Is Chicago Apartment Finders soliciting students to commit a crime?

by Joe Zekas on 5/1/13

The Illinois Real Estate License Act requires people who refer or assist in referring apartment rental prospects for compensation to be licensed. Acting in such a capacity without a license is a Class A misdemeanor.

Section 5-20 (10) of the Act provides a limited exemption from the license requirement for resident referral programs:

Any resident lessee of a residential dwelling unit who refers for compensation to the owner of the dwelling unit, or to the owner’s agent, prospective lessees of dwelling units in the same building or complex as the resident lessee’s unit, but only if the resident lessee (i) refers no more than 3 prospective lessees in any 12-month period, (ii) receives compensation of no more than $1,500 or the equivalent of one month’s rent, whichever is less, in any 12-month period, and (iii) limits his or her activities to referring prospective lessees to the owner, or the owner’s agent, and does not show a residential dwelling unit to a prospective lessee, discuss terms or conditions of leasing a dwelling unit with a prospective lessee, or otherwise participate in the negotiation of the leasing of a dwelling unit.

Chicago Apartment Finders (CAF) and CAF Management are assumed names for Apartment Finders Inc, a licensed Illinois broker. CAF and CAF Management, as pictured above, are offering free rent from May 27 through August 25 at 777 South State to students who refer 5 friends, and half off the rent to students who refer 3 friends.

Referring 5 friends and accepting free rent for the summer is a clear violation of the law’s limit of “3 prospective lessees” and puts a student at risk of having committed a crime. Referring 3 friends and accepting half off the rent for a 13-week period is just as clear a violation of the statutory limit of “the equivalent of one month’s rent.”

It’s also a violation of the Act for a licensee such as CAF to pay compensation to an unlicensed person.

We recently wrote about CAF’s employing an agent with a criminal record. CAF is also now apparently trying to spawn criminals.

CAF is on our rental service do-not-call list. Working with any of these firms puts a renter at risk in a number of ways. It isn’t difficult to find an apartment in Chicago, especially if you’re looking in the popular lakefront neighborhoods covered by our rental guides and at-a-glance apartment lists. Chicago also has a number of reputable brokerage firms that assist renters in finding apartments and condos for rent. Why take a chance on working with a rental service?

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