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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. If a landlord has a large number of complaints, is that because it's a big company?
  2. When is the best time to start looking for an apartment for next year?
  3. Where do I find a listing of all the apartments for rent?
  4. How long is the grace period to cancel a lease after you've signed it?
  5. How does the cost of renting an apartment compare to the cost of University residence halls?
  6. How do I find a place where all utilities are included in the rent?
  7. How much do University of Illinois students pay for rent and utilities?
  8. Who are the best and worst landlords?
  9. If my landlord isn't doing repairs, do I have to pay rent?
  10. How do I break my lease?
  11. How long do I have to renew my lease?
  12. Where can I find a list of landlords who will rent to me for fall semester only?
  13. What happens if my roommate doesn't pay rent?
  14. What comes with an apartment that is "furnished?"
  15. Don't landlords have to give notice before entering an apartment to show the place?
  16. Can I use my deposit for my last month's rent?
  17. How long does my landlord have to refund my damage deposit?
  18. Does my landlord owe me interest on my deposit?
  19. How do I compute interest due?

FAQs

1. If a landlord has a large number of complaints, is that because it's a big company?

NO. Among the largest companies are landlords who have no complaints. Several of the largest companies have fewer than 5 complaints in five years. Among all landlords, only 15 companies out of hundreds have more than 10 complaints in five years.

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2. When is the best time to start looking for an apartment for next year?

The answer depends on what type of housing you want.

A mile or more from the U of I campus, most apartments go on the market between March and June for August leasing. These are almost exclusively unfurnished apartments and houses.

Close to the U of I campus, most three, four and five bedroom furnished apartments go on the market in October for move-in the following August BUT they don't all get leased up right away. By the end of December, many of these larger apartments are already leased, especially if they are in Champaign, south of Green Street and east of Second Street, but many are still on the market for months after that. The myth that a student has to sign a lease during fall semester to get a good place for the next fall semester just isn't true now that the vacancy rate has grown.

Efficiency, one and two bedroom apartments near the U of I campus go on the market at different times and many good choices - even those that were advertised in October, remain on the market during spring semester and even in the summer for August leasing.

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3. Where do I find a listing of all the apartments for rent?

Complete our "Request for Information" form and we will send you a list of the landlords (we know of) that lease furnished apartments near campus. If you would like to live further away from campus we can also send you a list of the landlords we know of that have unfurnished apartments outside the campus district. You can visit their websites to see if any of their rentals suit your needs.

Other resources:

1. The Daily Illini.

2. The News-Gazette classifieds

3. Craig's List. Watch for scams!

4. http://www.apartmentlist.com/il/champaign

**We do not necessarily recommend any of the landlords on the above links, and these are not comprehensive lists of all landlords. We are providing these links as a resource to help you with your housing search.**

Be sure to check landlords' complaint histories at the Tenant Union, first floor of Levis Faculty Center (through the fall 2013 semester) or through the Request for Information form online. If you are not a U of I student or incoming student, please call the C-U Tenant Union (community office) at 217-352-6220 for complaint histories.

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4. How long is the grace period to cancel a lease after you've signed it?

There is no grace period to cancel a lease. The moment you sign the contract, it is binding and you are responsible for paying the full amount of rent due for the entire term.

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5. How does the cost of renting an apartment compare to the cost of University residence halls?

For 2012-2013, a double room in a University of Illinois undergraduate residence hall with the meal plan of 10 meals and 45 cafe credits for a new student costs $10,640. If you rent an apartment and each roommate pays his or her own share of the rent, if your montly share of rent on a 12-month lease is more than $500 plus utilities in a 3 or 4 bedroom apartment or more than $480 per month plus utilities in a 2-bedroom apartment, the apartment will probably be more expensive than the cost of living in the University residence halls, once you factor in the cost of utilities and food. A student living alone whose rent is more than $450 plus utilities for an efficiency or studio apartment would likely be paying more for total housing and food costs than if he/she lived in a University residence halls in a double room (unless you don't get cable TV and then you can increase the base rent amount to $490 to be comparable to $10,640 for the year).

When comparing cost, we are assuming you would not eat in restaurants, carry-out or order pizza delivery any more often than you do while living in a residence hall. Your cost of an apartment will be even higher if you always eat out instead of buying groceries and preparing your own food.

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6. How do I find a place where all utilities are included in the rent?

Very few landlords pay all utilities. Even a few companies that advertise "all utilities included" don't really pay all of your utility bills and you'll find that out as soon as you read the lease contract. Several new companies that lease apartments by the bedroom keep the bills in the landlord's name and then bill each tenant for any cost of utility service above a certain "cap" amount such as $35. Do not believe any sales representative's claim that the bills never go over the cap. Tenant Union has seen students charged more than $100 per month over the cap. In most cases where any utilities are included in the rent, the rent is higher. At many places where the landlord pays the heat bill, you can't control the heat level in your apartment. Limiting your selections to places where the landlord pays some utilities is not very wise. Instead, factor in the cost of utilities that the landlord is paying when comparing one place where the landlord pays some utilities with another place where you will have to pay for all utilities.

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7. How much do University of Illinois students pay for rent and utilities?

RENT: $250 - $850 per person, per month, for a 12-month lease is the range of BASE RENT most students will pay to live near campus in a furnished apartment with at least one roommate. Most students sharing an apartment in 2013-2014 will probably be paying $450 - $500 per month for their share of rent not including utilities. Students who live alone will find that most efficiency apartments rent for $400-$450 per month plus utilities. Most one-bedroom, furnished apartments near campus rent for $500 - $650 per month plus utilities.

Add approximately $4,000.00 - $5,000.00 to the cost of base rent for the year to cover the costs of food and utilities.

UTILITIES AND SERVICES: $85 - $160 per person, per month for 12 months is the range of most students' share of the costs for electricity, gas, water, cable television, internet access and fees passed along by landlords such as sanitary and sewer tax. How much you pay for utilities depends a great deal on whether you conserve energy. Running the air conditioning 24/7 for the first month after you move in will likely result in a power bill that exceeds $200. Likewise setting the thermostat at 73 instead of 68 will make heat bills significantly higher. Be careful about any place where you think utilities are included in the rent. Tenants who are told utilities are included often find that the lease states otherwise.

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8. Who are the best and worst landlords?

More than 1,000 companies and individuals rent apartments and houses in Champaign-Urbana. HUNDREDS OF LANDLORDS HAVE NO COMPLAINTS. Many landlords have a few complaints and some have as many as 5 -10 or more each year.

Knowing the nature of any complaints, as well as how, if at all, each was resolved, is the best way for you to evaluate a prospective landlord. Numbers don't tell the whole story. Contact the Tenant Union while you are shopping for apartments to compare the complaint records of the different landlords whose properties you are considering. Go back to our home page, click the "Look for Housing" button on the lower right hand side, and fill out the Information Request Form. We'll email you the complaint records for those landlords. If you are not a University of Illinois student or incoming student, please telephone the Champaign-Urbana Tenant Union at 217-352-6220 for complaint records.

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9. If my landlord isn't doing repairs, do I have to pay rent?

YES. You are paying rent for possession of the premises. As long as you have possession, you owe rent even if the landlord has failed to live up to some other terms of the lease. Contact Tenant Union for help with repair problems and NEVER withhold rent unless you have been advised to do so by THE ATTORNEY AT LAW who will represent you in court when the landlord sues to evict you for non-payment of rent. A new law provides some remedies if your landlord will not perform repairs. To find out more about this law, go to the section on this site entitled "Repairs."

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10. How do I break my lease?

In almost all cases, you can't break a lease. It is rare for landlords in Champaign-Urbana to allow you to just pay a penalty and walk away from your contractual obligation. If you move out and stop paying rent, expect the landlord to sue you and win a judgment against you for the balance of rent due until the end of the lease, plus court costs and attorney fees. This will go on your credit record for 7 years.

If you want to break your lease because you are having a problem with the landlord, contact the Tenant Union for help resolving the problem. If you think you have legal grounds to get out of your lease, consult with THE ATTORNEY AT LAW who will represent you in court when the landlord sues you.

The only circumstances that might get you out of your lease are: 1) when the property has been condemned by the City housing inspector; 2) when your utility service has been terminated because of the landlord's non-payment or; 3) if a member of your household is a victim of sexual violence on the leased premises or is in imminent danger of being a victim of domestic violence on the premises and you have given the notice required and have the evidence required by the law. An incident of domestic violence, by itself, does not release you from the lease. The law says that if the landlord sues you for non-payment of rent, you can use as a defense that you had to move because you were in imminent danger of being a victim of domestic violence again on the premises. So you will have to convince a judge that you were in imminent danger if you remained in the apartment or house.

In all other instances, ask the landlord to release you from the lease. If the landlord agrees, get the promise in writing. On the home page, under "Forms and Checklists" you will find a "Lease Release Form" for this purpose.

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11. How long do I have to renew my lease?

A tenant has no automatic right to renew. Unless the lease includes a renewal clause, your landlord could rent the place to someone else for the next year without ever giving you a chance to sign for it yourself. Close to campus, many landlords will start signing leases 10 months before they start. Even far from campus, many landlords sign leases 4 - 6 months in advance. Including a renewal clause in your lease is wise if you'll want the option of staying for another year - or if you don't want to be surprised by a renewal notice served 3 weeks after you move in, or by the discovery that the landlord leased the place to someone else without ever offering you the chance to renew.

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12. Where can I find a list of landlords who will rent to me for fall semester only?

Landlords try first to rent their places for 12 months and will not agree to fall semester-only leases until it's clear they won't rent all of their apartments. A few landlords who have properties more than a mile from campus might agree to a fall-only lease if they know they won't fill up with year-long tenants. If you are willing to live in Rantoul, Mahomet or some other neighboring city, you might find a landlord there who will agree to a short-term lease. If you are a University student who will be graduating in December or studying abroad or student teaching during spring semester, your best optioin might be to rent an apartment from the University of Illinois Housing Division. That office will release you from a year's lease IF you graduate or are leaving campus to study abroad or student teach. Tenant Union has a very short list of landlords who have properties 2 - 4 miles from campus who have offered shorter term leases in the past. Contact us for more information.

In the last few years, most landlords with properties close to campus have told students asking about fall-only leases to call back in the summer. Most landlords will NOT advertise fall semester leases, so you'll have to call everyone who advertises for a year, and ask if they'll rent for one semester.

Your best chance for finding a fall-only lease might be if you are in a larger group. Four bedroom apartments are in greater supply than the demand. That does not appear to be the case for furnished one-bedroom and efficiency apartments close to campus. A landlord who has not rented out 4 bedroom apartments by February or March is more likely to agree to a short term lease for August to December than a landlord with 1 bedroom apartments that have not rented out.

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13. What happens if my roommate doesn't pay rent?

If two or more of you signed the lease together, you are each responsible for making sure the total rent is paid. If your roommate doesn't pay his/her rent, you must pay that rent or risk being sued for eviction by the landlord. Once you are evicted, you will probably still have to pay the balance of rent due on the lease, unless the landlord re-rents the place. When sued, you usually also owe attorney's fees and court costs. The total owed will show up on your credit record for the next 7 years. So it's best to pay the landlord and then try to collect from your roommate.

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14. What comes with an apartment that is "furnished?"

The answer is different at every apartment. Neither an advertisement nor any oral statement by a landlord will guarantee that you get certain furniture or appliances. The only way to be sure about exactly what comes with the apartment is to include in the lease a list of every piece of furniture and every appliance that you think you will be getting with that apartment. Don't forget about items like blinds for windows or air conditioning units. In most cases, a furnished apartment will include a bed, a dresser, a sofa or couch and a table with chairs, but do not assume anything. Get a list of promised furniture and appliances in writing in the lease.

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15. Don't landlords have to give notice before entering an apartment to show the place?

Only 5 cities in Illinois have local laws requiring landlords to give notice of entry. In Urbana and Mt. Prospect, landlords are required to give 24 hours' notice. In Chicago and Evanston a landlord must give 48 hours' notice. DeKalb city ordinance requires 1 hour notice. Everywhere else, including Champaign and Savoy, you need to include a privacy clause in your lease that states specific requirements for notice; otherwise, in most cases, your lease will probably say you give the landlord "free access" to the premises. That means the landlord can enter without notice.

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16. Can I use my deposit for my last month's rent?

NO. In your lease, you agreed to pay all of the rent when due. The purpose of your damage deposit is to leave the landlord holding some money to cover damage you may have done, including failure to clean when you move out. Unless the landlord agrees, IN WRITING, to apply your deposit to your last month's rent, you must pay the last month's rent and wait for refund of your deposit. Taking photographs of the move-out condition (walls, floors, insides of oven, fridge, cabinets, toilet, tub, sink, etc.) is the best way to protect your deposit. Not paying your last month's rent is likely to result in a lawsuit against you which the landlord will win.

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17. How long does my landlord have to refund my damage deposit?

If you lived at a property with 5 or more units, the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act requires your landlord to send you an itemized statement of damages within 30 days after you move out or to refund your deposit in full within 45 days after you vacate. If you rented a house or at a property with fewer than 5 units, the Act does not apply to you. This doesn't mean the landlord can keep your deposit forever, but there is no penalty for taking more than 45 days to make refund unless the housing was located in the City of Urbana.

If you lived in Urbana, the city code is identical to the state law EXCEPT Urbana city code applies to ALL properties, regardless of the number of units, including houses and duplexes. Urbana City Code chapter 12.5-20.

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18. Does my landlord owe me interest on my deposit?

In Urbana, interest law applies to all properties, regardless of size, as long as the deposit was $100 or more. In Champaign, Savoy and everywhere else in central Illinois, the state interest on deposit law applies regardless of the amount of the deposit, but only if the property at which you were renting had 25 or more units in one building or in a complex of buildings on contiguous parcels of property. Both laws apply only if you did not default on the lease and the deposit was held for at least 6 months.

PENALTY: If your landlord fails or refuses to pay the interest due, you can sue the landlord for an amount equal to the deposit itself, plus court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.

The rates are different for Urbana and for the rest of the state and are set by law, based on minimum deposit passbook savings account rates.

Note: If the interest rate is .5% multiply by .005. If interest rate is .35 multiply by .0035.

In Champaign, Savoy and anywhere else in central Illinois other than Urbana use these rates. Keep scrolling down for Urbana rates.

Lease started in: Interest rate is:

1977-93: 5%

1994: 2.5%

1995 or 1996: 2.75%

1997 or 1998: 2.5%

1999: 1.88%

2000 or 2001: 1.73%

2002: .45%

2003: .40%

2004: .30%

2005: .40%

2006: .55%

2007: .50%

2008: .35%

2009: .25%

2010: .095%

2011: .195%

2012: .005%

In Urbana, if the deposit was $100 or more, interest must be paid by the landlord at all properties regardless of the number of units (including houses). Chapter 12.5 of Urbana City Code

Rates for Urbana

Lease started after June 30:

1983-1994: 5%

1995: 2.15%

1996-2000: 2%

2001: 1.49%

2002: .85%

2003: .50%

2004: .25%

2005: .25%

2006: .50%

2007: .50%

2008: .25%

2009: .15%

2010: .15%

2011: .15%

2012: .10%

Interest should be calculated from the date you paid the deposit, for the entire time it was held, and is due within 30 days of the end of each 12 month lease period.

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How do I compute interest due?

Example: Tenant of a large apartment complex in Champaign paid a $500 deposit on April 5, 2009 for a lease that started in August 2009 and it was held by the landlord until September 10, 2011 at which time $397.53 was refunded. The landlord held the entire $500 for 29 months before making the deductions at the end of the lease so the interest is calculated using the $500.00 figure. The simple math is:

$500 (deposit) x .0025 (rate) = $1.25 (interest for 1 year).

$1.25 divided by 12 (months) = .1042 (monthly amount of interest due) x 17 (months deposit was held for the first year's lease contract) = $1.77 (total interest due on a $500 deposit held in Champaign for 17 months for a lease that started in 2009).

Then, for the second year (2010-2011) the deposit was held for 12 more months at the .095% rate.

$500 (deposit) x .00095 (rate) = $.475 (interest for 1 year). The landlord owes the tenant $1.77 + .475 for total interest on the lease that ran from August 2009 - August 2011 with deposit paid April 2009 and refunded September 2011 = $2.25.

If your landlord held your deposit for several years and did not pay interest each year, you will need to compute the amount for each 12 month period the deposit was held, using the appropriate interest rate for each year.

EXEMPTION: Damage deposits paid for publicly-owned housing (including University-owned housing) are exempt under the state law requiring interest to be paid on deposits.

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The Tenant Union does not provide legal services of any kind. All information provided in this publication is intended to help the average person prevent problems and deal with common concerns of renting. When legal help is needed, always consult with an attorney at law.