Rental Application Process in Chicago
Whether you choose to live in the Hyde Park area or elsewhere in the city, you can expect the application process to be basically the same. There are typically several steps involved, and it can take anywhere from a few minutes (if you are well prepared), to a few days (if, for instance, you need to gather documents or communicate back and forth with the landlord or your co-signer).
Filling Out the Application Form
As the first step of securing rental housing, you should be prepared to fill out a rental application when you find an apartment you are interested in – there is usually an application fee, though, so you will not want to apply for several units all at once. The rental application includes the applicant's personal information, social security number (if any), employment or school information, references, etc. This information will be used by the landlord to run a credit check, criminal background check, verification of your prior addresses and rental history, your source and amount of income, and a personal reference check.
For international students who may not have a Social Security Number yet, it is a good idea to have a copy of your passport, as well as your UChicago admission letter, financial aid offer letter, and your I-20 form.
Pay the Necessary Fees
Depending on the company or landlord you are renting from, you may be asked to pay an application fee, a security deposit, move-in fee, pet deposit, or other costs. Ask the leasing agent or landlord about which of the fees are refundable, and under what circumstances. If your application is not approved, any deposits – but not the application fee – should be returned. However, if you are accepted and change your mind, you may forfeit what you have given them. Ask lots of questions, and ideally do not submit a full deposit until you have decided to take an apartment.
Submit Proof of Income
You can expect to be asked to present some proof of income and employment. If you have them, consider bringing pay stubs or other financial records, or documentation of any University financial award or other sources of income you will have, when looking at or applying for apartments.
Credit and Background Check
In almost all cases, the landlord will run a credit check on the applicant(s) and/or your co-signer. Some may also want to conduct a criminal background check. These allow the manager to determine your level of financial responsibility, and to ensure the safety of their community.
If you do not have a rental history, or have poor credit, you may need to have someone sign as a guarantor on your lease. The co-signer or guarantor will also be required to sign the lease, and will share legal and financial responsibility with you for the terms of the lease. This is not the same as applying with a roommate.
Signing the Lease
Once your rental application is approved, the landlord or manager will prepare a lease for you to sign. You, along with any roommates, and any co-signers or guarantors, will all be required to sign the lease. After signing the lease, you will need to pay first month’s rent, as well as any move-in fees or security deposits you have not already paid.