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

by Joe Zekas on 2/20/13

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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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Rojas February 20, 2013 at 11:50 AM

We have had our clients (the property owner) get upset with us when we had them follow all the CRLTO protocol and initial the best practices recommendations, disclosures, all paperwork etc… when leasing their homes. Several had just “leased” their homes themselves prior to working with us and had little required paperwork in place and did not handle ordinances properly, nor, tenants rights properly.

These tenant/ owner/ manager issues are also a great argument to renters for owning your own place if at all possible (or at least taking the time to rent from the best owners and management companies even if it means sacrificing some space or amenities).

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Joe Zekas February 20, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Eric,

When the CRLTO was first passed, a landlord-oriented attorney and I spoke to a number of landlord meetings, outlining what the law required.

The landlords were pretty uniformly outraged and we heard a lot of “screw that crap. I’m not going to do that” from the audience. Some of them were taught some very expensive lessons by plaintiffs’ attorneys before they began to comply. Quite a few still have some learning to do.

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