Dealing with Chicago rental services is an experience that's often frustrating at best and an expensive, life-disrupting nightmare at worst.
I recently sat with Tim Brent, the owner of Chicago Apartments and Condos (CAC) to glean some advice for renters about how to approach working with a rental service to help ensure that they have a good experience. CAC operates more like a traditional real estate firm than a rental service, and its practices are a good guide for renters as to the process they should expect when working with a rental service.
Rule one: Don't just walk into a rental service and expect to be shown apartments. Make an appointment with a specific person who you've talked to and who has determined that he or she can show you an apartment that is likely to meet your requirements.
Rule two: Expect that the person you're meeting will have set up showing appointments in advance of your arrival. Most apartments are occupied, and Chicago ordinances require that tenants be given advance notice of showings. If showings haven't been arranged in advance you may find yourself wasting a lot of time.
Rule three: Verify that the person you meet has a state license or is working within a valid 120-day leasing agent permit. Ask to see a driver's license to ensure that the person's licensing info matches their actual identity.
Rule four: If you make an application, your checks should not be cashed until the landlord has verbally approved you and the apartment has been taken off the market. If the approval is rescinded, expect a refund within days.
I know Tim wouldn't agree, but I'd suggest that those rules are only minimal and that renters should demand more. I'd personally recommend not dealing with anyone who hasn't been fully licensed for at least a year. Rental service staff should be trained at the firm's expense, not at the consumer's expense.
Note: I've known Tim for 20 years, and CAC has been a client of my firm in prior years.