Yes, it is legal and a widespread practice. Some landlords seek a move-in fee AND a security deposit. Other landlords have a move-in fee and a move-out fee. Ostensibly, this represents the cost incurred as wear-and-tear to common areas by the tenants moving. It is good to read all the fine print of a lease before signing. If the unit is covered by the RLTO (Chicago landlord tenant ordinance) a summary MUST be attached to the lease or handed to a tenant with an oral lease.
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As you know if you have a legal question about your specific lease or terms there in it is best to seek an attorney to review the entire documents. However, the broader question of can a landlord charge a move in fee in Chicago, that is YES. Landlords may charge a move in fee instead of Security Deposit, with a security deposit, or just a security deposit. All are allowed. In the City of Chicago there are strict rule as well as generally in the State of Illinois that control and place rules on how certain landlords must handle security deposits, so many landlords have decided to just charge a move in fee (and no security deposit). The Move In Fee is a one time fee and that is non-refundable.
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