I have now been living in my apartment in Chicago for a year and 2 months. As you can probably guess, I decided to renew my lease. I’ve been happy with the apartment, I didn’t want to pay more for a bigger place (not yet, anyway), and the thought of moving was too exhausting, so I stayed.
My lease ran out in June, but my landlord wanted me to sign the lease renewal by late March, which was much earlier than I expected. I was given a deadline of one week to decide once I received the notice. Keep that in mind if you are thinking of moving; start exploring your options and make a final decision a few months in advance. I would also recommend reading the renewal lease carefully before signing (as you would with any lease). In my case, I had paid a double security deposit last year due to my lack of co-signer, and this was not reflected on the new lease. If I had signed it without fixing the mistake, my landlord would’ve had a legal contract stating that he only owed me a security deposit of $715 when I move out instead of the $1455 he will actually owe me. In addition, my rent went up this year (as it did for pretty much every one of my friends throughout the city); Chicago is not a renter’s market right now. My increase was only $25/month, and they requested a check of $25 to add to my security deposit (again, with only 1 week notice), which I thought was rather silly. They already had over a thousand dollars of my money… do they really need $25 more? In any event, I paid it, and I didn’t mind the increase since my entire kitchen was renovated this year.
Speaking of my kitchen, my oven has not worked since I moved in (though the stovetop works just fine), and I have spoken to my landlord or the maintenance guys about it 5 times, and yet it remains unfixed. I was even told in the spring that a new stove had been ordered and was on its way, but it has yet to appear. This kind of thing is really frustrating, and I still haven’t figured out how to make it happen. I think I will have to start reminding my landlord daily until I have a new stove.
Another improvement to the place is the window air conditioning unit that I put in early this summer. I suffered through a hot, humid summer last year without A/C, and cannot tell you what a difference it has made this year. You can find an A/C unit big enough for a single room for about $100; I paid $200 for one that keeps my entire studio apartment cool. It has doubled my monthly electricity bill (in addition to the ComEd rate hikes this year), but I’m perfectly willing to pay an extra $20/month for the comfort. If you are moving to an apartment without A/C, add this item to your budget; you will be glad that you did.
Finally, I will just add that I am very happy with the decisions I made when moving last summer. 1. A large studio/convertible is the perfect size for me as a single woman. 2. Lincoln Park is a great neighborhood for someone my age, and is full of restaurants, bars, and shops, as well as being generally safe (despite a recent rash of sexual assaults – be safe ladies) and easily accessible by public transportation. 3. Living less than a block from 2 major bus routes makes my life easier… I find it even more convenient than taking the El. 4. Chicago is really a fantastic city, and it is perfect for someone on a budget. I’ve spent these past few months of summer going to concerts, movies, dance lessons, and festivals in the city’s parks, and I didn’t have to spend a cent.
Happy apartment hunting!