Landlord Kidnapped While Showing Rental Property

by Chris on January 8, 2011

A landlord in Berwyn, Illinois, a town of about 50,000 just east of Chicago, was found dead after falling victim to a botched kidnapping attempt.

Police there have reported that the 45-year-old agreed to show a vacant apartment to another man in his late 30’s.  While in the apartment, two accomplices entered and the three men attempted to extort money from the landlord.  A worker who was in the apartment at the time was also attacked, and left tied up in the bathroom when the three men took the landlord out to his car. 

Later, the landlord’s family received a ransom demand of $500,000.  The suspects were captured when cell phone records indicated that they had spoken to one another near the area of the apartment.  One of the suspects led the police to the body, which was still in the landlord’s car.

Someone claiming to be a former tenant described the landlord as a caring man who treated everyone fairly, and who tended to trust people.

A local resident stated that he recognized one of the suspects as a man he frequently saw working out at a local gym. It is not known at this time if any of the suspects have prior criminal records, or if they identified themselves to the landlord.

While it is rare to come across such violent criminals, landlords are at risk for many levels of crime — including theft or assault, when showing rental properties.  There is no one way to avoid becoming a victim, but developing a safety-conscious routine may deter some criminals who would otherwise choose to target landlords:

Prequalify tenants on the phone before you agree to meet with them.  Sometimes the hassle alone is enough to deter someone looking for an easier mark.

Always prescreen applicants face-to-face before the tour in a neutral location.  That way, if there are warning signs, there is time to learn more.

Record a photo ID and take down information on the applicant’s car. Let the applicant see you send the information to someone else, like your receptionist, or to your computer.  They will realize they may get caught.

Make sure someone knows your schedule.

If possible, go on the tour with other people, or maintain cell phone contact with someone while you are there.  Work out an easy ‘code word’ you can use if you get into trouble.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

MARI JARVIS January 11, 2011 at 7:36 am

I love your website and use your credit report services each time I renew a lease. You mention that in order to avoid problems w/the walk through a landlord should pre screen and pre qualify tenants. What is the process for both pre-screening and pre-qualifying? Thank you, Mari

Chris January 11, 2011 at 8:17 am

Good question – we’ll run a post next time with specific tips on prequalifying/prescreening tenants. In the meantime, two of our property management contributors have some advice to share. I believe you will find helpful information in these links: http://www.landlordtalking.com/tips/3-tests-every-applicant-must-pass/ and
http://www.landlordtalking.com/tips/how-to-pre-quality-tenants-before-you-waste-time-money/
Thanks, Chris

Manny January 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Great and useful information. As realtors we often are focus on helping people find appropriate housing and don’t think about some of dangers of meeting strangers at the home. Your suggestions are well taken and may save a life. Thanks for the post!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: