Apartment fees burden Chicago renters

Credit check fees, move-in fees and “resident benefits package” fees raise rental costs

Apartment Fees Burden Chicago Renters
(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Chicago renters already grapple with soaring rents, but fees create additional burdens for apartment dwellers in the Windy City. 

Tenants are slapped with application fees, credit check fees, move-in and move-out fees and charges for accessing maintenance hotlines, significantly increasing the true cost of renting in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported

One Northwest Side resident discovered that a $52 monthly “resident benefits package” fee was mandatory after signing her lease, even though she was initially told that it was optional. The fee provided access to essential online services, making it a necessity for tenants.

Another Chicago renter found a Bucktown apartment for $1,995 a month, but she was also required to pay a $237 application and credit check fee, a $700 move-in fee and a $45 monthly fee for “bundled services,” which includes trash and snow removal as well as access to a 24-hour maintenance hotline.

Chicago’s median monthly rental price has risen to $1,950, up from $1,825 a year ago, according to Zillow. Halfway through 2023, Chicago led the nation in rent growth, as prices jumped 3.6 percent year-over-year, tripling the national average. 

The Biden administration has started cracking down on rental fees as part of a broader campaign against surprise fees, which cost Americans tens of billions of dollars annually, the outlet reported, citing the Federal Trade Commission.

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The rise of corporate landlords is contributing to the surge in apartment fees, according to Marie Claire Tran-Leung, a senior attorney for the National Housing Law Project.

Smaller landlords are following this trend, making renters feel trapped and compelled to pay fees due to the competitive nature of the rental market.

The Biden administration’s effort to address rental fees has led to some success. Minnesota requires landlords to disclose all non-optional fees on leases, and Connecticut banned application processing fees.

Despite landlords defending some fees as necessary to cover costs, renters argue that these charges are burdensome and often disconnected from actual expenses. 

—Quinn Donoghue 

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