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I recently moved into an apartment in Chicago and sent my security deposit check to the landlord about 2 weeks before moving in. Now, 1 week after moving in (about 3 weeks after initially sending the check) my landlord has emailed me regarding setting up an account in my name for the security deposit.

In his email he has asked for the following:

  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • SSN
  • Occupation
  • Government issued ID
  • Completed W9

This seems odd to me for several reasons:

  • Is there risk involved in him opening an account under my name? For instance he has some sort of access to it I assume, what if he misuses it in some way and my name is on the account?

  • Email does not seem like the correct place to request all of this sensitive information.

  • Why would he be starting this process just now, 3 weeks later?

The above are just my concerns, my real question is: Is this normal practice/should I provide information as is? If not then what would be the correct course of action?

I have posted this on law SE as well but was advised money might be better.

  • 1
    Law is the better place, I think. – RonJohn Sep 6 at 17:18
  • 1
    Don't send all that info over email - unless it's encrypted, which is rare. – ventsyv Sep 6 at 17:47
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In Illinois if the landlord has more than 25-units in the same complex they must pay interest to the tenant equivalent to what would have been earned at a bank. The landlord would need a W9 in order to file a 1099 when the interest is paid to you, but even if the interest was not substantial enough to warrant a 1099, the landlord is likely utilizing a trust account and banks frequently require a W9 to open these accounts.

Is there risk involved in him opening an account under my name? For instance he has some sort of access to it I assume, what if he misuses it in some way and my name is on the account?

I thought the typical approach would just be keeping the money separate via bookkeeping, or maybe opening an account to keep the funds separate, but not actually opening an account in your name. However in some states it is required to be held in a separate account, and commonly that is achieved via trust accounts. Illinois does not seem to require separate accounts, but it seems an acceptable approach regardless of whether or not it is legally required. So, the W-9 seems relevant, and I initially thought most of the other info was on the W-9, but DOB/Phone Number/Occupation/Government ID don't seem relevant. Phone is obviously a practical measure to contact you, and ostensibly they would have already used DOB/Government ID to confirm your identity, but it is odd that they are requesting those at this point.

If you've otherwise validated that this person is the owner/agent for the unit you are renting (since you're living there already this seems given), then the requested information is not too suspicious but the timing is odd and I don't know why they would need anything other than what is on the W-9. There's always concern about how sensitive information is handled, there is definitely potential for abuse/misuse.

The W-9 component is only common practice in states that require damage deposits to accrue interest.

Email does not seem like the correct place to request all of this sensitive information.

I agree, I would expect to fill out the W-9 and sign it and deliver it in person, but people are definitely in the habit of emailing sensitive information back and forth.

Why would he be starting this process just now, 3 weeks later?

The W-9 maybe wasn't relevant until damage deposit was paid, and maybe isn't urgent to have prior to move in, or it may have been overlooked initially. The information not relevant to the W-9 is more curious.

Since you are already living there, furnishing the W-9 seems reasonable, and you should ask for reasoning for the other info you haven't already provided. I would deliver the information in person, not via email.

This is all just my take based on experience as a landlord, but I don't own property or practice law in Illinois.

For reference:

(765 ILCS 715/) Security Deposit Interest Act.

  • You'd think that escrow accounts like lawyers use would be adequate. Someone should be able to shoehorn interest into them. – RonJohn Sep 6 at 17:27
  • @RonJohn They might not actually be opening a separate account at all, but just putting it in terms most people understand. Could just be adding an "account" for the tenant in their home-brew accounting spreadsheet. I keep a damage deposit account per unit because it's trivial to spin up dozens of accounts at my bank, it's just easier for me to keep it separated completely. – Hart CO Sep 6 at 17:34
  • But then they wouldn't need any other information but what they already have. – RonJohn Sep 6 at 17:36
  • @RonJohn I was thinking that most of that was on the W-9, so it would be needed, but a fair bit of that info is not relevant to W-9, updated. – Hart CO Sep 6 at 17:52
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The landlord is complying with a city ordinance that mandates security deposits must earn interest that belongs to you.

A security deposit and interest due thereon shall continue to be the property of the tenant making such deposit, shall not be commingled with the assets of the landlord, and shall not be subject to the claims of any creditor of the landlord or of the landlord’s successors in interest, including a foreclosing mortgagee or trustee in bankruptcy.

Since it can not be commingled with the landlord's assets, the second account in your name makes sense. As my state has a similar statutory requirement for security deposits after the first year, I have found out that my bank offers interest bearing "landlord tenant" savings accounts, which the landlord controls and the tenant owns.

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There is no need for a bank account for each tenant. There is no need for a W-9 form.

How to handle security deposits regarding interest is done at the state or local level. It has been suggested that the state requirement to pay the tenant the interest every year would require that a payment be sent to the tenant each year and it would trigger the requirement for a IRS W-9 form.

(765 ILCS 715/) Security Deposit Interest Act.

shall pay interest to the lessee computed from the date of the deposit at a rate equal to the interest paid by the largest commercial bank, as measured by total assets, having its main banking premises in this State on minimum deposit passbook savings accounts as of December 31 of the calendar year immediately preceding the inception of the rental agreement on any deposit held by the lessor for more than 6 months.

But looking at the recent rates:

 Year lease signed  Chicago rate Illinois Rate
 2019               0.01%        0.01%  
 2018               0.01%        0.01%  
 2017               0.01%        0.01%  
 2016               0.01%        0.05%  
 2015               0.01%        0.005%
 2014               0.013%       0.005%
 2013               0.023%       0.005%
 2012               0.057%       0.005%
 2011               0.073%       0.195%
 2010               0.073%       0.095%
 2009               0.12%        0.25%
 2008               1.26%        0.35%

At the recent rates of 0.01% that would result in as interest credit of 25 cents ($0.25) on a $2500 security deposit each year. Even if it went back to the 1.26% that would result in an interest payment of $31.50.

another provision in the law is that there is a minimum amount:

pay to the lessee any interest that has accumulated to an amount of $5 or more, by cash or credit to be applied to rent due, except when the lessee is in default under the terms of the lease. The lessor shall pay all interest that has accumulated and remains unpaid, regardless of the amount, upon termination of the tenancy.

So many times the only payment would be when they move. And the address information would be collected when they move because the law gives the landlord time to make the repairs before refunding the remaining deposit.

The W-9 form doesn't even come in until there is a payment of $600. So it would almost never be required for the yearly interest unless the security deposit was extremely large, or the interest rates jumped significantly.

I would ignore the request, and only press for more clarification after they sent more notices. It seems like they are doing a lot of work to credit you with less than $1.00 per year.

  • Yeah I kept going back and forth on the reasonableness of the request. I thought for issuing 1099-INT in this context the $10 minimum would apply, not the $600, but I didn't dig into that much. Obviously at 0.01% it doesn't matter, perhaps it's in a nice 2% account rather than earning the bare minimum. In any case, given the law requires interest to be paid it seems reasonable to me that furnishing a W-9 would be fairly standard. The timing and the other info requested is the odd part to me, not the W-9. – Hart CO Sep 9 at 0:22

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