Being a landlord in Chicago is a lot like running a business. It’s worth spending time and effort into becoming the best landlord you can be. Because the better landlord you are, the easier your life and your tenants’ lives will be.
This guide won’t just let you in on the secrets to becoming a great landlord. You can also find actionable tips on covering your legal side as a property owner, charging the right amount for rent, and best practices for submitting a listing.
The Legal Side of Being a Chicago Landlord
The first thing you need to do as a Chicago landlord is to familiarize yourself with your state laws and your local laws.
In Chicago, rental housing is governed by the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance.
This covers all aspects of being a landlord in Chicago, including what responsibilities you have, how you identify yourself, and what your duties are.
Get familiar with it, and follow any changes that the City of Chicago may make to it.
Consider Landlord Insurance
While there’s no legal requirement for you to take out landlord insurance on your property, it’s best practice to keep your financial side covered.
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to fix anything that goes wrong. Fixing heaters and burst pipes are some of the everyday tasks of landlords. And while you don’t necessarily have to get a wrench and go at it yourself, you will need to pay for replacements.
If you have insurance, that financial responsibility is one less thing to worry about.
A Chicago Landlord’s Basic Responsibilities
As a Chicago landlord, it’s your responsibility to keep your rental unit fit to live in. This means your rental needs to be sanitary and have running water and heating, etc.
You’re also responsible for necessary repairs and must keep the rental unit compliant with state and local health and housing codes.
Of course, landlords also collect rent. However, you also need to be legally responsible in how you do that.
When it comes to rent, you should:
- Charge a reasonable price: If you ask above the average Chicago rent, your chances of finding a tenant will be really low.
- Assign a deposit: A security deposit protects you from any damages your tenant might cause or any break in the lease that’s not your fault. However, you may want to trust a third party to hold the deposit in the spirit of fairness.
- Create reasonable fees for late payment: Sometimes, tenants can’t pay on time, and late payment fees can make annoying situations like that a little better.
- Give at least a month’s notice before rent increase: Any sudden rent increase without warning or fair cause may be considered an underhand eviction method that may land you in hot water legally.
- Pay taxes: It’s your responsibility to pay your taxes from the money you earn as a landlord.
How to Be a Great Landlord in 4 Steps
Knowing and keeping to your basic responsibilities is the minimum service you need to provide your tenants.
However, as a business owner, it’s your choice to go above and beyond.
These tips are easy actions you can take to become the best landlord you can be. If you make your tenants’ lives better, they’ll also make your job easier.
1. Build Relationships, Not (Just) Leases
Every lawyer and every other Chicago landlord guide will tell you to create a rock-solid and strict lease and bind your tenant to whatever demand you want.
While putting all decisions in writing is always best practice, there’s more to tenant-landlord relationships than the lease.
The best landlords build a connection with their future tenants before signing a lease. This can be as simple as a small friendly conversation with your prospective tenant. One where you get to know a bit about each other and communicate your desires and expectations.
If you have a relationship with your tenant, they’ll feel less like a disposable asset, and you get a better feel for the type of tenant you have.
2. Transition Tenants Carefully
Moving a new tenant in immediately after the old one moves out can save you money. But, it may not be in your best interest.
Showing an apartment where your tenant still lives can be uncomfortable for everyone. Your current tenant can’t enjoy their privacy, the prospective tenant can’t see the details of your place, and you can’t control how your rental is presented.
If you wait a bit between tenants, you don’t just have a chance to show the true value of your rental. You also have an opportunity to make repairs or redecorate.
3. Respect Your Tenant’s Privacy
It’s important to realize that while the property is yours, it’s your tenant’s home.
The best landlords give their tenants their privacy.
Don’t visit the property unless the tenant requests or it’s absolutely necessary. And if you do need to visit, make sure you give the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice of your arrival.
“Friendly surprise visits” aren’t just annoying for your tenant. They’re also illegal.
4. Be Compassionate
While it’s good to treat being a landlord as a business, you’re not supposed to be a cutthroat business person.
Think of your job as a landlord as hospitality work. Be compassionate, understanding, and patient with your tenants. You provide more than just a service. You give them a home.
How to Advertise Your Property
Before you can rent out your property, you need to put it on the market. And how good your listing is can make a big difference in how fast you can find tenants.
Use these tips to build the best listing for your property.
- Choose a rental platform: The first step you need to take is to find a platform to list your property on. Brixbid, Apartments.com, and Zillow are some popular choices for Chicago landlords.
- Upload pictures: The more good-quality pictures you have of your property, the better. And having a floor plan is extremely appreciated by prospective renters.
- Go into a lot of detail: You need to give a lot of information about your property, so it’s best to describe it in great detail. Talk about the location, how many bedrooms and bathrooms it has, and what facilities you provide.
- List at the right price: One of the most important parts of the listing is the price. Make sure you ask for a reasonable price. Read on to find tips on how you can charge the best price for your property.
How Much to Charge as a Landlord: the Average Rent in Chicago
Not sure what to charge for your property in rent?
Don’t just pick a random number.
Take these factors into account when you come up with the value of your rental property. This is how you can find a fair and reasonable price for your place, that offers good value for your tenant, and profits for you.
The Current Rental Market
Determining rental market value is vital to attracting the right tenant to your apartment.
Do your research. Understand the average rent in your neighborhood for properties similar to yours. Think of how many bedrooms you have, what facilities you provide, and what the overall condition is.
Know the most favorable features of your property as these not only influence the rent you set but also the marketing of your rental. Locality can be as important as physical features. For example, proximity to public transport, easy access to Lake Shore Drive, community facilities, and quality local schools can all impact your rental value.
Your Own Financial Goals
Setting your rent should align with your goals as a Chicago landlord.
You’re most likely renting property for financial reasons. What are they? Are you in the business to help cover your mortgage payments? Or do you want to use the collected rent for investments?
Knowing your financial reasons can help you set the price, but they should never dictate it.
Many Chicago landlords choose to rent out their properties to cover their mortgage expenses. However, trying to price your rental out based on your own needs is how most landlords fail. The market determines the price, not your situation. Be realistic and set a fair rent that also works towards your goal.
Use Brixbid to Find the Right Price
Finding the average rent in Chicago and coming up with your own number can be a hassle. You either risk alienating your prospective tenants or losing money.
Brixbid helps landlords and tenants find the perfect balance between value and profit. Landlords can list at a comfortable asking price, and tenants can respond by sending in reasonable offers.
If you’re happy with an offer, you can take it.
Brixbid also makes it easy for you to list your apartment to rent. All you have to do is register and create a listing. Best of all, listing a property on Brixbid is completely free.
All the best Chicago landlords use Brixbid’s listing tool to find their tenants and find the best price for their property.