When and under what conditions can rental agents show your apartment?

Unannounced and short-notice showings are one of the most common complaints that tenants have about landlords and the rental services they employ to rent apartments.

A landlord’s right to show an apartment to prospective tenants is limited by the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO).

A landlord can only show a unit to prospective tenants 60 days or less before a lease expires, and must give two days’ advance notice, in writing or by phone, before a showing. Showings must be at reasonable times, and showings between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. are presumed reasonable.

A tenant can agree to a shorter notice period, but has no obligation to do so, and can revoke any agreement at any time. Landlords sometimes try to specify a shorter notice period in a lease. Any such provision in a lease is in violation of the CRLTO, is unenforceable, and may subject the landlord to financial penalties.

The CRLTO provides that tenants cannot “unreasonably withhold consent” to a showing, and that raises questions about what conditions a tenant can and should attach to showings.

Tenants need to be acutely sensitive to how much risk they’re exposed to by the shoddy business practices of Chicago rental services. Tenants also need to be aware that it’s a sad fact that Chicago landlords typically make little or no effort to limit, monitor or control the rental agents they allow to show your apartment.

Rental services frequently employ new agents on 120-day permits before they’re licensed by the state, and often conduct little or no background screening of those agents, some of whom may have criminal records. The agents themselves, even when honest and well-intentioned, may be naïve, poorly-trained kids bringing opportunistic or intentional thieves or drug-seekers to your apartment.

In light of all the circumstances, I’d argue that it’s reasonable to limit rental service showings to times when you’re able to be physically present. If that doesn’t work for you, have the good sense to lock up or make it difficult to access any valuables, medications and anything you wouldn’t want to be seen by a prospective tenant who’s a law enforcement officer.

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