize human hair or pet fur. Even the pigeons' waste serves as a home for potentially deadly bacteria and poisonous fungi. These vast but dangerous colonies attract the urban pigeons' main predator: concerned landlords.

The cries of distressed tenants alert the landlord, who descends upon the pigeons and mercilessly ends their time in their tiny roost. But it will only be a matter of months before another pair make their home here and the cycle begins again.

Next time, we will explore the astonishing world of the mouse.


Want more "Life in an apartment?" Check out the first article in the series!

RentConfident is a Chicago startup that provides renters with the in-depth information they need to choose safe apartments. Help us reach more renters! Like, Share and Retweet us!

Published by

Jon Hoferle

From Rights to Revenge (1986-2016) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part V

Share Button
“You do not need to be a lawyer to read the law, but you do need someone experienced to help you exercise your rights under the law.”
- Illinois Tenants Union,

"Being a landlord in the city of Chicago is next to impossible," he said. "A landlord has basically no rights.”
- Thomas D'Aprile, one of Chicago's 50 “problem landlords” in the Chicago Tribune.

"IL is a state where we have people known as "professional tenants": they pay first and last month's rent, and never pay again. It can take two years or more to get them out under IL law."
- David Dachtera, Joliet Landlord,

"You are definitely correct that the city of Chicago is more pro-tenant. There are several near suburbs that I represent investors in buying that are much more easy on the landlords. The CLTO is ridiculous and gives tenants any chance they can to screw the landlords. I would suggest a suburb depending on what kind of areas you are looking for."
- David Hermiz, Chicago-area landlord and Mortgage Banker,

“Is the current CRLTO too strong? Is it too heavy handed? Is it unfair to landlords? Yes. Yes. Yes.”
- Chicago attorney Richard Magnone, in his Chicago Eviction blog for landlords.

We've spent the past two weeks talking about how the Chicago Residential Landlord-Tenant Ordinance came to be, but those events happened thirty years ago. I would be remiss to not spend some time discussing what has happened with tenant rights in Chicago since 1986. Unfortunately, I can pretty much cover all of it in this one final chapter.

Since the ordinance went into effect it has been amended only six times. Over half of those changes have focused on security deposits, fines and fees. The few tenant rights groups that remain have changed from civil rights crusaders leading mass protests and riots to staid legal advisers. Looking in retrospect at the impact of the CRLTO from thirty years on, it's apparent that the main beneficiaries of the CRLTO were not landlords nor tenants, but lawyers. Continue reading From Rights to Revenge (1986-2016) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part V

Published by

Kay Cleaves

Jon Hoferle

Highly Questionable if Not Substantially Inadvisable (1978-1986) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part IV

Share Button
"More than 10 years have passed since Washington's stem-winding first inaugural address, in which he warned incoming aldermen that 'business as usual' would no longer be accepted in City Hall. That declaration proved to be the opening shot of what Chicago comedian Aaron Freeman would christen 'Council Wars.' Over the next several years, a majority bloc of 29 white aldermen would dig their heels in and put city government on pause.

Within moments of the inaugural address, Ald. Bernard Stone was telling the press portentously: 'That was a unifying speech. I think we're all united now. Maybe not the way he wanted, though.'"
- Jeff Lyon for the Chicago Tribune Magazine, 'Council Wars: The Battle for City Hall,' October 31, 1993

Thus far we've covered the early history of the tenant rights movement. We learned about the events that led to the drafting of the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Agreement (URLTA), a document that was offered as a blueprint for landlord-tenant laws nationwide. We saw how the powerful real estate lobby prevented the Illinois general assembly from enacting URLTA and almost all other laws that might have protected renters, leading to Evanston's creation of their own city-specific Landlord Tenant Ordinance in 1975. At long last we're able to look at the creation of the infamous, unique and peculiar Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO). Continue reading Highly Questionable if Not Substantially Inadvisable (1978-1986) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part IV

Published by

Kay Cleaves

Jon Hoferle

The Sovereign State of Chicago (1972-1981) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part III

Share Button
"Secession from Illinois and the creation of a 'State of Chicago' to embrace all of Cook and perhaps other nearby counties which are denied legislative representation in proportion to their population by downstate districts, is approved in the resolution unanimously adopted by the city council yesterday.

The resolution, offered by Ald. John Toman (23rd) directs Corporation Counsel Francis X. Busch to prepare an outline of the proper legal procedure to the effect of the separation for submission to the aldermen at their next meeting."
- "Council Urges Chicago Form Distinct State," Chicago Tribune, Jun 25 1925.

Welcome back!

When we last left off on Friday, it was 1972. The Chicago Freedom Movement and the Tenant Movement had marched, rioted and fought their way into the spotlight and were starting to get attention. Judge Skelly Wright of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had ruled that apartments were to be governed by the principles of modern contract law rather than the centuries old tenets of English property law. The National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) had delivered a draft of a landlord-tenant act that Illinois could have used as a starting point for creating its own body of laws, or even adopted outright without alteration. The sample act was called the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, or URLTA for short.

The future of tenants' rights in Chicago was laid firmly at the feet of the Illinois General Assembly. This was, in retrospect, a very bad move. Continue reading The Sovereign State of Chicago (1972-1981) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part III

Published by

Kay Cleaves

The Three-Front War for URLTA (1964-1972) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part II

Share Button

“As the judge pronounced the sentence, which court officials said represented the first time in their memory that a landlord has been ordered jailed on housing code violation charges, a cheer went up from more than 50 Clifton Terrace tenants in the room.

Brown, who is yet to be tried for another 1200 violations at Clifton Terrace cited by housing inspectors, was visibly stunned by the sentence.

As he was led away to the court's basement cellblock, the landlord, his hands visibly shaking, did not appear to be the defendant who moments before had told the Judge from the witness box that the District government was responsible for the lack of heat at Clifton Terrace.

After remaining in the cell block for about 45 minutes, Brown's attorney, George E. C. Hayes, filed notice of appeal in the case and the landlord was released after posting $2000 bond.”
- Carl Bernstein, “Landlord Given Jail Term,” Washington Post, 1967.

On Monday we started a series on the history of the Chicago Residential Landlord-Tenant Ordinance. We covered an enormous span of time from medieval England to the early civil rights movement in the United States of the 1960s. We were introduced to the many issues that faced renters in the early 20th century and the methods used by the first tenants' rights pioneers to try and fight back.

When we left off, it was 1963 and Jesse Gray's rent strikes in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City were getting attention through violence, the civil rights act was up for debate in US Congress, and Chicago had just passed its first fair housing ordinance.

Over the next decade, the battle for tenants' rights would be joined on three fronts – in the White House, the courts and the streets. Continue reading The Three-Front War for URLTA (1964-1972) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part II

Published by

Kay Cleaves

Jon Hoferle