I made several visits to landlord-tenant court that summer [of 1966] as part of my work with the tenants. During one of my visits there, an event occurred that has stuck in my mind as a vivid tableau. The cases were being called by the clerk when a quite elderly, thin, white woman rose from her seat in response to hearing her name. Her gait was quite slow - stooped over, and supported by a wooden cane. She was dressed in a frilly, long white dress and a white hat with a veil. It struck me that she had picked out her finest clothes to wear that morning. Perhaps her generation thought it appropriate to dress up for a court appearance - like going to church. But this was no church. When she was about half way to the front of the court – even before she passed the bar - the judge impatiently asked, "Have you paid the rent?"
She looked up at him as best she could and began softly speaking. "No, but... ."
She was cut off in midsentence by the court, curtly saying, "Judgment for landlord. Call the next case."
The woman continued to slowly approach the bench, raising her right hand - her left still resting on the cane - as if she was trying to get the judge's attention. Her apparent desire to continue talking was stopped by the judge who without a hint of emotion said, "Maam, your case has been decided. You can go now."
Crestfallen, she slowly turned and with small, careful steps, worked her way out the rear of the room. The next case was called and decided before she reached the courtroom door. A few tenants watched her sadly. Most people in the room paid her no attention as additional cases were called and quickly disposed of. I was stunned.
--Richard H. Chused, The Roots of Jack Spring v. Little, 40 J. Marshall L. Rev. 395 (2007)
The rights of tenants and landlords in Chicago are protected by numerous laws, but primarily by a single massive section of municipal code called the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO). It's 10,000 words long. It's been called the “most tenant-friendly legislation of its kind in the United States.” It's also been called notorious, harsh, overly-zealous, and a deterrent that discourages small landlords from investing in Chicago apartments.
As a company that focuses on tenant education, RentConfident has a vested interest in understanding the CRLTO – not only what it means, but the events that lead to its creation. This is the first of a multi-part series looking into the history of the Ordinance from medieval history to modern times that will run across the next several weeks. If you'd like to read more in depth about any of the topics covered in this series, a list of sources will be provided as part of the final article. Continue reading “This Was No Church” (1881-1963) A History of Renters' Rights in Chicago, Part I
On Monday we will be posting the first installment in a four-part series. It was actually supposed to start today, but it isn't quite ready yet. This is the first time since we started this blog that we've actually missed a print deadline, so I wanted to give you guys a thorough reckoning as to why there's no article today.
The series that will start on Monday was first conceived in November of 2015. It's been on our publishing docket every month since then, but it has taken us until very recently - two days ago, in fact - to combine the correct research and the correct format to figure out exactly how the story should be told.
Version 1: Dry and Dull.
Most of the latest developments in tenant rights come out of the court system. Last fall I was trying to figure out what sort of events led to the creation of the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO) - that's the official Chicago body of law governing the rights of apartment renters. It's a big, complicated mass of laws and I was curious to find out what exactly brought about some of its more particular sections. This is good stuff to know about when you work in tenant education. Continue reading Behind the Blog (or, the article explaining why there’s no article today)
Not all apartment rental agents are alike. Some applied for their jobs in response to ads like this:
Seeking responsible, licensed agents with a strong knowledge of Chicago and a thorough understanding of leasing to help us serve the renters of Chicago.
While others responded to an ad like this:
No experience necessary! Get paid to bounce around the city and chat with different people! No degree or license required! Start earning big $$$ right away!
The real estate industry may seem very professional when viewed from the outside, but in Chicago it's actually just as easy to get a job putting people into apartments as it is to get a job slinging burgers at a fast food restaurant or cleaning houses. Illinois has a leasing agent license requiring just 15 hours of training. Trainee leasing agents can work for up to 4 months before they obtain even this most basic of licenses. Apartment locator services go on hiring sprees in the early spring, which means in March and April many leasing agents have less experience in apartment hunting than their clients. Continue reading Questions to ask your next Leasing Agent before trusting them with your apartment search
A few months ago Jon posted some Fractured Fables, using renters and apartments in place of the classic animals from Aesop's Fables. Today we've got another one for you, this time a joint offering from both of the RentConfident owners, based on the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.”
Editor's Note: This story may cause issues for survivors of sexual assault. Unfortunately, it finds its roots in events that have occurred in real life, and therefore we feel it is a necessary article.
The Tale of Hannah and Gretchen
Hannah and Gretchen worked hard to afford a small apartment in the big city. Although the appliances were old and the floors were worn, they lived there together for many happy years and made the space their own.
Their landlady lived in a comfortable house nearby with her husband, a chubby little man with devious eyes. One day after going through the mail he turned to his wife.
“You know,” he said, “those two girls who live in our apartment have a lease which expires next month.”
“They're good tenants,” said the landlady. “They're quiet, friendly and pay on time. What are you implying?”
“Of course they are,” he replied, “but they're getting too good of a deal. Property taxes are going up. Water bills are going up. The kids' tuition is going up. If we removed the girls and renovated that apartment we could get a lot more rent for it.”
So it was with a heavy heart that the landlady gave Hannah and Gretchen 30 days notice to move out of their little apartment and turned them loose into the big city. Continue reading Fractured Fables for the Modern Renter: The Tale of Hannah and Gretchen