A Chicago landlord’s advice re rental services

A recent comment contains a lot of solid advice for small landlords on how to deal with Chicago’s piratical rental services. Here’s a lightly-edited version:

My advice to any landlord, newby or seasoned, is to AVOID DOING BUSINESS WITH ANY OF THEM.

If you must use them, consider the agent as simply someone who found a prospect and drove them to your building. You must be at the appointment and take over the showing and answer the prospect’s questions yourself and visit with them. Later, if the agency emails their application – which is never encrypted so the tenant’s personal information could be hacked – put it off to the side. Contact your prospects and invite them over for a second showing WITHOUT the agent present and have them fill out YOUR OWN application and release form and show an official photo ID.

Purchase their credit report from a vendor where you should have opened an account with beforehand. See Mr Landlord or The Landlord Protection Agency for help. These sites have alot of useful information for landlords. Using the signed release, fax the prospect’s present and former landlords for verification. All this must be at no cost to your applicant since they already paid an application fee to the agency. Later, you must use your own lease form and sign and collect funds at the apartment with only you present.

Keep the agent away. YOU CANNOT TRUST THE AGENCY TO PROVIDE YOU WITH TRUTHFUL BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE PEOPLE THEY BRING OVER. I had one well known agency present a phony credit report. Another threatened to pull my listing unless I agreed to sign a lease with someone I wouldn’t meet until AFTER he moved in. Another had agents who were no-shows. Another claimed to verify employment but I found that to be a lie. Another wanted me to rent where the rent was MORE than the person’s income. Another refused to give me a photocopy of the prospect’s driver’s license because “it was against Fair Housing Laws.” Another said you have to show the apartment to anyone who wants to see it – it’s unlawful to ask questions or pre-qualify.

These people do not screen who they bring over. They have a first name and cell number. That’s it, in most cases. Anybody that can fog a mirror. By not screening prospects they are annoying your tenants and putting them and their belongings and your property at risk, as well as breaking the law by not giving required advance notice. They expect immediate access. You say no pets. They bring someone with pets.

I have listed with and been solicited by many. In my opinion, all of them are sharks who only care about the commission. There is no reason to pay them to find a tenant when with a little homework, a small landlord can go it alone. The only reason they stay in business is that the majority of tenants and landlords are responsible people and the deals go through without a hitch. I’ve met only a handful of good individual agents and guess what? They leave these sharks and go into sales with a reputable brokerage. Most of the other agents I’ve met are pleasant enough (as opposed to their bosses) but are untrained and don’t really know anything about apartments or how to show them and thus are time wasters.

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