It's that time of year again....annual city inspections. Yes, each year our bed & breakfast undergoes a City of Chicago inspection as a part of our license renewal. The inspection includes and on-site review by the Chicago Fire Department. Fire extinguishers are checked for current year service tags (an outdated yellow inspection tag is a tell tale sign of no recent inspection). Of particular interest are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Of course each must be in working order. Additionally, fire safety evacuation maps must be posted in each guest room. The Department of Buildings inspects our physical structure for soundness and maintenance to identify issues that could affect public safety. These protections are all part and parcel of staying in a licensed B&B. As yourself if the vacation rental you found on Craigslist or AirBNB affords the same piece of mind. At House 5863, we take your safety seriously and are proud to undergo an annual inspection so that you know we are not only a comfortable but also a safe place to stay in Chicago.
Ok, just a few thoughts that I want to share about lodging and hotel alternatives in Chicago. Recently, there has been an explosion of available options. You may have heard of AirBnB.com or you may have come across one of the many advertisements placed on the vacation rentals section of Craigslist. It seems as though everyone has a couch or a condo to rent by the night or week. In large part, this has been driven by both the need for alternatives and present market conditions in real estate.
I found it interesting to learn about the impetus behind AirBnB while at a Inman conference in San Francisco. The idea was launched by several guys who literally wanted to see if there was a market for renting an air mattress to area visitors. Well, there was and the site took off from there. Now AirBnB has vacation rentals around the world. Similarly, even a cursory review of Craigslist vacation rentals will reveal hundreds of lodging options from a lowly couch to luxurious condominiums with all the benefits of home away from home.
I must offer a few words of caution to those considering one of these two alternatives. First, know what you are getting. Ask if the party you are renting from is reputable. Are you turning your money over to a stranger? What protections do you have? What would you do if you arrive and the property is not available, is not as described, or worse , the whole thing is a scam. Craigslist is replete with those offering multiple ways to help you part with your money. Is the property safe, secure, etc...
In Chicago, as of 2011, vacation rentals must be licensed. Ask for that information before you do business with any rental property owner. And, that goes for AirBnB rentals as well. Just because they are listed on that site doesn't mean they are licensed. MANY MANY MANY rental operators are not licensed and by doing business with them you are at risk.
A better alternative is to consider one of Chicago's many Bed & Breakfast options. Chicago licenses all B&Bs and to get this license, the establishment has to undergo a thorough inspection by the buildings depatment and the Chicago Fire Department. Each year the properties are re-inspected. Additionally, reputable B&Bs are members of the Chicago Bed & Breakfast Assciation http://www.chicago-bed-breakfast.com. Check with that group to find links to all Chicago B&Bs.
Chicago has many alternatives to the traditional hotel, but exercise caution in making your choices. Always ask if the benefit of saving a few dollars is woth the risk of a ruined vacation or visit.