Monthly Archives: March 2012

Landlord Hacks: How to perform Criminal Background Checks on Tenants in Chicago for Free (or very little)

When you make a commitment to allow a stranger to use your investment it is worthwhile to find out how they are going to be a major drain on your time, resources, or the value of your property. A tenant with a habit of not paying rent on time will not suddenly start paying when they move into your building. Tenants with criminal records can cause other, stronger tenants to avoid your building or your neighborhood.

You owe it to yourself and your neighbors to run background checks on every tenant.

I’ve been background checking tenants for years now, and much of that time was spent working for a company that wanted to spend as little as possible in the process. Fortunately, Chicago residents have some relatively easy routes available to them for checking on a tenant’s history. This method can be time consuming, but if you’re willing to risk your investment on a stranger it is definitely worth the time.

There are many companies out there that offer background checks for a fee. However, I’ve found that their checks are not adequate, especially in the rental history verification area. You owe it to yourself to do your own research, especially when it’s so easy to do so.

First of all, you will need the tenant’s credit report in order to do this the right way. You do not need a score, though. All you need are the actual accounts, and a summary of their payment info. Therefore, you can ask your tenant applicant to provide you with a copy of their credit report, which they can obtain for free from annualcreditreport.com (and nowhere else). It doesn’t matter if they provide you with their Transunion, Equifax or Experian report. Got it? Great. Let’s get started.

(more…)

Association Rentals: What tenants need to know

Cheeky eviction notice

What happens when a condo owner falls behind on their assessments?

One of the reasons renters give for wanting to become homeowners is that they never want to risk being thrown out of their home again. Once you own a piece of property, nobody can throw you out of it without reason, right? When a Condominium Board is involved, this is not always the case.

You see, when you buy a condo in Illinois, you buy air space. You are entitled to the air space in your condo plus the surface of your walls and floor, and a percentage of the rest of the building. Everyone is jointly responsible, through their condo assessments and participation in the association, for the upkeep of the common areas, and building exterior.  It’s a very socialist kind of system when you think about it.

When a condo owner falls behind on their assessments, the board can wind up falling short on their accounts, making them unable to pay for shared items like the water bill, the landscaping bill, or even the building’s insurance policy. The state of a condo association’s finances can affect the ability of buyers to get loans to buy into the building. Therefore, if an owner gets very far behind, the condo board has the right to take them to court and evict them.

Once the owner is out, the board can rent out the condo to a tenant, whose rent will go in part towards the payment of the evicted owner’s back assessments.

Illinois Legal Aid has a great article about this for condo owners. But what does it mean for tenants?

(more…)

Rent Bacon: January 2012

Average change in Rent rates & Market times, Jan 2011 vs Jan 2012, Chicago (corrected July 2012)

Details for January 2012

Average Rent Average Market Time Total Rented
Zone 1
January 2011 $2206 64 days 146
January 2012 $2497 54 days 157
Zone 2
January 2011 $1722 69 days 96
January 2012 $1913 62 days 93
Zone 3
January 2011 $1246 47 days 21
January 2012 $1292 61 days 24

Stats reflect pricing and activity for 2 bedroom apartments rented by Realtors and listed in ConnectMLS.

What is Rent Bacon?

Rent Bacon is a quick visual summary of what’s happening in the rental market this month compared with this time last year. It breaks the city down into three zones. For each zone, it takes the change in average rent rates and the change in average market times as percentages, and then averages the two percentages together.

Zone 1 covers central Chicago from South Loop through Lincoln Park. (Actual coordinates: 2000 South to 2000 North, from Western Ave to the Lake).

Zone 2 covers the near North side of Chicago, including Lakeview, Bucktown, Uptown, Lincoln Square, Roscoe Village and NorthCenter. (Actual coordinates: 2000 North to 5200 North, from Western Ave to the Lake.)

Zone 3 covers the Far North and Near South side of Chicago, including Edgewater, Andersonville, Rogers Park, West Ridge, Chinatown, Bridgeport and Douglas. (Actual coordinates: 5200-7600 North plus 2000-4500 South, from Western Ave to the Lake.)