I live in Chicago and have been looking to rent a condo. I hired an agent, visited one of the choices she offered, liked it, paid $50 as an application fee that involved a credit history check.

In a day the agent called and notified me that there was another application by a married couple. The owner preferred them because in general couples are financially more secure (e.g. if one person looses job, the second member can still pay the rent)

Here is my question: am I entitled to application fee refund due to the fact that my credit history was not an issue?

It would be a surprise for me if this kind of practice is not regulated. I have nothing against the condo owner going with a choice he/she deems more secure. What is shocking that agents are allowed to collect multiple non-refundable application fees, choose one tenant and keep the rest of the proceeds making juicy profit.

I thought there would be a common sense approach. If I pay for an application, the agent would stop accepting other application fees until my application is rejected. Alternatively, if the owner wants to pick and choose their tenants, rejected application fees should be refunded unless there is an unsatisfactory credit history in this case my credit report should be shown and explained why it is not accepted.

Could any one well versed in Tenant-Landlord Law clarify what the regulations say, if anything?

  • In every other context I can think of, an "application fee" is non-refundable whether your application is accepted or rejected. Think about college application fees, for instance. I don't know why rental application fees would be different. Sep 1, 2016 at 1:35

1 Answer 1


Here is the Illinois Landlord and Tenant Act, and here are the Chicago Residential Landlords and Tenants ordinances. Neither set of law addresses application fees. So it would have to be covered in whatever agreement you have with the agent (assuming you paid the agent), or with the landlord (if you paid the landlord). Fees for a credit history check are generally not refundable since they are actual costs incurred by someone, no matter what the outcome is. Check the forms you signed, like this one, to see whether they explicitly say that the fee is not refundable.

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