A Detailed Guide to Hidden Costs for First-Time Renters in Chicago

Navigate the rental market in Chicago with ease! Our guide reveals hidden costs for first-time renters, ensuring a smooth transition.

Hidden Costs for First-Time Renters

If you’re a first-time renter actively searching for monthly rentals in Chicago, you should consider all expenses that may impact your renting budget. From moving and move-in costs to the utility bills and, more importantly, the rent, your budget can quickly get on the fritz.

Of all the costs involved in apartment renting, hidden costs are ones that often land first-time renters in trouble. This is why we created this detailed guide to help you get acquainted with common hidden costs and how much you can expect to spend on each. 

Let’s dive straight in!

Non-Refundable Application Fees

The city of Chicago, like most metro areas, has tenant screening laws enacted to keep both tenants and landlords in check. Landlords with properties in Chicago usually charge an application fee that goes toward performing a background check on you. This may include checking your credit record, eviction history, criminal record, and more.

Illinois laws do not dictate how much a landlord should charge you in rental applications fees. This means that landlords in Chicago are free to charge as much as they want. However, in most cases, tenant screening services cost anywhere between $20 and $40. Keep in mind that landlords cannot refund your application fee even if your application is rejected.

Refundable Security Deposit

After the landlord or leasing agency accepts your application as a tenant, you’ll be required to pay a security deposit before you move in. This amount serves as collateral so that the property owner can be compensated if you terminate your lease before it’s due. A security deposit also covers the landlord if you get evicted for non-payment or if there are damages to the property at the time of move-out.

Security deposits are usually equal to one month of rent, but they can be lower, sometimes in the $250-$1,000 range.

In Chicago, security deposits are subject to strict rules. For example, landlords must not misappropriate those funds and are required to return the deposits promptly when a tenant moves out. In addition, there are limits on how much property owners can deduct to cover any repair costs or unpaid rent.

Renter’s or Tenant’s Insurance

Renter’s insurance may not be a legal requirement in the state of Illinois or the city of Chicago. However, some landlords and homeowner associations make it mandatory for tenants to take out insurance as a term of lease.

Renter’s insurance protects your belongings and provides liability coverage up to a pre-agreed amount. The average cost of renter’s insurance in Chicago may range from $15 to $30 per month, or around $185 per year.

The above rate is for a policy that provides personal property coverage up to $20,000 as well as liability coverage up to $100,000. It’s important for you to choose a level of coverage that matches your budget.

Utilities and Internet

It’s vital to consider your average monthly utility bill when budgeting for your next move. Most apartment buildings in Chicago will cover water, sewer, and garbage. That leaves the electricity, gas, and internet/cable bills up to you.

Utility and internet bills in Chicago will vary depending on your usage. Here’s a simple breakdown of how much you should budget for each:


This is the most expensive of all the payable utilities in the city. The average cost of electricity is $105.49 per month. The cost may increase during the warmer months when the AC is constantly on.


You can expect to cough up around $96.99 per month for gas. Your gas bill will rise as the temperature falls, and vice versa.


You can expect to pay between $40 and $60 per month for 60 Mbps of internet service. This cost may fluctuate depending on the internet speed you choose.

These bills are normally sent out quarterly and the amount you’ll pay will depend on how much you consume. Also, some landlords may require that you pay a connection fee, so be sure to ask about that in advance.

Additional Hidden Costs

You may need to pay extra fees depending on the type of property you’re looking to rent. For example, not every Chicago apartment offers parking options. If you own a car, you’ll probably need to pay parking fees, which could rise up to $200 per month.

By the same token, you’ll probably have to pay an additional pet deposit for the privilege of bringing a pet. This is because pet ownership comes with problems like stained flooring, scratched window frames, and more.

Pet fees vary depending on your landlord, but in most cases, apartment renters are required to shell out around $200–500 in pet fees. Worth pointing out, though, is that a pet fee is refundable if there are no damages to the property.

In Conclusion

Renting an apartment in Chicago for the first time can be both exciting and confusing. It would be helpful if you read over your lease carefully to understand what you’re getting yourself into. To avoid any guesswork, ask your landlord or letting agency about any further fees that you’re expected to pay before moving in. That way, you can keep your finances in order and avoid going into debt later.

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