Flats Chicago – proceed with caution, renters

by Joe Zekas on 11/14/13

We’ve been following the progress – or lack thereof – on Flats Chicago buildings for some time. Our interest was initially piqued by what struck us as a near-zero correlation between the company’s hype and the facts behind it.

Back in June we reported, with a skepticism not exhibited in other media reports, Flats Chicago’s assertion that several properties would be ready for occupancy in early July. We followed up two weeks ago with a look at the state of disarray at one of them, 2500 N Clybourn.


Yesterday we took an updated look at some of Flats’ properties in Uptown and Edgewater, none of which are move-in ready.

We’ve been around many 100s of construction sites over the years, and only rarely have we encountered ones as disorganized in appearance as the Flats sites.

Flats Chicago’s website (screen cap) states that “Beginning June 15, reservations are being taken” for properties at 4875 N Magnolia, 5051 N Kenmore, and 5411 and 5718 N Winthrop.

Renters should have strong reservations about Flats Chicago until they actually see the completed unit that they’re considering in a completed building.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Nanette Bianco January 31, 2014 at 9:15 AM

I looked at a unit in the 5411 North Wintrop building. The building was only half done. The gym room consists of about three pieces of equipment planted in the front lobby. The unit is heated and cooled by air units stuck into the walls. The elevator smelled like glue. The whole place had a cheap feel. I looked into the windows of the units still being worked on and spotted plywood on the walls. There seems to be no sound proofing or insulation. The whole thing seems like a racket- renter beware is right . Don’t touch the Flats until the buildings are completed.

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Javier Babilonia February 9, 2014 at 6:17 PM

I wish this article had been written before we rented. My partner and I moved to Chicago last July for my new job. We looked at many places but were instantly enamored by an apartment at 7722 N. Ashland Ave. (Ashland Commons?). The unit is a duplex-down, very comfortable 3/3, large open living/dining, beautiful floors, etc. We are two blocks away from the lake, lots of parks, perfect location. Anyway, I had only one weekend to move before my new job started so we signed and moved. The upstairs neighbors and us were the very first tenants of this property.

We were told about the on-going renovations on the opposite side of the building, “our side” was supposed to be completed.

Shortly after moving, we started noticing minor, or so we thought, nuances; dishwasher wasn’t properly installed, kitchen and master bedroom sinks leaked, floors scratched by merely looking at them, the water in the master and guest bathroom upstairs took up to 45 minutes to warm up, never getting hot enough.

The freshly planted snowball bushes died within three months because no one took care of the grounds. The lawn, rarely trimmed or watered, died on one side of the courtyard. All along, I had been letting management know about the near-dead plants and grass and even offering to take care of them.

Leaks were temporarily fixed, the problem kept resurfacing so we ended up fixing the leaky connections ourselves. Still, to this day, February 9th, 2014, after innumerable complaints regarding the hot water in our master and guest bathrooms, we have yet to have those valves fixed. But that is nothing in comparison to so many other issues.

We had a sewer backup in our lower level. There is a drain in the furnace area, which is strange to start with, and that’s where everything came up from. The downstairs bathroom, furnace and laundry room share plumbing, all of which drain onto a discharge “pit”. This happened on a Friday; I called the manager right away and left a message. Not a single call until Monday morning. It took me over five hours to clean an sanitize the area. All of this happened AFTER I had complained of sewer flies found in the basement area. Nothing was done, even though the sewer flies were a clear sign of a big problem to come.

There is NO insulation between floors; we can hear pretty much everything happening upstairs, even a vibrating phone alarm! There’s NO insulation on the walls! We submitted numerous maintenance requests after noticing cold air blowing through the master bedroom and living room window sills. This happened when temperatures went down to 40 degrees, not even too cold at that time. It turned out that insulation is non-existent between floors and walls but also non-existent underneath our two upstairs bedrooms/bathroom and the non-heated utility room right below these areas. I suggested the management to install insulation, even the cheap stuff, or install a small gas garage heater to at least keep that utility room from freezing and letting the cold air into our unit through the floors. Worth noting too, the door that leads to this utility room is rusting away and not properly sealed, even worse, the door opens to an open hallway that runs below our bedrooms/bathroom; all the cold air going through that “tunnel” is pretty much seeping into the utility room and filtering upwards to our bedrooms. Nothing was done. We ended up removing the trim molding under the window sill and using expanding spray foam. The air leaking through the sill was just ridiculous. That helped very little as the cold air can be felt coming through the floorboards. It is beyond ridiculous.

We have complained but to no avail, so we filed a heat complaint with the city of chicago building services. A city inspector came by and, according to him, this conditions are unacceptable. The furnace is running constantly when the temperature drops below 20 degrees and we need to use area heaters as a “supplement”. We have had frozen pipes and a frozen shower trap in the guestroom, which is right above the non-heated lobby. These are issues we had warned the management that could happen when colder temperatures came in. Nothing was done and, sadly, I doubt nothing will be done. In the meantime, we are putting up with increasing gas and electricity bills.

To add insult to all these injuries, the internet service, which is included in the rent, which is not expensive but not cheap either, absolutely sucks. Very unstable. Not a single day goes by without it resetting itself, sometimes in the most inopportune times when I’m working from home.

Needless to say, we are not renewing and we are waiting for the city of chicago building services inspector to advice of our options.

We have renovated two houses so we know what the solutions and options are all along, and have suggested many, many options.

All in all, the unit is pretty, but after a closer inspection and these experience we have realized that everything was cheaply made and put together without any sense of responsibility.

Do not waste your time renting from this company.

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Sherdian B February 21, 2014 at 1:07 PM

You need a drain in a furnace room to drain condensate from AC/furnace as well as water heater/etc. It shouldn’t back up though (but often does in rehabs for some reason).

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Javier Babilonia May 12, 2014 at 11:09 PM

Yes, a drain is needed for the furnace, however, if you know anything about construction, you’d know that it should not be draining into “blackwater” connection, much less when there’s no apparent “trap” and definitely not if this blackwater drain discharges into a pit. The hot water system is centralized so we have no water heaters in our mech room.

See, this is why when the discharge pump stopped working, the sewage backup came up through the laundry and furnace room drains.

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Julie March 4, 2015 at 9:39 AM

Hello,

Units are being advertised now for Ashland Commons. I can see how one would be easily courted by a 3 bed 3 bath duplex with modern upgrades, for a pretty reasonable rent of $1800, as compared to other apartments in the area.

Have there been any improvements to this building since the start of this thread, Ashland Commons?

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Javier Babilonia February 9, 2014 at 6:22 PM

I forgot to mention that the other factor that made us decide on renting this unit was the fact that it was a “fully rehabbed” building. One might think that knowing how cold it gets in Chicago, a “fully rehabbed” building would have INSULATION, right? Clearly a misrepresentation.

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the urban politician May 13, 2014 at 1:54 PM

I am very sorry for your experience, especially the drain/plumbing issues.

But please keep in mind that insulation between apartments, and even insulation of the other walls of a building are not required by city of Chicago building code prior to 2013

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Javier Babilonia May 21, 2014 at 12:17 AM

@the urban politician:

Thanks for your note and the information, very appreciated.

This is an issue I am looking into with help from three of my friends from architecture school who have been in the city for quite many years and are knowledgeable and very familiar with the city’s building code. Insulation between apartments is one thing, insulation on exterior walls, especially in a “full-gut rehab”, and particularly non-insulated exterior walls that conceal water supply lines, is an entirely different story.

I am also looking into very interesting documents regarding this building and its unfortunate renovation, which actually extended through 2013.

Also, there are misrepresentations that cannot be ignored and many city ordinances are in place specifically address problems regarding improper/insufficient heat in livable spaces.

I can assure you, beyond reasonable doubt, that having temperature readings below 45/50 degrees in sleeping quarters, of all places, during winter and not addressing the problem will trump any city building code. It is not just lack of consideration, it is, bluntly put, blatant and irresponsible neglect without any regard for tenants’ safety.

But that’s another story, right?

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Joe Zekas February 9, 2014 at 6:47 PM

Javier,

Thanks for taking the time to post your detailed comments. Your sharing your experience is more valuable to prospective renters, I believe, than my posts.

I posted on FLATS last week, and will continue providing updates.

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Bridget March 26, 2014 at 8:12 PM

I went to check out “No. 4875″ today in Uptown, because they are advertising on Craigslist for leases starting in May. I figured that I could stop in the leasing office for a quick tour. Boy, I was wrong….

The building is (still) in absolutely horrific shape. It looks like a haunted abandoned prison…and the grey paint all over certainly doesn’t help. As Joe states, the maps on the Flats Chicago website are very misleading–I thought this would be relatively close to Marine Drive (after looking on their website), but it’s west of Broadway.

Stay away…it’s too bad…it sounded too good to be true…and it was!

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Joe Zekas March 26, 2014 at 8:41 PM

Bridget,

I also was at 4875 earlier today. A Flats leasing agent who was arriving at the site assured me, despite my repeated skepticism, that units would be ready for move-in on April 1st. I’d take pity on anyone who does move in on April 1.

The Flats website lists most of the units available for immediate occupancy and a few for April 1 occupancy. Here’s a Flats Craigslist ad promising April 1 occupancy for 4875:

Here’s a shot of the agent moving construction cones to open up a parking spot in front of the building:

The brick and limestone on the building have been badly shredded by aggressive sandblasting, something that often leads to problems down the road.

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Elainea May 20, 2014 at 4:07 PM

OMG! There are other people affected by Flats Chicago so I’m not alone.

In May 2013 , it was my first time in 16 years as a renter (I own a house for 16 years and now I regret not being a homeowner). I moved in the Everett Commons (it is affiliated with Flats Chicago and Estate Properties under the same brand) building in the Hyde Park community in Chicago (down the street from the Musuem of Science and Industry) and it was a nightmare for me and my family.

When I moved in May 1, 2013, the water pressure in the kitchen sink was all of a sudden had low pressure to none, no running hot water, and toilet overflowed. I had to contact an attorney for them to start working on these items. It took them 4 months to complete the repairs because they were so busy. Hire more people to help with maintenance issues instead of taking people money and treating their tenants like animals.

The property manager acts and treats his tenants like he is a slumlord – no he is definitely a slumlord to the highest level. I urge anyone to be very careful if you decide to rent at 5515 S. Everett Avenue – DON’T GO NEAR IT. Location Location Location is not what it seems. The property manager does not care if you are a good tenant and pays your rent on time monthly but he decreased my maintenance services so I had outstanding maintenance issues for a combined 8 months of my 1 year lease while I was living in the apartment and when I moved out on May 1, 2014.I was living in inhabitant conditions.

Outstanding maintenance issues that the property manager ignored was a big hole left in my wall underneath my kitchen sink when a pipe busted in January 2014 so the drywall was never completed to cover the big hole. The big hole in the wall leads to the gangway and mice was entering my apartment.

In my half bathroom that was not functional at all, water was overflowing from the sink onto my floor and through the cracks of the floor into the main lobby when I arrived home from work. Maintenance stopped by that evening and removed the pipe from underneath my sink, placed it on top of my sink and placed a bucket underneath the sink where he removed the pipe so water can run in it. The maintenance guy never returned to replaced the pipe in January 2014 thru May 2014 after I moved. Also, my toilet overflowed and they repaired it once in September 2013 but when it started again in January 2014 they ignored my requests.

Water was leaking from my dining room ceiling from the 2nd floor neighbor so the maintenance guy stopped by my apartment to see the damage and said he will be back to repair. The ceiling had yellowish stains in it from the water leaking. He never returned to repaint the ceiling and all of the outstanding issues was not resolved while I living in inhabitant conditions and when I moved out they were still outstanding.

Mice and roaches are frequent visitors in your apartment. Plumbing and water pressure issues are problems. Insufficient heat from the radiators – they advertise FREE HEAT – how about no heat. I don’t want to hear a property manager and his staff continue to say this is an old building so these things will happen and we are so busy so they cannot resolve my maintenance issues at the time and/or never but I’m still paying my rent on time and never late – then don’t rent to people and take their money. Now, they are trying to take my money for outstanding issues stating that I did not leave the apartment in move-in condition. Really, it was not in move-in condition when I move in it, while I was living in it and when I moved out.

The property manager believes that his unprofessional ethics are fine but the City of Chicago has to protect renters from the Flats Chicago, Estate Properties, Everett Commons and any other brand related to them. When one affiliate decides to be a mess hog it ruins the other affiliates in the brand. RENTERS BEWARE

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B Vaghela April 8, 2015 at 6:17 PM

I had the exact same issues and even more. I wish i had done some research before we moved in.

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June July 7, 2014 at 11:03 PM

Gosh, I so wish I research FLATS before signing the lease with them.

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B Vaghela April 8, 2015 at 6:09 PM

********WARNING DO NOT MOVE HERE********

Flats Chicago at 5411 N. Winthrop is an absolute nightmare PLEASE do not move here. We lived there for one year and it was the worst tenant experience we have ever had. The property looks all new on the outside but it’s really cheap made of very cheap material and things like cabinets, toilets, and appliances break and just stop working.

The maintenance and management is just the worst I have ever seen. And don’t even get me started on the property manager Chris Sweitzer. He is the most unprofessional and incompetent property manager ever. He never follows up with you on maintenance issues or any problems and there’s an issue or problem there every week. Even after you move out it’s a nightmare!

Here are few I remember:

1. Bad window insulation and it will cost you hundreds of dollars in utility bills in winter and not to mention it still will not keep your apartment warm. My bill jumped from 40-50 a months to 280-320 a month in winter. I kept requesting them to fix my window and they never did anything about it other than put tape on the windows.

2. Cheap materials used to build the building and things will break and you will be responsible for it.

3. Hot water works when it wants to. Some day you have to let the water run for at least 30 minutes before you get any hot water.

4. Cheap appliances – my stove would just working every now and then and I would have to order out – ordering out every day can add up. The washer-dryer are there for the sake of saying the unit includes washer dryer because they too stopped working or if they worked never really cleaned your clothes and my washer actually leaked for months until they finally fixed and there was so much mold under the washer because water had been collecting there for months. Thats a health and safety issue.

5. Mail theft is a huge problem. I have had at least 3-5 packages which showed delivered when tracked, have gone missing from the building mail room. I was personally conned outside the apartment by someone who had stolen a some residents package during holiday season.

6. I am all for pets and have a pet myself but the pet owner at Flats just do not pick up after their dogs and you are very likely to step into dog-shit at least twice a week.

7. On the coldest day of the winter there was a power outage for at least 6 hours. Imagine no heat and minus 10 degrees.

8. Water pipes will break randomly and there’s water all over hallways which I don’t care about but it leaks into your apartment and then you will be responsible to pay for it.

9. My bathroom overflowed twice while I was there and each time there was water all over my apartment and ruined my bath rugs. And I had no access to bathroom for a whole day twice.

10. Walls are very very thin and you can hear everything from fights, to sex, t tv, and even alarms and phones ringing.

11. And last but not the least, the property manager just changes every so often without anyone informing you. While I was there for one years, there were at least 3 which came and left and then the last one Chris Sweitzer is just the worst. I think I mentioned earlier but he is just very unprofessional.

We moved out at the end of our lease in February 2015 and left the apartment clean and neat and great condition except for minor wear and tear which is covered in your lease. Actually left it cleaner than I got it because since the apt was new, there was sawdust all over apt for months which I cleaned. We even have video footage of how clean we left it and without any damage to walls, floors, closets, windows, bathroom or appliances. Link to video footage of the unit: [Moderator note: removed link, embedded video below]

We actually asked Chris the property manager to examine the apartment with us the day we left so he can see there is no damage and everything is great and clean. However, he did not come because we moved out on Saturday and he doesn’t work on weekends. Although, somehow he was there and witnessed a car we hit with our moving truck. Which had nothing to do with him or flats btw because we worked with the vehicle owner and insurance company to make sure the vehicle owner was compensated for his loss/damages.

Anyway a whole month after we moved out he kept harassing me via text messages and emails for our new address and guess why? So he can wrongfully charge us for leaving the apartment in “shambles” in his words. Apparently they had to repaint the entire apartment and had to get it professionally cleaned. Which is just not possible!

There is no way they had to repaint the entire apartment. Maybe it required some touch up here and there due to minor wear and tear (especially since everything is built so cheap and breaks and scratches very easily) but it did not need a new paint job at all. But they want to charge us for it and threatened us that if we don’t pay he will report us to a collection agency.

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Finn April 17, 2015 at 2:47 PM

Did you end up having to pay for the “damages”? I had such high hopes for Flats

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B Vaghela April 8, 2015 at 6:14 PM

I know it’s long but I am furious and frustrated that despite everything we put up with while I lived there they have the audacity to charge us for wrongfully and threaten us that if we don’t pay they will report us to a collection agency. I was so happy to move out from there and just forget that I ever even lived there but they clearly won’t let me. Please anyone out there considering this place beware and very very careful. I still have friends there who can not wait to move out.

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Finn April 16, 2015 at 4:50 PM

Woah! Are they really that bad? I’m going to look at their Wilson property this weekend. The amenities are unheard of for the price! Free internet, laundry in each unit, beautiful finishes, AND A FREE BIKE!!! Seriously, I was so excited to check this out until I looked up the company online :( Hopefully they’ve improved since then because I was super excited about finally having a bike and having my own laundry unit. lol

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Joe Zekas April 16, 2015 at 5:57 PM

Finn,

How long have you been employed by Flats?

Are you really lame-brained enough to think you’re not buying that bike and paying for that “free” internet out of your rent?

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Finn April 17, 2015 at 8:35 AM

?!?!?!?!?!!

“Why you gotta be so rude? Don’t you know I’m human, too?”

I’m paying more to live in a similarly sized studio in Lakeview East but they’re raising the price by a quite a bit and the appliances and bathroom are all so old and rusty and a bit of a commute from where I live, so I’ve been looking at places in the Logan Square and Avondale area since it’s closer to the blue line. But most studios/one bedrooms there are even worse. Uptown is the last place I want to live but these units seem so sexy and fresh, and I would be paying less than what I am now.

I’ve seen the other articles on here about the fake reviews, but really, I am not working for Flats lol. But I did find Jay Michael pretty sexy and ambitious on that Bravo show. I’m just a relatively new resident researching places to live in the city since I’m so lame brained :)

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Joe Zekas April 18, 2015 at 9:46 AM

Finn,

For someone who claims not to be a paid shill you do an awfully good job of sounding like one. “Sexy and fresh” – really?

You’re looking at Logan Square and Avondale to be closer to the Blue Line and seriously considering Uptown?

For the price of Flats Chicago’s apartments on Wilson Ave in Uptown – $950 to $1,200 – you can find a lot of good studios in radically more attractive and convenient locations in Lincoln Park and Lakeview. And some of them are as “sexy and fresh” as the Flats units.

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