College Student Apartment Hunting in Chicago

You’ve applied and been accepted to your college of choice. You’ve carefully planned your schedule which allows you to jump-start your college career as a full-time student. Yesterday, you received a call stating that your job interview went extremely well and you are expected to start as soon as possible, pending a drug screening. All the pieces are quickly falling into place and you are ecstatic about the freedom you will have, once the semester begins.

That’s when it hits youâÂ?¦Although you’ve successfully taken care of the bulk of everything you need to do to prepare for college; you realize that you still reside at home with your hippie parents and little brother who rummages through your panty drawerâÂ?¦planting his pet beetles and reading the romantic entries in your diary.

The horror forms a thickening wad of phlegm in your throat, as you imagine entertaining your college chums; while your mother parades around in her tie-dyed outfit with the matching headpiece singing Born to be Wild, while shaking her groove thang for your dad who perfects a simple gyrating motion… your brother shooting spitballs at the tops of your female friends’ bosom area. Before the image can cause you to vomit, you realize that you have got to get your own placeâÂ?¦preferably one far enough for your family to question traveling there on a daily basis.

Studio, one bedroom or two? Roommate or no? On-campus or off? The questions are one monstrous enigma and you find yourself desperate for a solution. Scouring the ads, you wish you’d thought about this very important step earlier on. Phone call after phone call and you find yourself confused as to what your next step should be. Is there any solution to the horrible visions dancing in your head? Will you have to start your first semester at home with your bizarre family or will your string of good fortune continueâÂ?¦landing you in the ideal apartment?

So many student’s find themselves in the above scenario. Whether your family life is more or less scary, you want to be secure in knowing that you will be able to maintain your sanity and complete your college career on top of the game. In addition, because choosing a home away from home can be the difference between your sanity and a visit to the funny farm; there are resources out there to make your search a little less nerve wrecking.

Tip #1: When searching for your new home, make sure you are as prepared as possible. Track down as many resources as you can to assist you in your search.

Resources include the Sunday editions of the Chicago Sun-Times & the Chicago Tribune, in addition to the Chicago Reader (A free weekly Chicago paper). In some cases, it is advisable to purchase the newspaper on the side of town you are considering moving to; due to articles specifically geared towards certain areas (North, South and West sides).

Web Sites: If you have access to the Internet, you can get information about apartments (and Chicago in general) from the following addresses:
� Chicago Reader On-Line(
� Yahoo! Chicago(
� Living in Greater Chicago(
� Free Nationwide Apartment Search with the most visual apartment listings Online(
� An Ebay Company with the option of looking for rentals and roommates (
� Online Rental Guide(

Colleges / Universities: The residence life center at colleges / universities is known for posting information regarding rentals on and off campus, in addition to information about individuals looking for roommates and “artist friendly” apartments for spaces large enough to convert into the perfect student atmosphere. Columbia College of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago and many others offer information to students in search of housing options. Many times, the college / university will have guidelines in place for out-of-town students as well as Chicago natives looking for specific living arrangements. In addition, students are known to post bulletins announcing apartments / rooms for rent and their need to find a roommate to split housing costs. These days, there are many options aside from residing in your college / university dorm.

Tip #2: Do the Necessary Leg-work to ensure you are making the best decision for you.
� Visit the neighborhoods of all areas you are considering moving to. You will want to have an idea of what the area is like, before you concentrate on signing a lease.
� Walk around as much as possible, as this will give you a clearer feel for the neighborhood. Clearly, if you are afraid for your life; while scouting out the neighborhood (gunshots are ringing out and the local drug dealers have set up patio chairs on the corner); this is not somewhere you want to call home.
� Visit the neighborhoods at different times of the day. You may discover the many secrets of the area by visiting at night, as opposed to in the day or vice versa.
� Search out certain services (grocery, laundry, etc.) while determining their proximity to the location of the apartment. As a student, having resources close can assist with time management. However, it is important to not become someone who gets so comfortable that it works against you in the long run. After all, why put off for tomorrow what you can do today?

Tip #3: Negotiate the deal.
� Speak with current or past tenants, if possible. Finding out what others think about a particular apartment / landlord can be crucial in your decision. Note: If a tenant is always late with their rent, is disrespectful to other tenants and has turned their apartment into the local club; they are probably not a credible source.
� Have a direct phone number to contact the landlord. Relying on pagers can be a hassle, if your phone calls go unreturned.
� Have your landlords address on file (work or home). It is illegal for any landlord to have their tenants send rent checks to P.O. Box numbers.
� Inspect the apartment and building. Take note of how well common areas are maintained. If possible, take a tour through the basement (this is where pest problems begin). If the lower level of the complex is not maintained (leaky pipes, roaches, cockroaches, mice, etc.) there is a good chance that the rest of the building will present you with future problems.
� Check the condition of the exterior and locks. You want to know that you are moving into a secure area and that the front / back entrances show no signs of pry marks or splitting near the locks and latches.

With careful planning, a great deal of apartment related problems can be avoided. Do not hesitate to inspect the building and research the landlord’s history.

Tip #4: If renting a space with a lease, be sure to read ALL of the fine print. Many tenants find themselves in a bind, because they failed to read every inch of the tiny words located throughout the leasing agreement.
� Get everything in writing. Verbal agreements can be disputed. There is always a greater chance to prove your case, when you have all agreements in writing.
� Do not sign a commercial lease for a loft. A residential lease must be signed, in order for you to have basic rights as a tenant. You could be evicted at any time, if the appropriate lease is not signed.
� Know your rights as a tenant. For any problems encountered, tenants in Chicago are protected by the Landlord-Tenants Ordinance.
For help with on-campus issues: Information can be found at your local residence-life center.
� Understand and agree with the stipulations found in the lease before signing it. A lease is a binding agreement between both the landlord and the tenant. If there is something found in the lease that you do not agree with, DO NOT place your signature on it; before the necessary changes have been made.
� Some larger apartment managers may require someone to co-sign for you and accept responsibility, in the event something happens to you during your lease term. It is wise to have someone with fair to excellent credit and a good reputation act as a co-signer on your behalf.

In conclusion, if all the necessary precautions are taken; students should find their hunt for the perfect apartment to be a valuable and educational experience�one that lands you into the home of your dreams where your friends and diaries are all kept safe. .

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