A visit to Exchange Apartment Finders

Yesterday morning I visited 1531 N Ashland Ave, the address listed on its website for Exchange Apartment Finders (EAF). My goal was to interview the owner of the firm about a report that it had been referred to the Attorney General’s office for criminal prosecution.

The address is a nondescript building with no permanent signage for EAF or any other business. The front door, kept open by an extended deadbolt, opens into a vestibule with two metal doors and a steep stair leading to a third door.

There was no signage to indicate which door, if any, led to the EAF offices. I rapped loudly and repeatedly for several minutes, metal on metal, on both doors without any response – other than a dog’s bark. I considered climbing the two flights of stairs, but was dissuaded by the dog’s bark – too great a distance between the top door and the exit.

A City of Chicago business license certificate, issued to William S. Tarr doing business as Chicago Apartment Exchange, was taped to the left door in the vestibule. I’ve visited very many businesses in Chicago over many years but had never before encountered a business license displayed outside of an office. It might be an attempt to gull the naïve into believing that EAF is licensed to do business as a real estate broker. It isn’t, and it’s been disciplined twice in the past for doing business without a broker license.

James C. Tarr and Exchange Apartment Finders — 11/21/00 — The Real Estate Salesperson license of James Tarr was suspended for 15 months, then placed on probation with a fine assessed of $3,000 for unlicensed practice of real estate, failure to have a sponsoring broker, and improper handling of escrow money. The unlicensed rental apartment finding service must get licensed and obtain a managing broker.

James C Tarr February 17, 2005 — The real estate salesperson license was permanently revoked, and a $10,000.00 fine was assessed, for aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of real estate by a corporation, engaging in the practice of real estate on behalf of someone other than the sponsoring broker, failing to properly register multiple assumed business names, aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of an individual, and grossly failing to comply with the terms and conditions of a prior Consent Order dated November 21, 2000.

EAF isn’t the only apartment rental service doing business in Chicago without being properly licensed by the State of Illinois. State oversight of the rental service industry is extremely lax, and many of the firms in the industry operate in a completely lawless fashion, employing unlicensed personnel and placing 1,000s of bait-and-switch ads on Craigslist daily.

First-time renters are often confused about whether ads are placed by a landlord / management or by a rental service. There are new rental services oozing up almost daily, and we periodically update our rental service do-not-call list to account for them.

If you’re determined to work with an apartment rental service, prepare yourself by learning the twenty-five things the rental services won’t tell you.

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