If understanding the utility costs of your next apartment feels more like deciphering the tax code, you’re not alone. Are utilities included in rent? What about internet? And here in the midwest, renters always want to know about that pesky four-letter word: heat.
The good news is, while it sounds a bit confusing, it really is simpler than you think. Luxury apartments typically offer one of three different programs:
- Utilities Included
- Utilities Not Included
- Utility Package
Each represents something a little different, so I’m gonna break it down for you.
Some buildings will advertise that they include utilities in the rent, however it’s unlikely that all – water, sewer, trash, gas, heat, air conditioning, electric, cable, and internet – will be included (but wouldn’t that be a sweet deal?!).
When you’re considering leasing an apartment, we’ll help you get clarification on which are included in the rent and which you’ll have to take care of on your own.
Utilities Not Included
Simply put, this means that you pay for your utilities outside of your rent payment. There are two types of scenarios for this…
1. The Allocation System
The first is the “Allocation System”. The building receives one giant bill for their water, sewer, trash and gas and sends each tenant a bill based on the square footage of their apartment.
It’s a little tricky if you’re never home, and kind of awesome if you’re always home, but overall it works quite well and for everyone life is a little easier
2. The Personal Usage System
The second is the “Personal Usage System”. Yep, just like it sounds, you pay for everything based on your personal usage – all calculated through your own meter. I like to think of it as the “eat whatcha kill” utility program.
Nope, it’s not a literal package delivery (although Amazon will probably figure out how to do this someday!), but it is just as handy.
Utility packages are pretty awesome. The property simply bundles your utilities into one package for a fixed monthly cost. And, it’s always the same so you don’t have to worry about fluctuating monthly charges.
Most utility packages range from $65-95 for studios, $90-110 for 1 bedrooms, $120-150 for 2 bedrooms and $150-200 for 3 bedrooms.
Utility packages usually include water, sewer, trash, gas, heat, air conditioning and yes, even internet. Some buildings do include cable but let’s be honest…aren’t we all streaming now anyway? The only utility tenants are responsible for is electricity, which is minimal because it’s only for your plug-ins and lights.
What About Those Heating Bills?
People tend to get nervous moving into a building that doesn’t have a utility package or that doesn’t include heat. Why? Well…it’s Chicago (brrrrrr!).
We’ve all heard crazy stories of people paying $300 or more a month in heating bills (yeow!). Keep in mind, these scenarios are usually happening in an old walk-up with terrible insulation or just poor construction.
Luxury apartments, and high-rises in particular, are a whole different story.
These buildings have to generate heat for the building itself – things like hallways, amenities, lobby and all of the common areas – on their own dime, and their tenants are the beneficiaries.
In fact, a few years back I was renting in a high-rise and responsible for paying my heating bill. I was so nervous but it turns out, I only had to turn on my heat for two really cold weeks in January.
The overall building generated so much of its own heat that my heating bill was something like $30. Bottom line… don’t sweat the heating bill!
No one likes surprises, especially when it comes to bills. When you’re looking at apartments in Chicago, pay attention to buildings that have electric heat and AC. If they do, and you’re responsible for paying the bill, it’s worth doing a little research.
Call ComEd and ask for usage disclosures for each apartment you’re considering. I personally like to ask about 3 floors in the same apartment building to cover all my bases. If you’re looking to move into apartment #1402, ask for disclosures for #1302 and #1502 as well, then use the average of the three.
Get a Little Help
If this all sounds a little daunting, we get it. Apartment hunting in Chicago isn’t for the faint of heart and worrying about utilities and other costs on top of it is stressful. The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone.