Prepare Your Yard for Trick-or-Treaters

Share Button

This one is for tenants in two-flats, rental houses and other small buildings. Even if you live in a big building that isn't likely to get trick-or-treaters, some of the tips below may still apply.

In most cases renters will let their landlord or property manager handle cleanup of their building's front yard. However, many renters have landlords who live far away. Even landlords who live on site may not care about how clean or safe the yard is.

On Halloween though, there will probably be small children (and lawsuit-happy parents) walking through your yard for the first time. They may not come up to the door, but they'll still have to pass through your lot on the way to another house. Nobody wants to see kids get hurt, nor deal with the rent increases that will come out of a slip-and-fall lawsuit. It might be worth a few minutes to go out and make sure your yard is safe for kids even if you don't own the building where you live.

Some of these things you can do yourself. You may want to ask your fellow neighbors or your building manager for help with others.

  • Walk up and down all sidewalks in front of your building and on the path to the front door. Make sure there are no trip hazards such as extension cords or pebbles. Remember that trick or treaters may have limited vision.
  • Cracks in the sidewalk can't really be fixed in a day. However, you can put up little warning signs next to them just like side streets have warnings for speed bumps.
  • Make sure there are lights on all sidewalk areas.
  • Look up at any trees. If you see dead branches, bring them down.
  • If there are any stairs leading up to the front door, make sure they are in decent condition. If you know they get slippery you may want to put up a little temporary sign as warning.
  • Clear up any dead leaves that could be slippery
  • Check for and clean up any dog waste in the yard.
  • Cordon off any areas that shouldn't get foot-traffic (such as newly planted grass, freshly poured concrete and open sidewalk gratings) with caution tape or string.
  • If you live in a building with a someone who has been convicted of sex offenses against a minor, remember that Illinois law (720 ILCS 5/11-9.3 c-2) prohibits them from handing out candy. They may be required to keep the lights off, avoid decorations and remain indoors. If this is the case you should still consider clearing the sidewalk.

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

Kay Cleaves

On Pumpkins and Neighborhood Safety

Share Button

It's almost a shame that Chicago's rental season ends on October 1 each year. The end of October is a great time for checking out new neighborhoods, and not just because of the mild weather and pretty autumn trees. It's also the time when people put out pumpkins and Halloween decorations, and those are great indicators of what a neighborhood is like to live in.

Jack-o-lanterns, like most metrics, are not a 100% certain method of gauging a neighborhood's character. After all, there are some very nice downtown neighborhoods with very high density buildings and no room for individual people to put up decorations. Zoning laws mean that apartment buildings are usually clustered together, and homes with yards (and pumpkin-bearing porches) are in a different section of the neighborhood. But in Chicago at least you can walk a block or two and rapidly transition from one type of building to the other.

All told, once you get out of the center of the city, Halloween decor becomes a great benchmark. Here's why:

Pumpkins are cheap.

The average pumpkin costs about $6. Carving it takes a sharp knife but most folks have one of those already. Not everyone carves their pumpkins anyhow - they last longer if they're left intact. Pumpkins are a basic, inexpensive decoration that pretty much everyone can opt into.

Halloween decorations show pride of ownership.

People decorate places that they love. They decorate to show how good they are at feathering their own nest. If you're not planning to stay in one place for a long time you'll probably leave it alone - it's only when you settle down for the long haul that you start taking steps to gussy up the place. Continue reading On Pumpkins and Neighborhood Safety

Published by

Kay Cleaves

Trick or Treat Alternatives for Chicago Renters

Share Button

Chicago has made a lot of "top 10" lists of the best US cities for trick or treating going back several years. But for those who live in apartment buildings you'd never know it. When you live in a big apartment building in the city it can be a little tricky to figure out where to take your kids on Halloween, and you have no chance of seeing any kids coming by for candy. Do you risk walking around your neighborhood with all the weirdos? Is going door to door within your apartment building enough of a legit "Halloween experience?" Will your fellow renters even think to stock candy?

Forget all that worry. Consider one of these alternative options for maximizing your kids' candy haul this Halloween.

Take a field trip to one of the Chicago neighborhoods that go all out for Halloween.

Some areas such as Lakewood-Balmoral, Hyde Park, Ravenswood Manor have been known to get busloads of kids from other areas on Halloween night just for trick-or-treating. It's become a tradition.

Go out to the suburbs.

If walking around the city isn't for you, you might want to consider heading out to a neighboring suburb for your walk around. However, bear in mind that suburban residents aren't necessarily prepared for a huge influx of city kids.

Check with your local police department.

Some police departments will offer tailgate trick or treating in their parking lots at a relatively early hour.

Visit businesses instead of homes.

If walking through dark residential streets is not your idea of a good time, consider visiting your local commercial strip. Many chambers of commerce work with local shops to sponsor late night trick-or-treat walks on Halloween.

Plan to go early.

In the Chicago area trick-or-treating is an afternoon thing. Most areas - especially in the suburbs - only allow trick or treating from the time school gets out until sunset. Metromix has a good list of trick-or-treat hours for the Chicago suburbs and a few Chicago neighborhoods.

Visit your local park.

The Chicago Park District runs a ton of Halloween events for families. Check out their calendar.

Go to a Halloween event at a nearby college.

Some Chicago universities offer Halloween events that are open to the community, including Northwestern and Depaul.

Work with other families in the building to create a trick-or-treat event.

If you live in a large apartment community you may have a party room or courtyard area that can be set up for a building-wide Halloween event. If your management company sponsors it, even better.

Take a tour of a local Cemetery.

If you've got older kids or just aren't hip to the whole candy thing, consider taking one of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's guided tours of a local cemetery. Note: visiting Chicago's cemeteries without a guide on Halloween is a very bad idea.

Visit a local Senior Center or Retirement Community

You might not get much candy, but you'll definitely make the day of some seniors who don't get frequent visits from their own families. Make a call to any senior community you'd like to visit before you go to find out visiting hours and make sure you won't be disrupting anything big.

No matter which option you choose, make sure to accompany your kids on any Halloween outing!

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

Kay Cleaves

How to Deal with a Haunted Apartment in Chicago

Share Button

Here at RentConfident we talk about a lot of horrible things that can happen to renters that don't properly screen their landlords. But sometimes it isn't the landlord, the apartment or even that spider-filled laundry room in the basement that's the most frightening thing about your rented home. Sometimes your apartment comes with not only the usual assortment of biological pests but spectral ones as well - I'm talking about ghosts, poltergeists and other spooky residents.

Not everyone believes in ghosts, but for those who've lived in haunted spaces they are a very real thing. No matter what you believe though, you have to agree that some properties get a bad reputation for hosting events that tend to lead to hauntings - mostly murder and death. Buildings that have been the sites of death or tragedy are known as stigmatized property in legal terms. However there's different types of stigma.

A publicly stigmatized property is one that is known by the whole neighborhood as the place where something really bad went down. The most well known Chicago examples of this are 8213 West Summerdale, former home of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The public stigma against this property was so severe that the lot had to be renumbered before anyone would buy it.

There's also property that's been stigmatized by prior use by criminals or those with severe debt. Homes that have been used for manufacturing methamphetamine have recently become well-known examples of such a structure. The residue left behind from this kind of activity is extremely hazardous and almost impossible to remove. New owners in homes formerly occupied by those in deep debt might find themselves harassed by collectors long after the prior owners have moved on.

Hauntings fall in the realm of phenomenon-based stigma. They may cause mental distress or worry for some folks but they will not cause you physical injury.

What can Chicago renters do if they wind up living in a haunted apartment?

Can you sue the landlord? No. Some states require landlords and sellers to disclose prior events that could lead to a haunting, such as murders. Illinois is not one of them. In Illinois you have no right to sue a seller, landlord or their agent for not telling you about the resident ghost in your apartment before you moved in. They only have to tell you about problems that affect the structural integrity of the property. So suing your landlord because of the ghost is not a case you're likely to win.

However, if the ghost is the cause of structural damage that could cause you harm you might have a chance. Bear in mind though that most tenant vs landlord lawsuits are based on the landlord failing to repair damages in a timely manner. Treat any damages caused by your ghost as you would any other broken items in your apartment - report the damage in writing and only pursue legal action if your landlord doesn't respond. Continue reading How to Deal with a Haunted Apartment in Chicago

Published by

Kay Cleaves

5 Terrifying Real Life Roommates

Share Button

Content warning: This post contains true stories of bad people doing horrible things.

Halloween is full of spooks and scares and terrifying tales. The rental industry has its own share of frightening stories, but roommates from recent headlines are scary at levels that put chainsaw-wielding movie maniacs to shame. Today as we've got a roundup of some of the worst roommates imaginable, as well as some lessons that a renter can take away long after the Harley Quinn costumes have hit the trash bin.

The Tainted Tweets

In August of 2016, a man in Gilbert, Arizona of was arrested for shooting his roommate. However, when police investigated his Twitter account they escalated the charge from second degree murder to first degree murder. It turns out that the accused murderer had some serious problems with finding and keeping roommates for a very long time.

The accused had tweeted every year about having trouble finding roommates. In the weeks leading up to his arrest he had posted several tweets about how easy it was to obtain firearms and ammunition. A final ominous tweet two days before the murder was the kicker: "I need to move out of my place before I viciously murder my roommates." [Link - AZ Central]

Lesson learned: Follow your roommates on social media.

Continue reading 5 Terrifying Real Life Roommates

Published by

Kay Cleaves