Tales from an apartment hunt – bathtub fungus and utility bills

If you have tales you’d like to share from your apartment hunt, add them in a comment or email yojoe at yochicago dot com.

Here’s the sixth report from my veteran renter correspondent. Note that we don’t vouch for the accuracy of any of these tales, nor do we try to verify them. We will not publish any that appear to be untrue on their face.

Hi Joe,

A couple of more random thoughts as I wrap up my apartment hunt:

Real estate brokers could probably move a lot more apartments if they spent as much time worrying about the cleanliness of the apartments as their personal appearance. I rejected three apartments because they were dirty. In addition to their various dirt, all three had fungus in the bathtub. How hard is it for the agent to take three minutes to spray some Tile-X around? If this simple piece of maintenance is neglected, it makes me wonder what else is wrong with the place.

Most outrageous fee: $200 “per season” at 14 East Elm Street for air conditioning. For $200, maintenance will install a window unit in your apartment in the Spring, and take it out in the Fall. Essentially, you’re renting an air conditioner for a few months a year.

Of the 39 properties I considered, only two had shared utility billing — Presidential Towers and One West Superior. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s where the building gets one bill for certain utilities and that bill is then split between the residents, sometimes by number of occupants, sometimes by square feet, or other means. In the end, it encourages everyone to use more water / heat / whatever in order to make the money they pay “worth it,” and if you’re out of town on vacation, you end up paying for other people’s use. I have a vague notion that the K-Station buildings have some form of shared utility billing, but I’m not sure since I didn’t include them in my search this time.

Of the properties I considered, only two made residents pay for water, sewer, and trash service – Presidential Towers and One West Superior. Though the leasing agents at those properties will note that the cost of water / sewer / trash is worked into the rent at other buildings, the rent is not correspondingly cheaper at Presidential Towers or One West Superior.

The Magellan Development buildings have a sort of shared utility system, but it’s at least sane and reasonably priced. There are three tiers of pricing, $65/month for studios, $85/month for one-bedrooms, and another price for larger units. It’s not strictly a “shared” system because the price isn’t divided amongst the residents each month. But it’s not entirely “free” utilities. It’s more like “transparent billing” as if you’re renting an apartment with utilities included, but they actually show you what portion of your rent is going to utilities. Also, the utility package is very good. It includes water, sewer, trash, heat, air conditioning, cooking gas, drying gas, high-speed internet, and 150 channels of cable television including HBO and Showtime. The cost of the entire Magellan utility package is less than you’d spend on just cable at most other properties.