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How Pandemic Changed Rental Apartment Hunting In Chicago

Rental apartment living in Chicago and across the nation may never be the same again a year after the pandemic.

Traditionally, apartment dwellers are always looking for the best rent deal. However, one year into the COVID-19 virus pandemic “more space” beats “cheaper” rent.

Many cramped apartment dwellers now are hunting for better rental digs with open-air amenities and more living space—preferably in the city in which they already reside, according to a new survey of 10,000 prospects who shopped for an apartment on Here are highlights of the survey:

  • Lifestyle improvement is the main motivator for those looking to rent this spring. Forty-one percent of renters surveyed said “open-air amenities” and “more space” as their most essential apartment features in 2021, outranking by far amenities such as “home office” (5%) or “good internet connection” (10%). Only 4% of renters chose to move because they could now be more flexible by working remotely.

  • The reasons for moving are within the same spectrum: “looking for better deals” was the top answer for 29% of renters, followed by “the need for a change of scenery” (25%).

  • When asked how the pandemic affected their apartment-selection process, 28% of renters said they prefer a place to live by themselves. “Something cheaper” (25%) and “something larger” (19%) were next on the priority list.

  • Ninety percent of renters said they are looking for long-term rentals. Moreover, 48% wish to remain in the same city in which they currently reside. This trend shows that improving housing conditions is the goal, not necessarily a drastic change like moving to a different city, noted

  • Many of those who moved in the spring of 2020 seemed to have done so out of need, not because they wanted to. “Expiring lease” was the main reason for moving (26%) last year, while a significant share of renters was concerned whether they’d be “able to pay rent during this time” (32%).

  • Of the survey respondents looking for an apartment to move into now, one-third (34%) had moved once before during the past 12 months—and most of them did so because of pandemic-related reasons.

  • Looking at those who are just moving now, 33% said that they didn’t move earlier because of the pandemic. This means that 67% of the renters currently looking for a new apartment may be committed to making this change now, regardless of the COVID-19 situation, said

Cook County Enacts Renter’s Ordinance

Inspired by the tough Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, the Cook County Board has enacted a new ordinance that imposes scores of new regulations on landlords and tenants in the suburbs.

The new ordinance takes effect June 1st and draws its inspiration from Chicago’s ordinance, which has been in effect since 1986.

Owner-occupied buildings with six units or less are exempt from the ordinance, in addition to condominium or single-family homes where the housing provider resided in the property at least one month of the previous 12 months.

Under the suburban Cook County ordinance, move-in fees can be charged only for “reasonably related” costs, and landlords must provide tenants with an “itemized list” of these costs. Late fees are limited to $10 for the first $1,000 of rent, plus 5% of any amount above that amount.

The suburban ordinance allows landlords to store the personal property in the apartment only until a new tenant moves into the space.

For more housing news, visit Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit


“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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