Ever since Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared Chicago a world-class city and invited 50 million tourists to visit us every year, there has been amazing demand here for affordable hotel rooms.
Thanks to Airbnb, Inc., or similar rental services, now virtually every apartment, condo and home in the Windy City now is a potential hotel room.
Want a home-share place close to Wrigley Field to take in a weekend Cubs game? Or, a nice high-rise near “Mag-Mile” shopping? Visit www.Airbnb.com, which boasts “unique places to stay from local hosts” in 190 countries around the globe.
San Francisco-based Airbnb currently is the biggest player in the home-sharing game. Founded in 2008, the services allow anyone to list their house, condo, spare room, couch, boat or treehouse or any other living space for short-term rental.
There currently are 500,000 listings across the world, and you will find the following choices among 789 rentals listed in Chicago:
• Wrigleyville. A one-bedroom apartment with a balcony view of Cubs Park for $169 a night. Add fees for cleaning ($50), a service fee ($26) and occupancy taxes ($9) for a total of $254. The unit has hardwood floors, and a rehabbed kitchen and bath.
• Gold Coast. Just $170 a night gets you a one-bedroom unit in a high-rise “just blocks from Lincoln Park, the lake and Michigan Avenue shopping.” Add-ons are $50 for cleaning, $26 for service, and $9 for taxes for a total of $255.
• Edgewater. A sunny two-bedroom “gay friendly” apartment in a second-floor walk-up with “big windows and tree-top views” is a short walk to the El. It goes for $130 a night. Add fees for cleaning ($20), a service ($18) and taxes ($6) for a total of $174.
From the lessor’s point of view, home sharing is big business. The revenue stream can put thousands of dollars in an owner’s pocket. But what happens if the person doing the leasing is not an owner?
In Old Town, a Realtor and owner of a vintage apartment building wondered why one tenant asked for a lock box to be placed on the front of the building, and then kept losing her keys.
After noticing an abundance of strangers wandering in and out of the building on weekends, things began to add up.
By chance, Realtor conducted an on-line search for her property at www.Airbnb.com and found several interior and exterior color photos of her one-bedroom apartment listed for $125 a night under the headline: “Historic Old Town Chicago.”
The tenant’s listing said: “My charming and comfortable one-bedroom apartment on a quiet, lovely tree-lined street is in the heart of the best neighborhood in Chicago! Steps from great restaurants, comedy clubs, Lincoln Park and the beach. It is the perfect place to stay with your dog!”
The shocked Realtor confronted the tenant, who admitted she was guilty of unauthorized home sharing to strangers for months, pocketing several thousand dollars in profit. The renter was put on notice that freelance subletting is a violation of the lease, and that she was subject to eviction. Remorseful, the tenant removed the listing from the service.
Despite the room-renting boom, experts say more and more apartment landlords, condo boards and management companies are beginning to crack down on lease and rule violations.
Most condo associations and HOA bylaws generally do not allow residents to openly rent their units short-term to Windy City vacationers and tourists.
Critics of home-sharing in condos say a constant stream of non-resident visitors raises security concerns, adds wear and tear to common areas, and complicates the enforcement of house rules. Short term rentals also may violate zoning and hospitality laws.
Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. For more information, visit www.escapingcondojail.com.