Chicago’s dirtiest dozen apartment rental services – iMove Chicago is #3

by Joe Zekas on 1/21/13

There are scores of rental services on YoChicago’s do-not-call list. We’re singling out twelve of them – the ones we consider the dirtiest dozen – for a closer look, as part of our Craigslist Apartment Cleanup.

The top spot (chronologically) on our dirtiest dozen roster went to Rent Proactive. Next up on our roster was Urban Lux.

The number three spot goes to an outgrowth Chicago, an outgrowth of the now-defunct Rent Smart, itself a successor to the also-defunct Blue Property. iMove’s Managing Broker, Erick Ocasio, has been associated with all three firms, and we first called attention to misleading advertising by him nearly 7 years ago.

The order of our selection isn’t meant to imply that one company is worse than the other. We don’t believe there are enough differences among the companies in our dirtiest dozen to rank order them.

Longevity is the first qualifier for earning a place among our dirtiest dozen – the company has to have first come to our attention some time ago. An online presence that we deem to be significant and frequently untruthful is the second criterion. The goals of the Craigslist Apartment Cleanup include seeking sanctions for illegal online behavior and legislative changes to reduce its incidence, and that requires us to focus on behavior that we can carefully document over a period of time.

We recently posted about iMove Chicago’s misleading property ads. In the course of that post we wondered whether iMove’s promises to new agents were any more credible than the ones in its property ads.

Leasing agents will stay at a company that delivers on its promises, and quickly abandon one that doesn’t. Let’s look at iMove Chicago’s agent-retention record.

Last year iMove Chicago welcomed 28 named individuals to its rental “team” in four separate blog posts dated January 25, March 6, March 30 and August 15.

According to the IDFPR database, only four of the 28 agents were licensed at the time they joined iMove. None of the four currently holds an active real estate license. One is a licensed Home Inspector and one is a licensed Community Association Manager.

Six of the 28 named individuals acquired licenses after joining iMove, and five of those six licenses are still active. Only one is shown in the IDFPR database as associated with iMove Chicago, and that license is sponsored by iMove’s Erickson Ocasio.

Other individuals joined and left iMove Chicago without having been named in a blog post, and yet others joined and are still there. One of the ones who joined and left before attaining her license reached out to me by email with information about iMove’s operations.

From what we can document, iMove Chicago has a 1 in 29 agent-retention record. Read the promises in the screen cap, above, of iMove’s recruiting ad at Craigslist in light of that record.

The iMove-ex who reached out to us suggested we take a closer look at John Mockridge, an iMove agent who was issued a Leasing Agent license on October 26 of last year.

According to Mockridge’s LinkedIn profile he has been employed at iMove since December of 2011. He presumably started at iMove, as do most of its new hires, on a 120-day leasing agent permit. Is he lying about his dates of employment, or was he committing a misdemeanor violation of the Real Estate License Act by being continuously employed at iMove well beyond 120 days?

We’ve documented a great deal more about iMove Chicago’s online and offline behavior, and we’ll continue to document it, as we will for all of the dirtiest dozen. In due time we’ll present that documentation to the state licensing authorities, and it will be part of the case we make to spur the state legislature to reform the licensing law.

We already have a number of other firms in our cross-hairs, and we’ve called specific instances of what we consider illegal behavior to their attention. We’ll continue to do that, to afford them an opportunity to clean up their act – and as evidence that a failure to do so amounts to willful disregard of the law.

IDFPR has the statutory power to levy fines of up to $25,000 and to suspend or revoke licenses. We don’t believe that $25,000 fines are sufficient to deter recurrences of the kind of behavior we’ve observed over the years, and are hoping that our efforts will result in license suspensions or revocations. We’re also coming to the conclusion that the Leasing Agent license and 120-day permit should be abolished by legislative action as part of cleaning up Chicago’s rental service industry.

How you can help
If you’ve previously worked for a firm you consider one of the dirtiest dozen – or are currently employed by one – and are willing to share relevant inside information about their operations, send an email to yojoe at yochicago dot com or call me at 312-280-9780 x 100. I won’t accept information sent anonymously, but I will keep your identity strictly confidential.

If you’re a landlord or management company that hasn’t given express written authority to rental services to advertise your property, join the Craigslist Apartment Cleanup. If going public is too much of a commitment, monitor rental service ads at Craigslist, hotpads, Trulia and Zillow and flag ads for your property that were placed without your authorization or that involve pirated use of your copyrighted photographs. You can also notify me that you wish to be a silent supporter of the campaign and have YoChicago staff monitor rental service ads for your property.

If you’re in the market to rent an apartment, help yourself and other renters by flagging spam ads at Craigslist. Trulia, Zillow and hotpads have links to report / flag problems as part of each ad. Use them.

If you’re a leasing agent who’s interested in complying with federal, state and local laws that affect online advertising, ask your managing broker to invite me for an office-wide on-site training session. What you learn might save you from incurring $10s of $1,000s in fines or a disciplinary action that permanently blights your future.

Show your support for our efforts by liking our Craigslist Apartment Cleanup page at Facebook.

NOTE: At the margins YoChicago competes with rental services for landlord marketing dollars, so we have a financial stake in keeping the competition honest. Make whatever you will of that.

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