How Many Legal Units in Chicago?

When looking at small apartment buildings in Chicago, one question always comes to mind; how many legal units are there in this building? There are many ways to check to see what the answer MIGHT be but only one way to find out for sure. The key here is what does the City of Chicago think? A building can conform to all of the local building codes for legal units but that doesn’t make it legal in the eyes of the city. So rather then keeping you on the edge wondering what the secret is, I will just tell you.

The only way I know of to obtain the legal number of units per the City of Chicago is to order what is called the Certificate of Zoning Compliance.  All of the details can be obtained from this link.

One of the limitations of this method is that this only certifies the legal number of units up to 5 units. If the building in question is 6 or more units, you will not obtain this level of certainty of the legal number of units. There are other, less definitive ways to get an idea without paying and waiting, but I wouldn’t hang your hat on those!

The good news for buyers is that as part of your closing, if the property is less than 6 units, you’ll be obtaining one of these through your attorney prior to closing. This is standard closing procedure. For sellers, I recommend ordering it from the outset of the listing or even before listing the property. If there is an attic, coach house or basement apartment, it’s best to know for sure if it’s legal or not before setting a price. A legal apartment is worth more than an illegal one.

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