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A common scam tactic is for phony landlords to copy legitimate ads and reproduce them at too-good-to-be-true prices, and then profit off of collecting security deposits on apartments that they do not actually own.

These scammers generally never meet you in person and are unable to show you the property in person. They may claim to be out of the country for missionary work, or that they are trying to undercut their property manager's high commission costs by finding a tenant on their own.
We pull information from Cook County and from the City of Chicago. The two government levels may use different addresses to identify the same building. We include both county and city versions of a building's official address for your reference.
The Property ID Number is used by Cook County as a unique way to identify a particular plot of land on the tax rolls.
Chicago is divided into 77 distinct, official sections called "Community Areas". Their boundaries are relatively permanent, and they used for a lot of government planning.

"Neighborhoods" on the other hand are smaller, unofficial communities named by their residents. Neighborhood names can go back a very long time, and their individual characteristics may be very distinctive. However, their boundaries are more fluid. Neighborhoods are usually not recognized by the city government as distinct areas.
A census tract is the smallest area used by the US Census Bureau to count the population. Tract boundaries are relatively permanent and designed to hold a population of anywhere from 1200 to 8000 people, with the average tract having 4000 residents.
When someone buys a property, the purchase is usually recorded automatically with Cook County and they become the "owner of record." However, they must manually notify the county Treasurer that the property has changed hands.

If a property has recently sold, the Owner of Record is therefore usually more accurate than the Taxpayer of Record.

Note that an Owner may choose to have their tax bills mailed to an alias.
Landlords may choose to hire a specialist to handle the day to day operation of their building. These specialists could be people (normally Realtors) or companies, and they are called property managers. Some landlords with lots of properties may even have their own property management company in house.

If a landlord has a property manager, you will probably send your rent checks to the manager and call the manager for repairs. In fact, you may never meet or speak to the actual landlord.
In a condominium association, multiple owners in a single building complex pool their resources to maintain the common areas. They pay a recurring fee (usually monthly) called an assessment for upkeep costs. Individual condominiums can be owner-occupied or rented out. Condo associations are businesses. They can set rules for all occupants to follow.
Landlords are not required to have real estate licenses in Chicago, nor are their full time employees. Independent contractors working for them must be licensed. If a landlord has a real estate license they must disclose this to you.
In Chicago, steam heat is usually paid for by the landlord. Electric and Gas Central Heat are paid for by the tenant. If you pay for your own heat, the landlord must disclose what the heating costs have been over the past 12 months.
Cook County uses building codes to categorize properties in order to set property tax rates. The description provided explains what the code stands for.
The number of Total Units listed here is taken from the Cook County Assessor. It may or may not match with the actual number of apartments currently in this building. Landlords are supposed to inform the county when they divide or combine apartments, as the number of units is used to set tax rates.

Use caution if there are more units in the building than you see listed here. The unit may be illegal, in which case you could lose a lot of your rights as a tenant by renting there.
With the exception of condominium buildings, a property is considered to be "owner occupied" when the landlord lives in a different apartment within the same building with their tenants. Owner occupied buildings are usually smaller, quieter and kept in better condition.

In Chicago, owner-occupied buildings with 6 or fewer units are exempt from the Chicago Landlord Tenant ordinance. This means renters in these buildings only have the protection of Illinois state rental laws, which are less thorough.
Banks that take property in foreclosure may hold on to these properties for a few months or years before reselling them. If a bank takes over the building they generally will do some basic remodeling to empty apartments and they may force out any existing tenants.

Banks can be tough to reach for maintenance problems. They will probably try to sell the building while you're living there. This means you may have people trying to view your apartment while you're living there. If the building sells, the new owner may end your lease early.
Every year your landlord must pay property taxes for the prior year in two installments. If they don't pay the taxes, the balance due can be sold by the county to an outside party. If the owner does not pay back the debt within a certain amount of time, the outside party gets the whole building.
If an owner borrows money to buy a property and doesn't repay it on time, the lender can take the property. In Illinois this must be done through the courts. The process is called foreclosure.

It takes an average of 1-2 years for a foreclosure case to get through the court system. However, once it's completed the bank has a right to remove all tenants with 60 days written notice.
Major debts owed on a property are called liens. These can include past due water bills, major repair costs, unpaid condo fees and mortgages.

Please note that RentConfident does not count mortgages as abnormal debts.
Chicago requires all buildings to stay in line with their building safety code. If a building fails an inspection, the reasons for failure are called code violations. Chicago designates a select number of code violations as "severe."

The city or county may sue the landlord if the problem is sufficiently serious, in which case the landlord can be fined or the building shut down until the problem is fixed. Any lawsuits of this nature are tallied here under "Building Court Cases."
If an owner wants to do major work on a property they tell the city about it and pay for a building permit. The city will review their plans and the companies they've hired to do the work to make sure the work is done safely.

A very recent permit for a building means you should expect construction noise while living there.

If you see signs of major work at the building and there is no permit on file, the work may not be up to code.
Renters' rights in Chicago are subject to either the city or state laws, depending on the size of the building and whether or not the landlord lives on site. The Chicago city laws offer far greater protection for tenants than the state laws. These laws are called landlord-tenant ordinances.
Chicago is governed by a mayor and a city council. The council consists of 50 aldermen. Each alderman represents the interests of their own ward. City services like tree trimming, trash pickup, overnight parking permits and street repair are often handled through your local alderman's office.
The Chicago Police Department divides Chicago into 22 districts, each with its own police building and dedicated staff of cops. The districts are in turn split into over 200 smaller "beats," which have consistent beat officers on patrol. Police beats are the smallest subdivisions of the city for which statistical crime data is available.
There are approximately 350 sites in Chicago that have been deemed worth preserving for their historic significance. Some are individual buildings or landmarks, others are entire neighborhoods.

If a property is in a Historic District, the owner may have to cut through a lot of red tape to make any changes to the building. You may be restricted from making any changes to the yard, installing window air conditioners or otherwise changing the look of the building exterior. Talk with the landlord about how historic preservation efforts will affect your lease.

This is a sample version of the RentConfident Fingerprint Report.

It is based on an actual report, but all information that could possibly identify the original locations has been replaced with fake data.

Please note that political, demographic and crime data in this report reflects the data that was available as of March 17, 2015. It is not updated to reflect current information.