Always check your lease and send a written heads up to your landlord before tinkering around in your apartment.
It's practical to assume that the fragility of an object increases in direct proportion to the number of moving parts contained inside. This is why there are so many businesses dedicated to maintaining complex things like cars, computers and human bodies. This assumption also holds true for apartments - every additional feature is something else that can break. It is in fact quite common for landlords who specialize in section 8 housing to strip out as many moving parts as possible, since annual government inspections will fail if landlord-provided items are broken regardless of the cause.
We all know what a pain it is to ask your landlord to fix broken things. It's time consuming, you might have to rearrange furniture, you might have to take time off from work to meet with maintenance workers, you might have to kennel your pet for a day. You might have to make multiple requests before broken items get fixed. Or you might even throw up your hands and resign yourself to living out the rest of your lease without the broken item. But many simple fixes are things you can do yourself without waiting for a landlord or their crew to show up. Doing these projects yourself can not only make your daily life more comfortable, but they keep your rent lower and can be great little confidence boosters. Continue reading 9 Cheap and Fast DIY Fixes That Every Renter Can Handle
This article contains many details that apply only to Chicago renters. If you do not live in Chicago, check your local laws before taking action based on information in this article.
There's a huge number of Chicago renters with leases that expire on the last day of August, and just as many if not more with leases that expire at the end of September. If this describes you, you've probably already received a lease renewal offer. This may seem early to you, but Chicago CRLTO-compliant landlords can send out renewal offers as much as 3 months prior to your lease expiration date and still be on the right side of the law.
For some renters the stay-or-go decision is an easy choice. They love their apartment or they hate it, or they have a major life change in the works that will make it impossible to stay another year. The rest are faced with an extremely uncomfortable choice. Because many landlords tend to send out renewals around the same time, very few listings will be on the market for the appropriate date by the time they arrive in tenants' mailboxes. This means that tenants must decide on the renewal without the assurance of knowing that they have somewhere else to go. Continue reading Five Things to Check Before Signing (or Refusing) a Lease Renewal
When a renter or home buyer selects their next home it's usually a decision with a lot of emotions involved. Do you like the layout? How does the landscaping look? Will your kids be safe in that yard? Will you be able to take care of it when you get older?
In contrast, when a landlord buys a building this is generally not the case. While there may be some emotion involved it is considerably less than what comes into play when you're actually going to live in the property with your family or friends. When a landlord buys a large building it is a financial investment. As one of my mentors once said, "Home buying is 10% logic justified by 90% emotion, but commercial investments are 10% emotion justified by 90% logic."
Experienced landlords and renters will have very different perspectives on the same building. It's my opinion that these opposing viewpoints lie at the heart of a lot of landlord-tenant conflicts. So today in the interest of learning about how the other half shops for buildings we will dip a toe into the thought processes of how a landlord goes apartment hunting. Don't worry, I'll be starting off easy without too much math or economics. Continue reading Landlord Logic: CAP Rates
As I was walking through the debris-strewn alley behind my building this morning it struck me that I should probably write a little something about selective enforcement. Selective enforcement is what they call it when a person or group in authority chooses to punish some people who break the rules but not others. Chicago is notorious for its selective enforcement of some rules. The wintertime practice of reserving cleared street parking spots with lawn chairs and other random furniture that we call "dibs" is illegal, but few are ever ticketed for it. Business owners who don't shovel their sidewalks in winter are definitely not fined on a consistent basis. And of course, the statewide ban on fireworks is certainly not enforced evenly if the six hour long display in the school parking lot near my house is any measure.
Not all selective enforcement is bad, either. Sometimes the government has to use whatever levers and tools they have at their disposal to remove a dangerous person from public. Notorious mobster Al Capone might never have gone to prison if the IRS hadn't been able to selectively enforce the tax code.
Apartment landlords and condo associations are also often guilty of selective enforcement. Maybe you get nailed by your landlord for smoking in a smoke-free building but your neighbor gets away with turning their bedroom into a hotbox every night without any penalty. Maybe you are fined by your homeowner's association for failing to trim your hedges while your neighbor's lawn is an overgrown jungle of weeds. So today we're going to discuss what selective enforcement is, what it is not, and how to respond to it.
Disclaimer: As always we focus on rental situations here. If you feel like a police officer or other government group is unfairly targeting you for punishment this is not the article for you.
1. It is legal ... mostly.
The current trends in courtrooms around the country dictate that selective enforcement, especially if it's committed by a private entity such as a business or a civilian, is not a legal liability provided that it is done in good faith and without obvious vindictiveness. Continue reading Selective Enforcement, or the Fourth of July