52 Blog Entries. 52 Header Graphics. 12 Newsletters. 3300 visits. Despite cutting our articles in half this year by eliminating Monday posts, our readership has grown by a whopping 35% in 2017. Some of you like, comment or share our posts on social media. Some are agents who send our articles to their renting or landlord clients. No matter how you found us, as we close out 2017 I would like to thank you for reading and for all that you do to help spread the word that pay-what-you-can consumer protection for renters does exist in Chicago.
Since we have so many new faces around here, I thought I would hop on the bandwagon of year end round ups with a guided tour of our most popular articles from the past year. If you’re looking for a good place to start in all of our content, some of these might serve as good jumping-off points for your journey. These are provided in a roughly chronological order rather than in order of popularity.
With the start of the year came the decision to allow landlords, condominium associations and entire neighborhoods to ban the use of AirBNB and similar short term “home sharing” sites outright within their properties. Neighborhoods must file petitions for the city council to officially declare their neighborhood off-limits to home sharing. Landlords and condo associations must register with the city if they are planning to ban the practice. Those who live in buildings where home sharing is still permitted faced new fees, restrictions and inspections as well. When the law came into action we were on the scene with a look at the first landlords in the city to opt out of home-sharing in “A Look at the Chicago Landlords Who Have Banned AirBNB.”
2. Endangered Species: Small Private Landlords
A lot of new apartment buildings have gone up downtown in the past few years, with some claiming that the central business district is already overbuilt with new (and empty) rental residences. These enormous projects are universally owned by large investment companies working in the large scale. However, as more and more of these big corporate entities enter the market from outside, our home-grown small private investors are vanishing from the scene. We surveyed a cluster of online discussion boards to find out the reasons in “Why Do Landlords Avoid Entering the Chicago Market?”
3. Rush Month
Every year on the first of May the Chicago rental market explodes in a frenzy of activity. Every moving truck is booked, every alley is blocked, and every renter is seeking painkillers and beer to repay their friends for helping them move. To explain the cause behind the strange focus on moving activity into this one single day, we reached back into history to the 19th century when Chicago had an official, city-wide “moving day,” complete with quotes from news articles of the era and an explanation of why the practice of Moving Day was gradually abandoned over time. Venture back in time with us at “Why Do So Many Chicago Renters Move in May?”
4 and 5. Unprotected Minorities
Our series on unprotected minorities in the Chicago market actually ran for five separate articles, but two of them stood out from the pack in our readers’ eyes. The second in the series appeared in April, focused on the concerns of severely overweight renters, while the fourth in the series (and the most popular by far) spoke to introverts. Both discussed tips, challenges, guides and things to avoid when apartment hunting as a member of these very specific groups. Also included in the series were guides for night owls, exotic pet owners and homeowners who are returning to the rental market.
6. Nasty Neighbors: Report or Ignore?
With the approach of July 4, a day which tends to stir up a lot of conflict between apartment residents due to noise problems, we took an in-depth look at how landlords can and cannot respond to tenants who complain about their neighbors. In “How NOT to Deal with Bad Neighbors in Your Building” we took the stance that it’s best to find some other way to resolve disputes with your neighbors that does not involve your landlord, while also providing a list of circumstances where you really should escalate things to management.
7. The Missing Demographic at City Hall
In an ideal world, each major demographic in the city would have equal representation and voice among the aldermen at city hall. But a story of a candidate for city hall in a suburb of Boston, MA who had to withdraw candidacy due to losing his apartment led us to investigate how many renters sit on Chicago’s city council. The answer? None. Despite renters making up a majority of the city’s population, as best we can tell all 50 aldermen are homeowners. Our research, results and analysis can be found at “Will the Renting Aldermen Please Stand Up.”
8. Property Taxes
The average renter doesn’t need to know or care about property taxes, save to understand that when they go up, rent probably will go up as well. But when the annual county tax sale rolls around, it becomes crucial to know if your landlord has been paying their taxes or letting them slide. We have always included property tax payment history on every RentConfident apartment safety report. Our “Chicago Renters Guide to Property Taxes” provided an in-depth overview of what property taxes are used for, what happens when a building’s unpaid taxes are sold, and what it means for a renter if your landlord fails to pay their property taxes.
9. Hurricanes, Fires and Floods
As hurricanes swept through the southern half of the country this past summer destroying huge swaths of land, homes and businesses, many Chicago renters gave some thought as to how they would handle a similar event were it to occur around here. While hurricanes are unlikely, other catastrophes such as blizzards, tornadoes and waterspouts do affect the city. We looked around and found a lot of good starting lists of emergency supplies that everyone should have on hand, but we did not find anything addressing the specific emergency needs of renters in high density urban environments. Our article titled “Renters, Here are the Emergency Supplies that Nobody Mentions” sought to fill that gap in info. You guys apparently agreed with us, making this the most shared article of the year.
10. A Little Anthropology
After the busy 2017 rental season came to a close in October we had some time to move away from our usual research and statistics to focus on some more philosophical matters. Of greatest interest to our readers was our discussion of the sociological concept of collectivist and individualist cultures. We looked at which countries are more collectivist in nature and which are more individualist. We provided a historical overview of the gradual shift over the past century in the US from collectivist to individualist. Finally, we assessed how the disconnect between the two cultures has led to the creation of American apartment buildings that do not properly serve the many first generation immigrant communities that make up their intended populations. Expand your mind and travel through history with us at “The Growing Cultural Disconnect in Apartment Architecture.”
What did you guys think of our work this year? What was your favorite article that we published? Are there topics you would like to see us address or revisit in 2018? Let us know in the comments. Enjoy your New Year’s celebrations, be safe, be warm, and we’ll see you next year!