How to make a basement unit legal in chicago?

22 Replies

I bought and rehabbed a 2-flat in chicago this year and now I'm turning my attention to the basement. It was a legal 3-flat but the last owner had it decoverted to storage a year before the sale. I was told there was a plumbing problem in the basement and a clean out had to be installed.

When the last owner had it converted to storage, the took out the bathroom/kitchen plumbing and electrical. They even poured concrete in the toilet and shower drain. 

Where do I start to get it back to a legal 3?

Originally posted by @Michael D Valadez :

I bought and rehabbed a 2-flat in chicago this year and now I'm turning my attention to the basement. It was a legal 3-flat but the last owner had it decoverted to storage a year before the sale. I was told there was a plumbing problem in the basement and a clean out had to be installed.

When the last owner had it converted to storage, the took out the bathroom/kitchen plumbing and electrical. They even poured concrete in the toilet and shower drain. 

Where do I start to get it back to a legal 3?

 What does the zoning cert say from when you bought it?

Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt :
Originally posted by @Michael D Valadez:

I bought and rehabbed a 2-flat in chicago this year and now I'm turning my attention to the basement. It was a legal 3-flat but the last owner had it decoverted to storage a year before the sale. I was told there was a plumbing problem in the basement and a clean out had to be installed.

When the last owner had it converted to storage, the took out the bathroom/kitchen plumbing and electrical. They even poured concrete in the toilet and shower drain. 

Where do I start to get it back to a legal 3?

 What does the zoning cert say from when you bought it?

It says two dwelling units. Property is zone RS3.

Originally posted by @Bruce Woodruff :

Don't you need 2500 per unit unless there are a certain percentage of 2 flats already on the block?

 the house size is 2540 sqft. Im guessing that just for the 2 legal units. because each unit is ~1200 sq

The whole block is zoned RS3 witch allows for 3 flats. The property was a legal 3 flat just last year. the basement  has its own hvac/electrical/gas. 

For clarity, what’s your evidence to support it being a 3 flat last year? Are you saying the owner went out of their way to get the property rezoned to reduce units?  Do you see permits pulled on the city website to support the deconstruction?  Why would they do that she. The value of the property is higher as a 3 vs 2. Many two flats in the city have amazing garden units that to everyone  else looks legal, but in reality are non conforming.  

Originally posted by @Michael D Valadez :
Originally posted by @Bruce Woodruff:

Don't you need 2500 per unit unless there are a certain percentage of 2 flats already on the block?

 the house size is 2540 sqft. Im guessing that just for the 2 legal units. because each unit is ~1200 sq

The whole block is zoned RS3 witch allows for 3 flats. The property was a legal 3 flat just last year. the basement  has its own hvac/electrical/gas. 

RS3 means residential single family, for a 3 unit zoning you need at least RT-4.  Because the cert says 2 units you can't just add another unit.  If it is in a pilot zone you can apply to add a unit, if not you have to contact the alderman and try to get it rezoned to RT

https://www.chicagocityscape.c...

https://secondcityzoning.org/z...

Originally posted by @Kyle D Birch :

For clarity, what’s your evidence to support it being a 3 flat last year? Are you saying the owner went out of their way to get the property rezoned to reduce units?  Do you see permits pulled on the city website to support the deconstruction?  Why would they do that she. The value of the property is higher as a 3 vs 2. Many two flats in the city have amazing garden units that to everyone  else looks legal, but in reality are non conforming.  

There is a permit for having the Basement Unit converted to storage. It does show on the city's website.

10089653710/21/2020DECONVERTING FROM 3 UNITS TO 2 UNITS
10089713911/06/2020DECONVERT BASEMENT PER BULDING VIOLATIONS - ELECTRICAL PERMIT # 100896537 - SUBJECT TO FIELD INSPECTIONS

I'm guessing the basement was decoverted for this violation. 

Thanks your guys help!  

Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt :
Originally posted by @Michael D Valadez:
Originally posted by @Bruce Woodruff:

Don't you need 2500 per unit unless there are a certain percentage of 2 flats already on the block?

 the house size is 2540 sqft. Im guessing that just for the 2 legal units. because each unit is ~1200 sq

The whole block is zoned RS3 witch allows for 3 flats. The property was a legal 3 flat just last year. the basement  has its own hvac/electrical/gas. 

RS3 means residential single family, for a 3 unit zoning you need at least RT-4.  Because the cert says 2 units you can't just add another unit.  If it is in a pilot zone you can apply to add a unit, if not you have to contact the alderman and try to get it rezoned to RT

https://www.chicagocityscape.c...

https://secondcityzoning.org/z...

 I can find legal 3 units zoned RS-3. Heres one Right near my property on Red Fin: 4018 W Oakdale Ave 60641.

https://www.redfin.com/IL/Chic...

I appreciate all your guys help! and I will contact the alderman

Originally posted by @Michael D Valadez :
Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt:

Don't you need 2500 per unit unless there are a certain percentage of 2 flats already on the block?

 the house size is 2540 sqft. Im guessing that just for the 2 legal units. because each unit is ~1200 sq

The whole block is zoned RS3 witch allows for 3 flats. The property was a legal 3 flat just last year. the basement  has its own hvac/electrical/gas. 

RS3 means residential single family, for a 3 unit zoning you need at least RT-4.  Because the cert says 2 units you can't just add another unit.  If it is in a pilot zone you can apply to add a unit, if not you have to contact the alderman and try to get it rezoned to RT

https://www.chicagocityscape.c...

https://secondcityzoning.org/z...

 I can find legal 3 units zoned RS-3. Heres one Right near my property on Red Fin: 4018 W Oakdale Ave 60641.

https://www.redfin.com/IL/Chic...

I appreciate all your guys help! and I will contact the alderman

 Pretty much all side streets are zoned RS-3.  The zoning map was created well after Chicago was built.  So any 2-4 unit is grandfathered in and can remain that way till you alter it.  By adding a unit you need to change the zoning of that lot, so having a neighbor grandfathered in doesn't have anything to do with you wanting to increase density.  

@Michael D Valadez - Congrats on getting your 2 flat rehabbed, that's awesome and I am sure it was a ton of work.

Tons of great advice above, but I'd suggest the first you do is talk to a local Chicago licensed architect like @Prashanth Mahakali or @Samuel Pavlovcik .  The issues with zoning and permitting through the City of Chicago are muddy and unclear.  Talk with someone who knows the right steps.

If you for sure want to legally convert back into a 3 unit you will need some type of plans & permits, but it all depends on how the zoning shakes out.  

Also, you could always just convert it back without getting permits, but that obviously comes with a certain amount of risk as well.

Originally posted by @Jonathan Klemm :

@Michael D Valadez - Congrats on getting your 2 flat rehabbed, that's awesome and I am sure it was a ton of work.

Tons of great advice above, but I'd suggest the first you do is talk to a local Chicago licensed architect like @Prashanth Mahakali or @Samuel Pavlovcik .  The issues with zoning and permitting through the City of Chicago are muddy and unclear.  Talk with someone who knows the right steps.

If you for sure want to legally convert back into a 3 unit you will need some type of plans & permits, but it all depends on how the zoning shakes out.  

Also, you could always just convert it back without getting permits, but that obviously comes with a certain amount of risk as well

Other landlords in the area also tell me not to bother with permits. And just convert it back.

I will definitely talk to our architect about the situation.

Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt :
Originally posted by @Michael D Valadez:
Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt:

Don't you need 2500 per unit unless there are a certain percentage of 2 flats already on the block?

 the house size is 2540 sqft. Im guessing that just for the 2 legal units. because each unit is ~1200 sq

The whole block is zoned RS3 witch allows for 3 flats. The property was a legal 3 flat just last year. the basement  has its own hvac/electrical/gas. 

RS3 means residential single family, for a 3 unit zoning you need at least RT-4.  Because the cert says 2 units you can't just add another unit.  If it is in a pilot zone you can apply to add a unit, if not you have to contact the alderman and try to get it rezoned to RT

https://www.chicagocityscape.c...

https://secondcityzoning.org/z...

 I can find legal 3 units zoned RS-3. Heres one Right near my property on Red Fin: 4018 W Oakdale Ave 60641.

https://www.redfin.com/IL/Chic...

I appreciate all your guys help! and I will contact the alderman

 Pretty much all side streets are zoned RS-3.  The zoning map was created well after Chicago was built.  So any 2-4 unit is grandfathered in and can remain that way till you alter it.  By adding a unit you need to change the zoning of that lot, so having a neighbor grandfathered in doesn't have anything to do with you wanting to increase density.  

 I did a little more researching on the city website. In my area is in the additional dwelling units pilot program. Website is recommend talking to a Illinois license architect to submit the plans. I'll give that a try. 

Originally posted by @Michael D Valadez :
Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt:
Originally posted by @Michael D Valadez:
Originally posted by @Brie Schmidt:

Don't you need 2500 per unit unless there are a certain percentage of 2 flats already on the block?

 the house size is 2540 sqft. Im guessing that just for the 2 legal units. because each unit is ~1200 sq

The whole block is zoned RS3 witch allows for 3 flats. The property was a legal 3 flat just last year. the basement  has its own hvac/electrical/gas. 

RS3 means residential single family, for a 3 unit zoning you need at least RT-4.  Because the cert says 2 units you can't just add another unit.  If it is in a pilot zone you can apply to add a unit, if not you have to contact the alderman and try to get it rezoned to RT

https://www.chicagocityscape.c...

https://secondcityzoning.org/z...

 I can find legal 3 units zoned RS-3. Heres one Right near my property on Red Fin: 4018 W Oakdale Ave 60641.

https://www.redfin.com/IL/Chic...

I appreciate all your guys help! and I will contact the alderman

 Pretty much all side streets are zoned RS-3.  The zoning map was created well after Chicago was built.  So any 2-4 unit is grandfathered in and can remain that way till you alter it.  By adding a unit you need to change the zoning of that lot, so having a neighbor grandfathered in doesn't have anything to do with you wanting to increase density.  

 I did a little more researching on the city website. In my area is in the additional dwelling units pilot program. Website is recommend talking to a Illinois license architect to submit the plans. I'll give that a try. 

 Great!  @Samuel Pavlovcik can help

Thanks @Jonathan Klemm and @Brie Schmidt for the mentions.

@Michael D Valadez , Unfortunately as you found, the Chicago Zoning Designations are a little odd in that the "3" in the RS-3 Zoning does not at all mean that it allows for 3-Unit residences. Additionally, based on your notes about the basement being deconverted to "Stoarage" before you purchased it, sounds more to me like the biggest issue was that the basement unit was Not a legally existing unit, and the City made them deconvert the unit in order to resolve building violations. 

You've done a great job finding a lot of information on this over the past few days, and if your project is in fact located within one of the ADU pilot areas, then that is 100% the route to go in order to Legally add the 3rd dwelling unit. The ADU process will save a lot of time and money in compared to the alternative option which would be a ZBA Hearing...

Let me know if you have other questions or how else I could help!

Originally posted by @Samuel Pavlovcik :

Thanks @Jonathan Klemm and @Brie Schmidt for the mentions.

@Michael D Valadez, Unfortunately as you found, the Chicago Zoning Designations are a little odd in that the "3" in the RS-3 Zoning does not at all mean that it allows for 3-Unit residences. Additionally, based on your notes about the basement being deconverted to "Stoarage" before you purchased it, sounds more to me like the biggest issue was that the basement unit was Not a legally existing unit, and the City made them deconvert the unit in order to resolve building violations. 

You've done a great job finding a lot of information on this over the past few days, and if your project is in fact located within one of the ADU pilot areas, then that is 100% the route to go in order to Legally add the 3rd dwelling unit. The ADU process will save a lot of time and money in compared to the alternative option which would be a ZBA Hearing...

Let me know if you have other questions or how else I could help!

 That's amazing if the basement unit was illegal! The basement unit still has its own(active) electric meter, gas meter, HVAC, and even gets mail/bills from usps! 

Ill fill out an application for the ADU and see's what happens.

@Michael D Valadez , unfortunately the ADU Process in Chicago is much more than just an application. They will require Architectural drawings, Licensed contractors, and a Building Permit, in addition to having field inspections of the work (even if it is already existing).

@Michael D Valadez - Let us know how it goes with your application.  We can likely help with some of the construction process when you get to that point.  Feel free to reach out.

I also just applied for an ADU at one of my properties so we can both keep people updated on this thread regarding how long the application takes, any issues that come up, and the overall progress.