For many people, rent-to-own sounds like a simple and practical agreement—live in the house as a tenant, pay rent each month, and have the rent count toward the purchase of the property. Unfortunately, these transactions are anything but simple. The paperwork is often drawn up incorrectly, is incomplete, or is simply contradictory to what the buyer and seller verbally agreed upon. A traditional home purchase involves at least one realtor, a title insurance company, a mortgage company, and a settlement company; it is a professionalized industry that takes ordinary purchasers by the hand and leads them through the complicated process. Rent-to-own transactions present a seemingly viable option for people who have been shut out of this traditional lending market—those with low-income or poor credit, or who simply can’t save up the necessary funds to go to closing. These people are left to desperately circumvent the system, and they come across unscrupulous sellers, often career landlords who operate their own business and prepare their own documents. The power imbalance is palpable.
This video, which features Community Legal Services attorney Jennifer Schultz and her client, Wilmarie, tells the story of one rent-to-own agreement gone wrong, and educates people on the dangers of rent to own agreements.
To learn more about rent-to-own agreements and how you may be able to get legal help, visit
Funding for this video was provided by the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation