A tight housing market and rising interest rates are excluding many potential buyers, putting pressure on Chicago’s rental market.
According to city data, 60% of Chicago residents live in rental properties, and a June report from the real estate platform Domu finds that the median rent for one-bedroom apartments in Chicago has risen 8% since January. With fierce competition for apartments, the city’s tenants – many of whom are black – are more vulnerable targets for scam artists and sleazy landlords.
The Chicago Better Business Bureau Regional Manager Dennis Horton said a common scam circulating right now is fake apartment listings created using photos of real listings, but created by people who don’t actually own the property. advertised property.
“People looking for apartments will go online and find what they think is the perfect apartment for them. They’ll see great photos with great amenities and low rents. And that’s where the trouble begins “Said Horton. “They talk to a landlord who they’ll never be in contact with other than by email or text, and then they’re asked to fill out an application, pay the deposit, the first month’s rent. then they do all these things and they never hear from that “owner” again.
Michelle Gilbert, legal and policy director of the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, said that in some cases victims even move into apartments only to find out later that the person they were paying rent to is not the legal owner of the house. property.
“We have litigated these cases where someone is posing as an agent of the landlord and sometimes even has keys, allows a tenant to move in, the tenant will pay rent. And before they know it, they get a notice that the person they’ve been dealing with isn’t the agent of the property, and then they’re forced off the property, forced to be evicted in a very short time,” says Gilbert.
A big red flag for potential fraud: the payment method renters are asked to use, Horton said.
“If you’re being asked to pay through online apps like Venmo or Zelle, you’re dealing with a scammer,” he said.
Horton said a quick online search and in-person confirmation can also help renters avoid scammers.
“Be sure to research this address online. If you look up that address online and it comes up again, you’ll know it’s being used as fraudulent property,” Horton said. “And make sure you go see the property in person. You don’t want to just take someone’s word for it that you haven’t met, because very often these flagged landlords give you an excuse as to why they can’t meet you – that they’re out of town or just want to meet you. They have several different people looking for this property so you need to jump on it now or you will lose. Make sure you are proactive and go and see the property and if you knock on the door and someone opens that door and says it’s not for rent then you have saved yourself identity theft and the loss of a lot of money.
Horton also advises owners to scan listings regularly to ensure their properties aren’t being spoofed online.
Gilbert warns landlords to carefully review eviction cases in potential tenants’ files to make sure they are not violating the Fair Housing Act themselves.
“We know that in the city of Chicago, 40% of all evictions do not result in judgments against the tenant. In fact, we know from the racial impact of eviction that if a landlord refuses to house someone just because the case has been filed, they are likely acting illegally and against fair housing for a tenant “, she said.
Gilbert said tenants should also check their records to make sure they aren’t being eliminated from consideration based on old eviction records.
“We have worked hard to seal old eviction records and it is sad to see the number of cases where the tenant is not aware of the old eviction record until a credit report is executed and he wasted money on the credit file and they probably won’t get the housing,” Gilbert said. “So check your credit. You might be eligible to have that file sealed.
Gilbert suggested the following resources for more information on tenant rights. Those wishing to learn more about closing eviction cases can contact the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing directly.