This past week an urgent email arrived from another prominent blogger in the Chicago rental scene, Richard Magnone of the law firm of Reda, Ciprian and Magnone. He is the author of the Chicago Eviction blog, which speaks to landlords much in the same way that we speak to tenants, with the added bonus that Rich is an attorney. The email referenced a draft "Good Cause Eviction" ordinance that Proco Joe Moreno was planning to introduce to the city council this past week.
The draft was written with input from the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing, a group of attorneys that predominantly focuses on defending low income renters in court. It echoes similar laws already on the books in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, DC and Los Angeles.
Magnone treated this proposed new law with outrage, calling to action his entire mailing list of landlords and the attorneys that represent them. Whether a mass landlord protest at Moreno's office occurred or not, what we know is that the alderman has decided to postpone the introduction of this legislation to the city council for this time and has instead decided to create a task force for further investigation.
So what is this ordinance and why is Mr. Magnone so upset about it? If landlords are angry about it, should tenants be supporting it vocally and emphatically? Let's get into the details. Continue reading Good Cause Evictions: The Law That Didn’t Happen (Yet)
People who are feeling some sort of extreme emotion generally do not make good financial decisions. This is why you shouldn't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. It's why the worst types of lawyers chase ambulances. It's why stores like invest huge sums of money into detecting when their customers are going through major life changes like the birth of a child, a graduation or a retirement.
Choosing a place to live is a decision that is often emotionally loaded as it is, and techniques used by real estate agents to market a property are designed to dampen any logical thought processes you may bring to the table. But housing is a huge financial investment. The choice of housing should not just be based on emotion but with logical thought towards your safety, your comfort and your bank account.
Even if you're normally an emotional decision maker, you need to make sure that when you view an apartment that you are looking with your head as well as your heart. Today's apartment viewing technique for renters will reset your emotions for every apartment showing. It will ensure that you are approaching every showing with the same amount of thought and clarity no matter how your day has been or who is with you.
All it takes is a measuring tape and seven measurements. Of course, these measurements will give you some nice numbers, but the process of actually pausing to reel out the tape will lead you to think about some important details that you should be noticing beyond feet and inches. You could use other metrics instead, but I've found that a measuring tape is a cheap, portable, and neutral way to show an agent that you're serious about the task at hand while not seeming hostile.
Here's what to measure.
1. Freight elevator or Stairs
Why? It makes you think about getting in and out. A common reason why people get off to a bad start at their new apartment is the sheer horror of moving in. Carrying all your stuff in and out is hard enough without any of it getting stuck in the stairs or the freight elevator.
But apartment building traffic routes are not just a "moving in" kind of thing. They're something you will deal with every time you leave, every time you come home, every time you walk the dog, head to the laundry room or bring in the groceries. It's also something that you'll definitely encounter in case of a fire. Lobbies may be pretty but once you move in you'll probably come and go through the back door quite often. Might as well see what that back route looks like.
Measure this: If the building has an elevator, get the width of the doors. If not, go to a corner of the stairs and measure the shortest distance from wall to wall (or floor to ceiling). Continue reading Seven Measurements That Will Help You Choose the Right Apartment
A recent guest of mine in from out of town commented to me on the absence of trailer parks in the city. This remark brought to the forefront a topic that I've been meaning to discuss for some time.
Manufactured housing. Modular housing. Container homes. Mobile homes. They all have assorted differences but they have two things in common. The first is that they are constructed in factories somewhere other than the land they're intended to occupy. The other is that they are very, very scarce on the ground in Chicago. In any other city a blog about rental housing would spend a whole lot of time talking about mobile home parks but we've barely touched on them at all because there's really no overlap between mobile home renters and Chicago renters.
There is one mobile home park in Chicago. It's located at 4000 E. 134th Street on the far south side smack up against the border of Indiana and it's called Harbor Point Estates. There are plenty in the neighboring suburbs, though. In fact, one of the worst airplane crashes in Chicago history occurred in 1979 when a DC-10 taking off from O'Hare landed on a trailer park in Des Plaines, just a few miles from the airport.
The simple reason behind the absence of trailer parks in Chicago is something called "highest and best land use." The more complicated reason is also "highest and best land use." So of course we must explain things in more detail. Continue reading Why Are There No Mobile Home Parks in Chicago?
It's Friday, right? I got the publication date right this time? Great!
So it's May. Chicago residents may have noticed a marked change in the weather recently. The outside temperatures shot up by about 20F degrees this week with an accompanying increase in humidity. If you're one of the many renters living in buildings with central air conditioning, good for you. This is not your article. This one is for those renters who have moved into vintage apartments without central AC since the end of the summer last year. You guys probably spent the last 48 hours or so contemplating how to install a window air conditioner. Here's what you need to know.
Do You Really Need AC?
While in record years the high temperatures in Chicago have capped out at about 111F degrees, the average high even in midsummer is somewhere in the 80s. That's really not all that bad, and in other areas of the country it's downright chilly. The difference here is our high humidity, which in turn creates high heat indexes - that means it feels hotter than it really is. Continue reading The Chicago Renters’ Guide to Window Air Conditioners