Know your rights when your apartment is being shown

Some Chicago landlords would like tenants to believe that a clause in the lease they signed waives or limits their right to 2 days’ advance notice before their apartment is shown to prospective renters. Any such provision in a lease is in violation of the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO) and is unenforceable.

Landlords and the rental services they employ to rent apartments often try to bully tenants into allowing their place to be shown on short notice – or even no notice. Landlords have also been known to give a blanket notice that the apartment will be shown daily during the 60 days prior to lease expiration.

The CRLTO provides that 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. A blanket notice is not proper notice: it would gut the rights the CRLTO grants tenants. 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.

It’s reasonable to ask anyone you don’t know to present proper identification before allowing them into your apartment. You wouldn’t allow someone claiming to be with a utility company into your apartment without ID, so why would you allow a rental agent to enter without ID? Ask to see a state-issued photo ID or driver’s license and the sponsor card or pocket card a licensed agent is required by state law to carry at all times when doing business. Be sure that they correspond – it’s not unheard of for rental services to issue multiple copies of a sponsor card to different individuals.

If an agent is new and operating under the 120-day permit that the law allows, insist on seeing a copy of the permit application. New agents may be naïve about the people they’re showing apartments to. You shouldn’t be, but should be especially vigilant with new agents. Don’t allow any agent to let their prospects wander unattended into areas of your apartment, especially areas where you might have valuables or medication.

What can you do if an agent shows up without proper notice? You can refuse entry, and shouldn’t hesitate to do so, which helps ensure that the same agent won’t violate the rule again at your apartment. You can also take a more creative approach and ask to be compensated on the spot, in cash, for the lack of notice. A $10 to $20 fee would be reasonable. You should also document each instance of disregard of your legal rights and call it to your landlord’s attention. Repeated disregard may constitute harassment under the CRLTO and entitle you to seek compensation from your landlord.

Chicago’s rental services routinely ignore their legal obligations and renter rights. By insisting that they observe your rights with regard to showings, you can help bring them into compliance and help other tenants in the process.

If you’re looking to rent, don’t just walk into a rental service and expect to be shown anything but vacant apartments the same day. If a rental service agent takes you to occupied apartments without proper notice, ditch that agent immediately and find a more professional, experienced one to work with. Insist on seeing photo identification and license information before going out on a showing with an agent. Better yet, research the agent online before making an appointment to see apartments with the agent.

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