Are you the reason your rent is too damn high?

Jimmy McMillan, the 2010 gubernatorial candidate of New York’s Rent Is Too Damn High Party, achieved some notoriety thanks to the many YouTube remixes of his statements during a debate.

If you used one of Chicago’s swarm of apartment rental services to find your current home, you paid a month’s rent – and possibly more – for what probably amounted to pathetically poor service. Very few of you took advantage of your ability to negotiate a discount on the commission your landlord paid to the rental service you used. You passed up the incentive offers that landlords offer directly to renters on a multitude of websites, and you passed up the chance to negotiate a lower rent. Your rent is too damn high.

Worse yet, you may be among the many living-in-misery Chicago newbies who were suckered, delayed or pressured into believing that your landlord’s hard-to-rent leftovers were your only option. You made it easy for your landlord to get his asking rent rather than having to reduce the price to find a tenant. And you paid dearly to do so.

An old friend and former employee of mine who runs an apartment rental service recently told me that “the kids today are too f***ing lazy to find an apartment on their own.”

I’d like to find a reason to disagree with his judgment – other than the way he phrased it, which wouldn’t be my way – but it’s the only explanation that can account for using a rental service to find an apartment in Chicago’s lakefront neighborhoods.

It’s also too simplistic an explanation. How can it be that people who will spend hours researching and analyzing bottled water, running shoes or electronic gadgets won’t spend an hour outside of Craigslist to research a far more expensive decision that will have a much bigger impact on their quality of life for a year or more?

If you’re looking to rent in a downtown Chicago neighborhood, your options are few, and they’re all easily found on the web. Consult YoChicago’s comprehensive at-a-glance apartment lists and maps. If you’re looking in Lincoln Park, Lake View or further north, you’ll have to work a little harder, but you’ll get a big payoff for doing so.

If you opt for using a rental service, and your rent is too damn high, you’ll have only yourself to blame. And you may not have enough ready cash to join your savvier friends at the concerts, clubs, sporting events and other activities that make Chicago a great place to live.

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