Hi, New to this:
I agree with my colleagues that in the Chicago area, landlords usually pay the commission on a residential rental. However, for commercial rentals (storefronts, office space, etc.) the property owner and the lessee each pay their own brokers.
One thing to remember as a tenant: the broker who works for the property owner and shows you an apartment does not represent you and does not have a fiduciary duty to you. This means that the broker will act in the best interests of the property owner, but not necessarily yours.
All leasing Brokers must act fairly with respect to customers, but their primary job is to protect and promote the interests of their client. In Chicago that usually means the property owner.
As a representative of the property owner, the listing Broker will encourage you to make an application to sign a lease. The Broker will promote the specific property you've asked to see and try to convince you that it's a better option than anything else in the neighborhood. Also, you'll only receive information about the property about which you specifically ask, is required by statute, or required by the owner's instruction.
If you really are new to leasing, it would pay for you to hire a Broker of your own to negotiate a lease for you. In Chicago, you typically won't pay for this service, since tenant representatives in residential transactions usually get paid by the owner's broker.
The benefits of having your own representative are many: you'll have someone to ask questions you wouldn't know to ask, you'll have someone who will help you to weigh alternatives, and perhaps most importantly, you have someone who will promote your best interests.
When you hire a leasing rep, ask about experience: how long has the Broker been licensed, how many tenants has the Broker represented? Also, do they charge any fee for their services to you?
Most tenant applicants in the Chicago area will have to pay a small application fee and credit check fee. These can range from $25 to $50 or more per person, depending on the thoroughness of the check (background checks cost more, simple credit report less). These fees are usually non-refundable and separate from any security deposit or rent. Your Broker-representative can help you to prepare your supporting documentation to make the best application possible, given your credit and rental history.
Don Pasek, CIPS, TRC, ADPR
Omniterra Real Properties