Yesterday, Chicago news outlet Fox 32 reported on the plight of three local women who have been victimized by rental scams. Unfortunately, rental scams are becoming more and more common as tenants with less than ideal rental histories or credit scores are taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords.
The first of the three women followed by the story was Tamika Johnson, who found a Cloverlawn property for rent on Craigslist and, after a visit to the home, decided to rent it. Johnson paid a $675 security deposit and application fee in anticipation of moving in after some repairs had been made to the property. When Johnson arrived on her move-in date, however, she found the property be a disaster.
According to Johnson, “There was no side door. The hot water wasn’t working and it was just filthy.” When Johnson asked the landlord to return her deposit, he claimed that it had been placed in an escrow account.
Nearby on Cloverlawn, Ciera Parks paid a $1,500 security deposit to rent a property for which she signed a lease before seeing it. According to Parks, the home has no furnace, missing water pipes, no kitchen sink or stove, and the ceiling in one of the bedrooms is falling down. To make matters worse, the property has fallen into foreclosure and Parks has been unable to communicate with the company that owns it. Parks is not optimistic about getting her deposit back, commenting that the situation is “very stressful. I’m tired, stressed out. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I’m going to get money back.”
Finally, there’s Ashleigh Auten, a 20-year-old pregnant and a single mother. Auten found a fake listing on Zillow by a man identifying himself as the owner, Patrick Williams. Auten wired the scammer $700 through Western Union, but then he asked for more money. Auten refused to send any more money. Auten has since discovered that the home she found on Zillow is actually for rent, but not by the individual with whom she communicated.
According Better Business Bureau representative Melanie Dusquesnel, renters should “take [their] time and do [their] homework. It’s a difference between having money do what you want it to do versus having your money do for somebody else what they want it to do.”
In Chicago, renter protections are embodied in the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (“RLTO”), codified at Title 5, Chapter 12 of the Municipal Code of Chicago. Enacted in 1986, the RLTO covers all dwelling units in the City of Chicago, with certain exceptions such as school dorms and units in hotels and motels. The RLTO covers a number of different disputes that can arise between a landlord and tenant, including security deposit, property condition, and repair/maintenance disputes.
The provisions of the RLTO can be very complex and, as discussed above, have significant interplay with Illinois state law in certain circumstances. If you have questions regarding the RLTO or believe you have been the victim of the unfair practices of a landlord, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.