Realty & Mortgage has served as a property manager for Chicago rentals for 110 years. We pride ourselves on providing top-notch care for buildings and treating our clients and tenants with the utmost respect. But it turns out not all landlords and property managers are quite like us! We asked our friends and tenants what some of their worst experiences with landlords and management companies were and compiled this list for you: 5 Bad Landlord / Management Company Types and How to Spot Them Before You Rent.
1. The “Out-Of-Town” Landlord
If everything is great with your apartment and your building, it’s really not a problem to have an out-of-town landlord. But when a landlord or management company isn’t around to visit the property even once a month, things are often missed, especially in common areas. Our friend Jill told us about her experience with an out-of-town landlord at her last Roscoe Village 2-bedroom apartment:
“The yard and sidewalks were never taken care of promptly. A tenant would actually have to call our landlord and say ‘Hey, it snowed. You need to get someone to shovel and put down ice.’ And then it would take another few days after that before anyone came to take care of it. Same thing with mowing the lawn.”
When you go to see potential new apartments, take a look around. How are the exterior areas taken care of? If they look unkempt or cluttered, that may be a sign of an out-of-town landlord who doesn’t keep up with the property.
2. The Nosey Landlord
Scott thought it would be great to live in the apartment above his landlord in a Chicago three-flat in the Pilsen neighborhood. “I figured things would get fixed quickly and they would really care about keeping the place up.”
That was true, Scott said, but it also turned out that Scott’s landlord was a pretty annoying neighbor.
“One night not long after I moved in, my girlfriend and another couple came over for dinner. Shortly after they arrived, my landlord called and said he noticed I was ‘having a party’ and he reminded me that I could be fined for noise or leaving trash around. Not only did I think it was creepy that he was watching who was coming and going from my apartment, I felt like my mom was scolding – and it was before I’d done anything wrong! He would knock on the door or call almost every time I had even one or two people over. I felt like I couldn’t tell him to stop invading my privacy because he might raise my rent or it might ruin our otherwise cordial relationship.”
There are perks to having a landlord live on premise… but there can be downsides, too. If you’re looking at an apartment where your landlord will be your neighbor, make sure you get a good feel for what their personality is and whether or not they will make a good neighbor.
3. The Argumentative Management Company
When Kelsey moved into her new apartment in Bucktown last year, she noticed that the bathtub was filthy.
“It had some sort of greasy, black grime all over it,” she explained. She assumed her new landlord had simply neglected to check the tub for cleanliness. “I’m not a princess or anything – I’ll clean my own mess – but I was paying a lot for this apartment. I don’t think it was too much to ask that it was clean when I moved in.”
But when she called her management company to ask them to send someone to clean the bathtub, she received a surprising answer. “They told me it was my problem now that my lease had started because they had no proof that it wasn’t me who made the tub look like that. I was floored. I had just moved in a few hours before!”
Unfortunately, that attitude set the tone for the rest of Kelsey’s experiences with her management company. “Every time I called about getting something fixed, they would try to argue that it wasn’t their responsibility – they even tried that one time when the roof was leaking – and I lived on the top floor.”
Kelsey finally got fed up with having to fight for every little maintenance issue and she moved out a year later.
You can always check maintenance and management company reviews online before you sign a lease for a new apartment. If you see a particular company seems to be getting the same kinds of reviews over and over again, take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to rent a place under their control.
4. The Lazy Landlord
College buddies Luke and Amos moved into a new 3-bedroom apartment in Logan Square about a year ago.
“We love the place, but the landlord is soooooo lazy,” Luke told us.
When the guys saw the apartment with a realtor, it was painted mustard-yellow throughout. “That yellow was not our vibe,” Amos explained, “but the realtor said not to worry because the former tenants had been there a number of years so the landlord would have to repaint anyway.”
But when they arrived on move-in day a few weeks later, the mustard-yellow paint was still there. “We couldn’t not move in – all of our stuff was in a rental truck. So we moved in but kept stuff away from the walls so they could paint and we called the landlord right away.”
It ended up taking weeks – and multiple calls and emails – for the landlord to paint the walls, as he should’ve done before Luke and Amos had moved in. Luke said, “he kept making excuses about why he couldn’t come to paint and they were, like, personal things. One day he was supposed to come paint and called and said his granddaughter was sick and he had to pick her up at school so he couldn’t come. I felt bad and maybe if that kind of thing had only happened once, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it happened a number of times – always a different weird excuse – and finally I was like, ‘dude, hire painters!”
It turned out this was a pattern with their new landlord. “Any little thing was like pulling teeth,” Amos said. But, the guys are staying for now. “It’s too cool of a place and too great of a neighborhood to leave,” they explained.
It’s hard to tell if your new landlord is going to be slow about fixing things, until things need fixing. If possible, chat with other residents before signing a lease to find out their opinions on the landlord or management company.
5. The Cheap Landlord
“Our landlord called and asked us to reduce the temperature in our apartment during the winter so she could save money,” Kim explained. At the time, she and her husband Tony lived in a 1-bedroom in a 3-flat in Lakeview with central heat and air conditioning that was included in the rent. “We thought it was a weird request so we talked to other tenants in the building and found out she did this every year to everyone, no matter what the heating costs were,” Tony told us.
Their second winter in the apartment was 2013-2014, the year Chicago suffered through one “polar vortex” after another. “That year, she made repeated calls and even emailed all the tenants explaining how much money she could save if we all lowered our heat by five degrees,” Kim said. “And it was all about how much money she could save – never about us.” Tony said, while laughing. “I’m all for not being wasteful, but, come on! If it’s negative 20 degrees out, you’re going to have some increased heating costs.”
While Kim and Tony’s landlord’s nagging didn’t ultimately affect their lifestyle, that’s not always the case. A landlord who skimps on essential repairs to things like walkways, stairs, pipes, decking, roofing, doors, locks, and buzzer systems can make your apartment less comfortable and less safe – and no one wants that.
Unfortunately, these stories are only hard to believe if you’ve never rented an apartment before. The fact is: there are some bad landlords and management companies out there.
But at Realty & Mortgage we are proud of the work we do for our tenants. We’ve been a part of the Chicago community for over a century so we know what we’re doing and we know and love our city and its residents. We pride ourselves on being there when our tenants need us, being responsive to questions and problems, and taking care of the buildings we manage for both the sake of our tenants and to protect the investments of our buildings’ owners.
So if you’re looking for an apartment – whether or not you’ve have had bad experiences with landlords or management companies – we’d love for you to come see our available Chicago and Chicago-area apartments and hear about how we try to make life better for our tenants. And while you’re at it, check out our reviews, too. We think you’ll be impressed.
What have been some of your worst landlord and management company experiences? We’d love to hear from you, whether or not you are one of our current tenants. Maybe you’ll inspire us to write another blog about how rough it can be for tenants (and how much better we can make it for them!). And, conversely, if you’ve had a really great landlord or management company, we’d love to hear those stories too. We are all about learning new and better ways to provide services to our clients, tenants, and community.