How Chicago’s rental services play rushin’ roulette

Rushin’ roulette may be as deadly to your finances as Russian roulette is to your health.

Rushin’ roulette is a nasty game played by Chicago’s predatory rental services to pressure renters into making quick and often unwise decisions.

In its basic form the game is played with simple lies: there’s nothing else available in your price range; this is the best you can do; you’ll lose this if you don’t act now; etc. Fall for the pressure to make a fast decision and your odds of getting the worst possible deal increase exponentially.

Many renters rightfully resist believing anything they’re told by a rental service agent, and a more complex game ensues. The strategy is also simple: take an application and a deposit check for an apartment that’s known to be unavailable or for which the renter won’t qualify, or hold the application without submitting it. Cash the deposit check, thereby limiting the renter’s ability to rent directly or through another agent. Delay giving the renter any information until a move-in date is imminent.

How can you guard against becoming a victim of rushin’ roulette? The most effective strategy is to have no contact with rental services, plan your rental search well in advance of your target occupancy date, and find your apartment on your own or with the help of friends and roommates. If you need assistance, work with a reputable full-service brokerage firm rather than with a rental service. You’ll be shown more options, will be much more likely to get honest advice and you’ll be less likely to be held for ransom.

If you’re determined to play rushin’ roulette with a rental service, disclose as little information about yourself and your timetable as possible. Telling a rental service, for example, that you’re only in town for two days and need to make a decision before you leave makes you a slow-flying pigeon. Putting yourself in the position of having to move within a short period of time places you at great risk: have a fallback short-term housing option available to minimize your risk.

Need help in finding an apartment? Consult YoChicago’s rental guides and at-a-glance apartment lists and take video tours of dozens of Lincoln Park and Lake View apartment buildings.

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