The slick-looking Web sites for apartment rental / locator / finder services tell you that you’ve arrived at Chicago’s premier FREE rental service offering experienced, knowledgeable agents and the largest database of available apartments. That’s typically hooey.
Here’s what you absolutely need to know about rental services that they won’t tell you:
1. We hired shills to plant all the positive reviews you read about us on Yelp, or wrote them ourselves.
2. Our service isn’t free. We charge a month’s rent as a commission and you’re paying it in the cost of your rent. With some landlords you pay it in the form of higher rent; with others in the reduced services and maintenance they deliver.
3. You’re not our client. Landlords and management companies are our clients.
4. We will only show you a very limited selection of apartments from a fairly small number of landlords and management companies.
5. Most landlords refuse to do business with us.
6. The landlords we work with often give us only their difficult-to-rent dogs and easily rent their best apartments tenant-direct on their own.
7. We won’t show you any of the 1,000s of MLS-listed apartments, homes and condos, many of which are better deals than what we will show you because a) we only get half a month’s rent commission on those places and b) we have to do more work to get those deals done. We’re paid to move the merchandise, not to help you.
8. We’ll steer you away from some great apartments because they only pay half a month’s rent commission.
9. We’ll lie to you about why we won’t show you apartments next door to ones we do show you.
10. That apartment you called on never existed at the advertised price. We’ll tell you it’s already been rented.
11. Your agent will try to bully you or lie you into paying more rent than you want to. S/he is desperate for the extra commission dollars and knows s/he’ll never see you again.
12. We ask you to give us info in advance and make an appointment, but the appointment’s a cattle call and you’ll need to give us that info all over again when you arrive.
13. Your agent may have a criminal record – we don’t check. We’ll hire anyone with a driver’s license who can fog a mirror, although we strongly prefer young, good-looking, naïve white kids who couldn’t land a real job.
14. There’s a good chance that your agent doesn’t have the license required by state law. Many of them can’t pass the test or can’t afford the fees. And we don’t pay much attention to state laws.
15. Your agent may be a total rookie who knows nothing about the apartments or neighborhoods s/he’s showing you.
16. We’ll allow you to apply for an apartment we know you won’t qualify for financially and will take our sweet time in telling you that you were rejected. The closer you get to your move date and the more of your money we have, the more we own you.
17. We know you don’t know your rights so we won’t give you the required heating cost disclosure and will lie to you about heating costs. Your $600 monthly bill is not our problem, sucker.
18. When we show you apartments you’re likely to encounter upset tenants. We don’t give them the legally required advance notice that we’re showing the place.
19. We’ll show you places way out of the neighborhood you’ve told us you want to live in and way out of your price range.
20. We’ll tell you that you’re a fool not to take what we have to show you, that it’s all that’s available, when we know that’s far from the truth.
21. When you fill out an application for an apartment we have no idea whether it’s already been rented. Dozens of other rental services have the same listings we do.
22. We make a nice buck out of overcharging you for a credit report.
23. Many landlords know that we’ve given them whited-out photocopied faked credit reports and won’t accept the ones we submit to them. The landlord may charge you again for a credit report.
24. If we owe you money you’ll have a devil of a time collecting it from us.
25. We know that many of the landlords we represent are the scum of the earth. We could care less.
This started out as a top-ten list and quickly got out of hand. It could go on at length.
If you’re looking for an apartment along Chicago’s lakefront from the South Loop to Lake View, you can find all of your options in our Guides and at-a-glance lists. If you’re searching apartments on Craigslist, keep our do-not-call list handy to ensure that you’re not contacting a rental service rather than a landlord or management company.