Do real estate agents encourage illegal conversions?

Illegal conversions of homes into apartments, subdivision of apartments, and room rentals are common in communities that host a lot of immigrants, and where affordable housing is in short supply.

The illegal conversions spawn a host of problems — from school overcrowding to parking shortages to dangerous living conditions — and artificially inflate the price of property.

Real estate agents are required to disclose whether existing uses violate zoning ordinances. In many cases, however, they appear to be encouraging them, with a wink-wink here and a code phrase there.

A brief scan of listings in Pilsen found the following:

“Basement has separate entrance, kitchen, bath.”

“Four legal apts plus 3 extra apts. 2 basement, 1 attic. Money.”

“Fully rented! Investors delight! … Not legal garden.”

“Full basement awaits your finishing touches.”

“Single family. Full finished attic for related living.”

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