Apartments are the most common form of rental housing but single family houses are also available for rent. In Chicago, there are many apartment buildings containing two or more units (flats) per building. Refrigerators and stoves are normally provided. Some apartments come furnished for a higher rental cost. The real estate agent or landlord showing the apartment will provide the necessary information.

A signed lease and security deposit are usually given to the landlord before the apartment can be occupied. Tenants have the responsibility of paying rent on time, maintaining the landlord’s property through proper use and cleaning, and reporting any problems to the landlord. The rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants are written in a lease, and each party should have a copy for documentation purposes. There are standard forms of leases that are easily available for general use. The standard one-year lease is most common, although some people choose to have a month-to-month lease. It is important to read and understand every sentence of the lease (a single word may be critical) before signing it.

Chicago’s housing stock includes units rented at the market rate and also units that are designed to be affordable for low income families. The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) maintains an affordable rental housing resource list.

Information on public housing can be found at the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) website.

Home Ownership

Purchasing a home is a complex process and a major investment through which many Americans have achieved the “American Dream” of building a tangible asset. However, it is an undertaking that requires careful planning and preparation, and the involvement of various professionals such as lawyers, real estate brokers, banks/mortgage brokers, real estate appraisers, and inspectors.

Establishing a sound credit history and stable income are among the key prerequisites for home ownership. Banks traditionally lend money to eligible individuals who are looking to purchase homes. In exchange for a mortgage (a claim against the property), banks lend money to home buyers for the difference in amounts between the purchase price of the house and the down payment.

When planning to purchase a home, it is important to be aware of your responsibilities as a homeowner. Under the mortgage agreement, the homeowner must make monthly payments to cover the principal amount of the loan and the agreed-upon amount of interest. Failure to make the monthly payments to the bank endangers the credit standing of the homeowner, in general, and increases the possibility of losing ownership of the property. If there is danger of missing a monthly payment, talking with the bank is helpful. If the homeowner is not able to continue his/her monthly payments for a mortgage, the bank can start a legal proceeding called foreclosure. The result of the foreclosure is for the homeowner to vacate the home and for the bank to put the house up for sale. Community organizations throughout Chicago provide pre-purchase counseling to prospective homebuyers to prevent foreclosures. Learn more about these Foreclosure Prevention and Housing Counseling Centers here.

Condominiums and cooperatives are two other ways of becoming a homeowner. In the case of condominiums, the housing is a unit in a building and is owned by the individual. The condo owner is subject to the rules and regulations of a condominium association made up of individual owners in the building. The common areas of the building (basement, hallways, and parking garage) are owned by the condominium association. In the case of a housing cooperative, the tenant owns shares in a corporation and the corporation owns the building. As a co-op member, the individual has the right to use a specific unit. The important financing differences between these two forms of ownership should be carefully investigated before purchase.

First time home buyers may be able to receive support from the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Click here to learn more.

Your rights

You have the right to protection from discrimination under the Chicago Human Rights and Fair Housing Ordinances (CHRFHOs) regardless of your immigration or citizenship status. For details about civil rights protections provided by the CHRFHOs, please visit the Commission on Human Relations website or call CHR at 312.744.4111.

In addition to the City of Chicago, there are federal, state, and county civil rights agencies with which you may file discrimination complaints. You are entitled to accommodations that are clean, warm, safe, and have appropriate plumbing facilities. The relationship between landlords (property owners) and tenants (renters of property) is prescribed by laws covering day-to-day issues (such as heat during cold weather). Some of these laws are federal and state statutes, while others are municipal ordinances such the Chicago Tenant/Landlord Ordinance.

For more information on tenants’ rights, visit these websites:

Additional Resources

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