It is important to know some of your rights as a tenant. It is always best to have a written lease so all the terms are understood by both parties. Always try to read and understand every aspect of the lease because later misunderstandings can be costly. For more information on renter's rights www.renters-rights.com/html/chicago.html.
Chicago is divided into four major sections by the Chicago River, known by locals as "the Loop" (Center), North, West and South Sides:
"The Loop"- This is a popular area where most people work and so it tends to be more expensive. This area is also divided into three sub-sectors: the South Loop, the West Loop, and Streeterville. These areas of town are right along the Magnificent Mile (shops, restaurants, and the occasional movie set). The ever-popular Navy Pier is also part of The Loop. Rents range from $800 for a studio to more than $5,000 for a really nice three-bedroom apartment.
The North Side- Mostly residential, this part of the city has many of the nicest apartments and houses. Away from downtown, this area tends to be quieter than the rest of the sectors which can mean more expensive. The Near North includes the Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park/De Paul, and Lakeview/Wrigleyville. These are the most posh areas of the city with rents range from $600 for a studio to $1600 for a nice two-bedroom apartment. The Mid North Side is home to Buena Park, Ravenswood, Roscoe Village, and St. Bens. Rents range from $500 for a studio to just over $1000 for a two-bedroom apartment. The Far North includes such towns as Andersonville, Edgewater, Rogers Park, and Evanston. Rents range from $400 for a studio to $800 for a two-bedroom apartment.
The West Side- This area is more industrial and is where suburbia begins to meld into the city system. If taking the train into the city is not a problem, the rent is often much cheaper. The Near West Side has a lot to offer, with neighborhoods like Wicker Park, Bucktown, River West, and Ukrainian Village. Rents range from $500 for a studio to $1000 for a very elegant two-bedroom apartment.
The South Side- The largest area with many different options, but has problems with violence and gang activity. The apartments are cheap, but that may come at a cost of safety.
Outside the City- There are numerous suburbs that, thanks to the El (the local nickname for the elevated railway), make commuting into the city economical and usually pretty fast. Northern suburbs tend to be the nicest: Northbrook, Glenview, Glencoe, Winnetka, Highland Park, Deerfield, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Northfield, and Lake Forest have the most expensive homes in the north suburbs. The less expensive north suburban homes can be found in Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles, Lincolnwood, Park Ridge, Des Plaines, and Evanston. The southern suburbs have more problems with crime, and the west suburbs are somewhere between the other two.
Chicago also offers several tours of specific neighborhoods and highlights which might help to determine what area fits you best, or simply show off the areas you would like to live. For prices and types, go to
Once you have found some possibilities, it is time to get an appointment to see the apartment. Call as soon as possible because good apartments go fast. If you reach an answering machine, leave a clear, concise message; say that you are calling about the apartment and how you found out about it. Give your name and telephone number, and ask the person to call you back at his/her earliest convenience to schedule an appointment. You may follow up with another call in 24 hours if you do not get a call back, because apartment renters can be very busy and won't return your call.
Try to make a good impression at your appointment by arriving on time, dressing neatly, and behaving appropriately. Feel free to ask questions like:
1) How long is the lease?
2) How much is the security deposit?
3) Are utilities included in the rent? If not, how much are they?
4) Are pets allowed?