Tag Archives: associations

Tenant Hacks: How to background check your landlord

Magnifying glass looking at a house

Time to turn the tables.

Chicago Renters, I have to confess something – landlords these days hire as much for my skill in background checking as they do for my ability to market their apartments. Renters have this crazy reputation of being uniformly unemployed former sex offenders with bad credit who skipped out on their last lease. If you’re applying for an apartment chances are good that you will be subjected to a security check more thorough than those they apply to new police officers. I encourage this behavior – it helps to keep neighborhoods clean.

However, landlords have an equally unsavory reputation for being layabout shady shysters from foreign countries who are just a single late payment away from foreclosure and/or running off with your security deposit. It’s only fair that you should be able to do some background checking of your own, and fortunately a lot of the information is available free of charge.

When I’m representing renters I normally perform all of the following background checks as part of the service, but if you’re renting without representation in Chicago (or you’re working with an apartment locator instead of a real agent) you’ll have to do it yourself.

A quick disclaimer before we begin: this info pertains to Chicago renters only. Much of it works anywhere in Cook County, but if you’re renting elsewhere I’m afraid your situation is beyond my expertise. However, you’re welcome to try the techniques below and let me know if they successfully transferred to your state or city!

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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?

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