Apartment Listing Service Sells Database Of Scammy And Outdated Rentals

The Illinois attorney general’s office has filed suit against a Chicago-based rental property listing service for allegedly “charging consumers a membership fee for access to a property database populated largely with fraudulent or outdated rental listings.”

The service charges the fee for access to information that is readily available (often for free) from reputable sources, says AG Lisa Madigan.

“This company takes advantage of people who are looking for a place to live,” Attorney General Madigan said. “Apartment hunters need to be wary of services that ask for fees in exchange for information that may be readily available at other online sites and in local publications.”

Here’s how the operation works:

You see an ad for an apartment in a local paper. You call the number listed in the ad, but instead of the property owner, you reach this apartment rental service. Once they get you on the phone, the AG’s office says they convince you to come down to their offices where you are persuaded to pay a membership fee for access to their database.

The AG’s office says the database is full of fraudulent and outdated listings, despite the company’s guarantee that the listings are updated every week.

MADIGAN SUES CHICAGO RENTAL LISTING SERVICE FOR FRAUDULENT PRACTICES [Illinois AG]
(Photo:DCVision2006)

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  1. veg-o-matic says:

    From Chicagoland Publishing (.org..!):

    You can see why Chicagoland Publishing members have access to over 98% of the homes that are available for rent, many of which are not advertised anywhere else.

    Ha. Ha. Indeed.

  2. Riff Raff says:

    Sounds a lot like Career Builder and Monster(TM)(C)(R)*.

    * I hope that’s enough to avoid a lawsuit…

    I had the same exact experiences with those two sites:

    - Outdated listings
    – No contact from any listing I replied to

    I waited for over two months for replies from companies I found on those sites. I found a job listed on my college’s job board, and within a month I had a new job. Most online job boards are a joke.

    Now on to apartments. I have had good luck with rent.com. The companies who advertise on there actually seem to keep mostly updated entries. I even received the $100 check for signing up! I’m about to move again, and I hope to claim it yet again…

    • exploded says:

      @Riff-Raff: I’ve used careerbuilder and monster from the employer side, and I don’t think that there are a lot of outdated ads. They survive by charging employers for their ads, and the ads are not cheap at all. So it makes no sense for outdated ads to be up because it costs literally hundreds of dollars per ad.

      The bigger reason that you’ve probably never heard back from one of those job boards is I sometimes get hundreds of applications for a single job. On smaller job boards, we get far fewer applications, so it’s much easier to stand out.

  3. spoco says:

    There’s a national scam going on (Rental Homes of America) They list all of their listings with RHOA. My brother-in-law fell for this.

    They had perfect homes listed in the paper for rent. Called and paid the $59.95 membership fee, then all of a sudden those homes were not available. I’m surprised this hasn’t made the Consumerist before.

  4. PencilSharp says:

    Wait, wait… who’s running this? Homeboy Rentalz Network?!

  5. temporaryerror says:

    I’m getting ready to make a move… I’ve found in the past the best way (for me) to find a apt is to cruise areas that I’m interested and look for signs. I don’t like the masssive complexes. My past apts have all been 4-8 unit standalone buildings.

    • secret_curse says:

      @temporaryerror: I’ve found a lot of the best landlords (that I’ve dealt with, anyway) don’t really advertise their properties. They have a nice place in a good neighborhood and they know smart tenants will do exactly what you’re describing.

    • tbax929 says:

      @temporaryerror:

      I did the same. Even the large complex I live in now was “discovered” by my driving around an upscale neighborhood in which I wanted to live.

  6. TShK says:

    As terrible as Illinois politics are Lisa Madigan has been a great AG.