Rental Basics in Chicago>Question Details

Lila, Other/Just Looking in Chicago, IL

what constitutes an illegal apartment.?

Asked by Lila, Chicago, IL Sun May 6, 2012

I heard if there is only one entrance/exit, but then again I heard if the apartment is a certain square feet its ok to have one entrance/exit...Thanks

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10
Philip Sencer’s answer
One entrance/exit can be legal. The most common reason a basement/attic unit is not legal is based on zoning. Depending on the zoning for the building, the building can only have X number of legal square feet. Once you add the SF of the 1st and 2nd floor unit you are almost always very close to the max. Once you try to add the SF of the other unit it almost always exceeds the limit. There are dozens and dozens of other building codes that are required of units and basement/attic units rarely are in compliance. A building code inspector could write a book listing them for almost every illegal unit he visits.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 13, 2013
Need to have 2 exits per the City of Chicago Fire code but also has o be recognized as an apartment to be considered legal. i.e. a basement apartment in a 2 flat building that they are calling a 3 flat. Basement is likely illegal unless its zoned as a 3 flat.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 26, 2014
5458 w Addison two guys pay 530.00 rent in attic owner is no good no water in kitchen please make pay fee for illeaglement
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Aug 25, 2014
the best way to find out is to call the city and ask if the house is a 1 family dwelling or 2 or 3. If there is 3 apartments in a 2 family dwelling then its a illegal apartment even if there is 2 exits. I rented a basement apartment and it was illegal so the judge made the landlord pay me 6x the amount of rent for relocation cost that day. but you have only 5 to 10 days to move.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 12, 2013
How long did this take, what did you have to do
Flag Sun May 4, 2014
There are a lot of code and zoning requirements that determine whether a basement apartment is legal or not. This question keeps coming up. I think I'll have to post a specific article on my website to answer this question. For now you can view the article about basement remodeling on my site for general info if you like. Here are some points though:
Ceiling height at least 7'
Sufficient light and ventilation
approved Zoning
proper, dedicated electrical and heat
sanitary facilities
1 or 2 exits depending on square footage, 1 under 800 sqft, 2 over 800 sqft.
Those are the basics. There are a number of other requirements but if the space doesn't meet those, the others don't matter.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 7, 2012
If the only entry is through the first floor pantry, and your heat comes from removing a floor ceiling tile to expose the basement radiator pipe, that it ain't legal.

If your hairdryer trips the breaker and the electric goes out in the upstairs unit, then probably illegal.

If your closet door opens into another apartment

If the only available light is from the glow of your monitor.

If your landlord always call your place the 'in-law'.

If you think that it's actually illegal
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 6, 2012
there are two things here.. not everything is rent able because it passes code and if it is rent-able- is it legal - recognized by the city as a residence with a mail box address and a gas meter and things of that nature. the city has a density problem., a parking problem, a sewer problem, a school problem and just cause you pay rent does not mean its a recognized place to call a home. call the city and ask them if the unit is legal to rent.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 6, 2012
That's a great question. I'm very interested in the answer to this as well. Though unless someone has a link to specific code regarding this, much of this is going to be opinion and hearsay. Hopefully someone will be able to provide some concrete sources of information.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 6, 2012
There are dozens of building codes that must be met to determine if an apartment is legal. The number of exits is just one. It can have 3 exits and still be illegal. SF is one of the dozens of requirements.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 6, 2012
In the City of Chicago, a "legal" apartment is required to have two forms of egress. Essentially, it means a front and rear exit.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 6, 2012
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