State levies $100,000 fine on Exchange Apartment Finders

The Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation has levied a $100,000 civil penalty (pdf) against The Exchange Apartment Finders (EAF) and ordered it to cease and desist the unlicensed practice of real estate.

Four individuals affiliated with EAF were also fined $5,000 each and ordered to cease and desist unlicensed practice: Delight Cherry, RJ Seidel, Lara Brooke and Alex Coursen.

We’ve previously reported on fines levied against the firm in 2000 and 2005 for unlicensed practice, and on an unconfirmed report that a principal of the firm had been referred for criminal prosection.

IDFPR’s nearly 15-year history with EAF illustrates just how ltitle protection you can expect as a renter from the State of Illinois’ licensing laws.

Operating without the state-required license is a common practice at Chicago’s rental services, despite the fact that it’s a criminal offense to do so.

We’ve written a number of times about individuals with criminal convictions who’ve been granted licenses and work for rental services. More recently, we spotlighted an instance of a career criminal working for a rental service under a false identity.

If you’re looking for an apartment in Chicago, you’re an absolute fool if you agree to work with a rental service leasing agent without first checking their license status and disciplinary history at IDFPR. Select “Real estate” from the drop-down list at the top of the form.

When you check the status of a license you may find that the individual is a “Licensed Real Estate Leasing Agent Student,” i.e. operating on a 120-day pre-licensing permit. These individuals are inexperienced, are often not properly vetted or trained by the firms that employ them, often work beyond the 120-day permit period, and drop out of the business in large numbers.

You wouldn’t respond to an email spammer and you shouldn’t respond to a Craigslist spammer. Search a leasing agent’s name in the housing section of Craigslist. Avoid any agent who places repetitive ads, i.e. spam, in violation of Craigslist’s terms of use.

We think it shows poor judgment to work with a rental service a/k/a apartment locator a/k/a apartment finder. If you’re determined to do so, work only with an agent who has at least two years’ experience as a licensed broker, who does not have a criminal record, and who isn’t a Craigslist spammer. Learn some of the things that rental services won’t tell you.

YoChicago’s rental service do-not-call list links to some of the posts we’ve written about some of the rental services on the list.

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