Help me make a list of questions for prospective Chicago landlords!
June 3, 2008 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm compiling a list of questions to ask prospective landlords when viewing their properties in Chicago next week. Help me make sure I'm asking everything I should be!

Here's what I have so far:

-Total cost of monthly rent
-Is heat included?
-Pets allowed? (I have a cat)
-Can I install a satellite dish? (I have DirectTV)
-Central air conditioning?
-What's the laundry situation? (in unit, in building, free/coin-op?)

I see some apartments list "cable ready" -- does this mean some places aren't wired for cable? (In case I can't install a satellite, or decide to go with cable for Internet.)

What else am I missing?

FWIW, I'm moving from out-of-state and have only a few days to find a place. I'll be craigslisting/walking it for the first two days, then going to an apartment finder as a last resort. Budget: <$1200/m.
posted by c:\awesome to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Security deposit policies?
Painting and other alterations (if you care)?
Who do you pay rent to and when is it due?
Storage space available?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:31 AM on June 3, 2008

- is parking available?
- can you sublet or otherwise get out of your lease if need be?
posted by cgg at 9:34 AM on June 3, 2008

A lot of landlords charge an application fee to cover their costs of running a credit check. Sometimes they're willing to refund it when you sign the lease by reducing the first month's rent. Can't hurt to ask.
Get any promised repairs or additions on the lease before you sign it.

The Illinois Tenants Union site is good to have bookmarked, just in case.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:42 AM on June 3, 2008

-Distance to public transportation.
-Nearest grocery store.
-Any other nearby accommodations (gym, parks, donut shop, whatever) that are important to you.
posted by almostmanda at 9:46 AM on June 3, 2008

Things to take note of when looking around:

- Available space for packages in mail area or doorman/package area
- Quality of the laundry room (often more important than location if it's reasonably close)
- Maintenance of the garbage area (some back stairways are cleaner than others & unclean garbage areas attract rats)

Added bonuses (more important for some):
- farmer's market in area
- eat-in kitchen or dining area, double sink, etc
- close to running trails, bike trails, etc
- ease to airport
- direct debit available
- good water pressure in shower
- dishwasher

note: you won't get all of these in any apartment, but worth seeing which ones are on your "important" list
posted by ejaned8 at 10:07 AM on June 3, 2008

Does the Super live in the building? Otherwise, who do you contact for repairs and how?
Is there a plan in place for pest control?
posted by twoporedomain at 10:11 AM on June 3, 2008

Where's the closest El stop?
posted by spinifex23 at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2008

I always throughly check the cabinets under the sinks. If you see roach traps, the building has roaches.

Also, I flush the toilet and turn on the faucets to get a sense of the water pressure.

Even if you drive, being close to public transportation is handy, as parking downtown is shit. So, that's another thing to check for.
posted by ignignokt at 10:18 AM on June 3, 2008

Oh man, seconding checking for roach traps/rat droppings and testing for water pressure. I also make sure there are enough electrical outlets, and when they are included I check out the fridge and stove to make sure they are working.

Once I rented an apartment where I had only been shown the bedroom in the day with the curtains drawn. When I moved in it was evening, and I realized that there was no light or lightswitch at all in the room. What the hell?

One question to ask if you are seeing the place before the last tenant has moved out: Is the previous tenant responsible for leaving the apartment clean when he/she leaves?
posted by vodkaboots at 10:56 AM on June 3, 2008

- If it's not central air: Can the apartment wiring handle an A/C unit in the bedroom and the living room?
- How many circuits does the apartment have, and where is the breaker box?
- Are there any unique building rules?
- How many buildings do you manage?

My current apartment wasn't "cable ready." The cable installer had to string the cable from the connection outside in through the bedroom, and tack it along the baseboard & door frames until reaching the living room. It took awhile, but no extra charge.
posted by limeswirltart at 11:01 AM on June 3, 2008

In addition to checking the number and location of electrical outlets, make sure there are three holes in the ones you want to use for your computer, and any other stuff that has 3-prong plugs.

Is there a 24-hour maintenance line you can call if something is really really broken (like a burst pipe)?

Definitely ask about the cat on the phone when you set up your appointment, and about any other deal-breaker issues you might have. There's no point in wasting your time and theirs on a meeting and showing if you won't be able to move in.
posted by vytae at 11:16 AM on June 3, 2008

Some buildings in Chicago have bike storage available - that can be handy.

Also, ask about mail arrangements. In my current building, receiving UPS and FedEx packages is a pain unless I'm personally home to buzz-in the delivery guy.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2008

Is the heat unit-controlled or building-controlled? We lived in a gorgeous apartment on the 11th floor that was ungodly hot from August to June. Although we controlled our own thermostat, the *building* controlled whether there was heating or cooling available. As soon as it dipped below 65 EVER, the management set the damned thing to heat and it was unliveable without the windows open, even if we set the thermostat to off. On the other hand, I now live with radiators. It doesn't matter when they start the boilers, my place doesn't get hot unless I open the valves on my radiators.

When were the electricals last upgraded? Are the plugs grounded, three-pronged? Is there more than one outlet per wall? How many circuits is the apartment broken into? My condo was built in 1920, but there have been outlets installed since, so instead of one per room, I've now got one per wall. The one I wanted to buy was built in 1900 but no outlets had been added in the last 30 years. Some rooms had only one that would have been a major pain in the ass.

Check the parking restrictions in the neighborhood. Are there zone permits? Weather-restrictions? Commuting restrictions (no parking 7am to 9am on one side of the street and no parking 4pm to 6pm on the other)? Are you close enough to Wrigley to get into night game parking restrictions?
posted by crush-onastick at 11:43 AM on June 3, 2008

1) Not certain if Chicago does this, but the DC area is big on 'Pet Rent'. Find out if you have to put a deposit down for having a pet, what portion of the deposit (if any) is refundable when you move out, and if there is a monthly charge for keeping a pet. I've seen pet rent in DC average from $25-50/month.

2) Read the fine print on your lease. Make certain you understand EXACTLY what you will be held responsible for upon move-out. I got stuck with a $400 bill to have the carpet replaced in a unit I lived in previously. Not fair, but when I went back through the lease, I realized there wasn't much I could do to fight it.

3) Check to see if the lease provides a month-to-month option after the end of the first year. If you think you might need to get out of there after year 1 or 2, you can go month-to-month and only have to give 30 days notice prior to moving out. Helps to avoid those pesky (and HUGE) fees associated with breaking a lease.

4) If you would have to utilize an A/C unit in your window, ask if there is an additional charge. I lived in an apartment that charged $35/month May-September for each air conditioner a tenant had in his/her windows.

Best of luck to you!
posted by clpage at 12:55 PM on June 3, 2008

-nthing water pressure
-how well are windows and doors sealed? We visited our current place in August and didn't realize that Novemeber-March there would be a steady (freezing) breeze coming through most of the windows.
-can you nail stuff into the wall? Tape? One place I lived didn't care about nails because they repaint after every tenant, but sticky-tac was not allowed because it left an oil residue that would bleed through the new paint.
-keep an eye out on the floor levels. One room in our current place has a noticeable slant.
-are there curtains/shades on the windows?
-how are the neighbors/neighborhood? Quiet, busy, etc.

Many of the little things won't be deal-breakers, but could easily make it or break it if you are trying to decided between multiple places.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 3:09 PM on June 3, 2008

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