Finding a place to stay in Chicago is probably the toughest part of the J1 process. It can be tough to find landlords willing to agree to a short time lease.
Many letting agencies in Chicago require a US Credit History before finalising any agreements, so it’s important not to waste your time looking in the wrong places for somewhere to stay.
Best Neighbourhoods to stay during summer
Certain areas of Chicago can be dangerous, especially at nighttime. Areas of the Southside are well known for gangland crime and should be avoided.
In general, the Northside is the safest area of the city, but we recommend doing your own research before committing to anything. This article gives a good indication of what to look out for.
We recommend the following neighbourhoods for staying during summer.
Lakeview is one of the best neighbourhoods in Chicago for students, especially in summer.
Home to the Chicago Cubs and one of the USA’s most iconic stadiums, Wrigley Field, there is a constant buzz in Lakeview during the summer months, with hundreds of bars and restaurants. There’s also plenty of seasonal jobs available.
Located just south of Lakeview, Lincoln Park is one of the nicest (and safest!) neighbourhoods in Chicago.
Home to De Paul University, the area has a number of sublet apartments available in the summer months.
Stretching along miles of lakefront, Lincoln Park is the city’s largest public park. The park contains the Lincoln Park Zoo (admission is free!) and Lincoln Park is home to many bars that make for a great nightlife scene.
Wicker Park and Bucktown are two bordering neighbourhoods just west of downtown and are a good option for summer living in Chicago.
Wicker Park is filled with fun things to do on weekdays and weekends, so we’re here to help you sort out how to best spend your time in Wicker Park.
Summertime is the best in this area because of Wicker Park Fest! Voted one of the best summer festivals in Chicago. With food vendors, a great music lineup, art shows, and many more fun events, Wicker Park Fest should not be missed.
This article will give you some more information on what the neighbourhood is like.
Logan Square is a thriving neighborhood, just a few miles northwest of downtown Chicago.
Many of it’s most popular areas are only five stops on the train from the Loop. Logan Square positions residents conveniently to use public transit or bike downtown, or commute easily out to O’Hare and the Chicago suburbs.
In 2019, TimeOut named Pilsen as the 10th Coolest Neighbourhood in the World.
Rich in Latino culture, Pilsen is a neighborhood that overflows with music, art, culinary tradition, and nightlife. It’s home to award-winning restaurants, iconic music venues, and murals as far as the eye can see.
Other areas worth considering for summer include:
Rogers Park – located about 11 miles north of downtown Chicago, and is home to Loyola University, meaning plenty of summer student accommodation available.
West Town – as the name suggests, it’s located just West of downtown Chicago. It’s an artsy neighbourhood with good transport links.
West Loop – A former industrial zone, the West Loop is now a dining and nightlife hotspot. Inventive New American and global eateries line Restaurant Row, and the French Market food hall hosts local vendors. Pubs, bars, and live music venues dot the area, as do upscale boutiques.
Sublets & Short-Term Rentals
Most rental agreements in Chicago are 12 month contracts which are very regulated.
Sublets are a short-term rental agreement under which a tenant rents out their apartment to another individual while their name is still on the lease. The original tenant is referred to as the sublessor, and the new tenant is referred to as a sublessee.
This differs from simply renting out a room to a roommate. When subleasing, only the original tenant’s name is on the lease. In a roommate situation, all tenants are named on the lease.
There are many reasons why someone might choose to sublet their apartment. Sometimes a person must move out of their apartment before their lease ends. Or perhaps a renter must move out of town for an extended period of time. Subletting an apartment allows tenants to avoid breaking their lease and save money if they intend to return after a period of time.
These are ideal for J1 Students as they generally do not require you to have US Credit History to apply.
Sublets are in high demand during the summer months. It’s important that you move fast and get the agreement completed as quiclky as possible before someone else swoops in.
Note: It’s a huge advantage if you are able to pay your deposit and 2/3 months rent up front when moving in.
It’s also worth noting that most apartments in Chicago come completely unfurnished.
Craigslist is great for picking up free furniture during summer. AirBeds can be sourced from Target, Walmart or Amazon, and some mattress stores will offer free delivery and discounts for buying in bulk.
Where to find summer accommodation?
We recommend the following sites for finding somewhere to stay.
Join our email list to stay alerted.
Craiglist has dozens of sublet apartments posted everyday. Their website allows you to filter listings by location, price and availability.
In summer, sublets are in extreme high demand so a good tip is to filter your search by ‘newest’ posts – and be one of the first to email when rentals become available.
Note: be mindful of scammers. Do not pay for anything without seeing it in person!
View their latest posts here.
In general, airbnb is used for short term accomodation options, however in the summer months many J1 students have been known to book places for longer periods.
Be sure to haggle on price and if you are in a position to pay for 2 months up front, you have a great chance of securing your accommodation for the summer… and without the hassle of having to go through US Credit Checks.
View their latest posts here.
The vast majority of J1 students will not have accommodation lined up prior to arriving in Chicago for summer.
Tip: You can often get free cancellation if you book these in advance using Booking.com
Beware of scammers
With 2,000+ Irish J1 students visiting Chicago each summer for the last decade, scam artists are becoming more and more common.
Scammers often see J1 students as an easy target and they will visit Chicago’s hostels handing out business cards and offering to provide accomodation.
A quick search of our facebook group will show instances where J1 students have paid their deposit, and then been put in run down/infested accommodation and the landlord never seen again.
In 2015 a company was set up aimed at J1 students wanting to live in downtown Chicago for summer. When students arrived that summer having paid their rent and deposit in advance, the apartment complex had no record of their booking. The owner of the company had disappeared, owing hundreds of thousands in rent to the apartment complex.
While there are a lot of people out to scam J1 students, there are also some very genuine people, but it’s important to do your research in advance. We recommend that you don’t pay deposits/rent without seeing the accommodation in person.