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Signing a lease with long distance landlord

Chicago, IL |


I just found an awesome apartment to rent, cheaper than usual. I called the listed number and the guy says he's in Las Vegas so he will have me sign the lease with current tenant or the management office of the building.

I don't feel like it is a scam or something, but to make sure I'm not entering something fishy, what kind of procedure/precaution should I take?

Thank you!

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Attorney answers 2

Best Answer

We agree with the other attorney that you should look on Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Perhaps the best way to find out who owns the proposed unit is to look up the unit itself though, not the person posing as its owner. The way to do this is to first look up the property identification number (PIN) for the unit. You find that number by going to the Cook County Assessor website, link below, and searching by address. Put in the street address and unit number. Then you will go to a screen that will give you a list, or single PIN, including that for the unit in question. It will look like XX-XXX-XX etc.

Then take that number to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds website, link below, and search by PIN. On that page enter the PIN, search, and you will see a list of document numbers and grantor / grantee column. The dates are most recent towards the top, and older going down. Find the most recent (highest up on the list) "deed", see who is the "grantee", and there you are looking at the owner of the unit. If the name is a corporate entity, you may be able to look up its information and owners' names on the secretary of state's website, link below. If it is a land trust, then unfortunately it will not be easy to find out who the human is behind that trust. One trick might be to see who pays the property tax bills, at the Cook County Treasurer's website, where you'll again need the same PIN. Link below.

You are wise to be cautious, because we have had a number of people come to us who gave money as rent / deposit to someone who ended up being either a tenant, subtenant, or unrelated third party that did not own or have authority to lease the property
With the advent of people posting photos of interiors of their units on the internet, and the ease of copying those and re-posting on a different site that a nefarious actor controls, more people are getting scammed. Throw into that mix people who really DO own the condo they want to rent to you, but are not telling you they are close to or in foreclosure.

Finally, since it sounds like this is a condo in Chicago, and covered by the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO), link below, you should be getting the name address and phone number of a designated agent of the landlord pursuant to Section 090 of that ordinance, and also the name and address of the bank where your deposit will be deposited, in writing, on the lease.

That all said, as long as the landlord gives you the name and address and phone number of an agent for receipt of notices and service of process, they actually are not required to be here in Illinois or even to tell you WHERE they are in the rest of the world, and they are entitled to have 3rd parties who do not own the property take full control of renting it out and collecting leases and money.

This information is general and does not constitute legal advice, or create an attorney client relationship.


Dear Potential Tenant: I would go to the management office and see if this individual is the owner of the unit. Ask the management office for verification. You can also check with the Cook County Recorder of Deed's Web Site using the Grantor/Grantee tool to search to see if he is the owner of record.

Find out where you are to send the rent check. Do not give anyone any money until you have verified the owner.

I would insist that the landlord appoint an agent such as the management company to retain the security deposit and be your contact in the event that there is a problem with the unit.

These are just some quick thoughts. Hope they help. Good luck.

This is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The post is only an opinion. You should speak to an attorney for further information. The poster is licensed only in IL. Please visit for more information about our services. If this post is useful to you, please remember to vote it up. Thank you.

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