Roommate Rental Scam

By Anne

Does anyone know anything I can do about this? If it’s a scam, it has to be stopped! Has anybody heard of a scam like this, or are these people just crazy?

I’ve lived with friends and found it to be the worst idea ever, if in fact I wished to retain them in that capacity. Living alone, I found was as lonesome in practice as it sounds on paper, and much more difficult on the pocketbook. In the spirit of adventure, last fall I turned my attention to those I’ve never met to serve as potential housemates. Perhaps this would allow for the perfect balance of privacy and presence; apprehensions aside, I’d give it a shot!

My first attempt at a craigslist partnering seemed ideal. I went to about 3 spots before finding the one… We had similar interests, viewpoints and even occupations (non-profit and grassroots advocacy). During the interview, we pulled out our flip pads filled with truth-telling questions and enjoyed a beer while discussing housing habits. I moved in within the week. Early on we coordinated efforts through our jobs, working together to provide services for our clients. I photographed her ball team during a game or two.  Is this a dream? …Don’t hold your breath.

A nightmare would be an apt description for what would transpire, if I may use a clichéd comparison. Needless to say – 6 months andthe girlfriend later, things got sour – hostile, even. Fearing for my safety, I left 15 days into my 30, mirroring the exit I witnessed early in my stay by the occupant of the other room. She had warned that he’d be leaving at our interview – said he had issues with paying the bills and had become disrespectful when coming and going, using the kitchen and bringing home guests. I should have listened to the sirens… Instead, I chose to assume that he was indeed a douche-rag.

During that week, every night, I noticed she would come out from her room to pound on the doors because he didn’t do his dishes or because he was being too loud. 10 days into the month after paying late, he cancelled his rent check and refused to write another (or so she said). His reason for this was: he shouldn’t pay for a place he was uncomfortable coming into. When she heard this she opened his room to find most everything was gone.  He had left some things, either to make us think he was coming back or because he actually was.  Immediately, the locks were changed, and when he came for the rest of his things, she refused to allow it. They ended up on a shelf, cluttering an already over cluttered garage. I wonder: Was the garage filled with remnants from the hurried departure of 7 ‘crazy, ignorant roommates’ from over the last 2 years? I’d wager on that one. In any case,/I paid the extra half of the rent that month, expecting she would take him to small claims… She didn’t even try.

For me the end came just as swift – Villainous me, I had ‘broken’ the kitchen faucet and refused to buy a new one – or so the story is passed on to the next people who move in. As the heroes, their solution is to simply buy a new one with my security money since I was at fault… For the record, I get the feeling they had damaged it because it needed replacing and then left it for me to break – knowing I was helping them wash the carpets and would use it very soon. I think they had intended to kick me out afterwards and then harass me until I left without a fight. The truth is, I’d acknowledged my part in breaking the faucet, but at the same time suggested that it was a household item – it could’ve been age what killed it, and I just happened to be the only person at home when it finally gave up the ghost.  Truth is, I went to Home Depot that night for a replacement part but was directed wrong and the part didn’t fit. On day two I discovered that the one I needed wasn’t carried individually and had to call the company for advice. It was on warranty.  During the long 2-day wait for the part, they gave me a 30 day notice to terminate, bought a new sink, destroyed the one I was going to fix and received my package right into the trash as if to justify the purchase by making it impossible to repair.

2-weeks it took for me to find a new place, and meanwhile my cable was turned off and although it was my card that had been used on the past 6 payments, no amount of convincing would persuade the company to restore the feed. Why care who pays? My name was not officially on the account. In fact, when they took a weekend trip soon after, they actually hauled the huge plasma from the living room and into their locked bedroom so I wouldn’t be able to watch anything while they were enjoying their festival. I was harassed non stop, threatened and subjected to nightly police questioning in their ongoing attempt at removing me before my legally established timeframe was ended. They had more parties/house guests in those 2 weeks than in the previous 6 months and spent much of the time outside my door talking loudly about how the room would open as soon as they could get rid of me and about how crazy I am. Of course, then came the campaign to document everything that was damaged throughout the house so that I wouldn’t get any money back.  Tiny things that I know were already there – the harder I tried to minimize any evidence of my stay, the bigger the issues got: The plumbing was suddenly my fault. A sewage cap popped off and spilt sewage right outside my window for days.  They chased the plumber I finally brought home right off the property and then documented the sewage covered driveway as damages that I refused to repair in a timely manner. They told me they’d rather live with a person of color because white folks are always acting so entitled. They called me ignorant white B!+cH every time I walked through the house and I took to going through my window when leaving if they were milling about. Imagine that! A grown woman sneaking in and out her window! Thankfully, I had the only window in the house without bars…

I installed a lock on my door to protect myself and my property but still, every time I left the house I made sure that I signed and dated a letter and posted it on my door saying that I had not yet moved out, that they may not enter and that the locks on the entrances may not be changed without providing me a copy. I took a photo each time. That there were no bars on the window was a mixed blessing. While the majority of my things were still in jeopardy I put a drumstick in the window to prevent entry. I continued to drop by once a week or so, making sure my presence was known and leaving the note with a new signature and date when I left.  I only bike, so I had to move in small trips and whenever I could get a friend to help I had them witness the note as well. It was my intent to hold the property until I had to hand over the key – the 30th of June. When most everything of mine was out and I was pretty much gone, I lightened up on the window stick and sure enough! When I came for the final load, the room was empty and my things were all just thrown in the garage. Everything they didn’t want to keep, that is. It was obvious that they thought they could keep my Tupperware and my TV since I had to put their leftovers in a bowl to retrieve the plastics and the TV was set in the corner of the room on a table with the cable box reattached. But the note was still on the door.

My guess is it’s a scam. Maybe there was a crazy once and they realized that they can force folks to leave early in the month, have time to clean and show the place and keep the deposit because everyone just washes their hands once they’ve fled. I mean, who would want to face that again, even if it’s in a courthouse. And why pay 5 to go to court for a 6 hundred dollar deposit? Everybody told me – just forget it. Leave it alone they said, it’s not worth it.  My family, friends, coworkers, the police, a legal consultant… No help from them. I tried to file charges on their threats of violence – nothing because I wasn’t actually harmed. Plus, they made a counter report on me although the cops were laughing at the very thought of little old librarian looking me waving a fist menacingly at the loomingLatina butch dike. I tried to file breaking and entering considering they actually broke in to the room and removed my property. The housing authorities were no use when I couldn’t prove discrimination based on either my race or my sexual preference because there’s no pattern of discrimination, not having known the past occupants. Even with direct statements concerning their preference for people of color, I was told that without other folks to confirm, those words just constitute words of anger, not hate. The DA told me that without other people to vouch, I can’t show that they are running a scam, even though I saw them doing the same bullying to the guy from the next room over.

I wasn’t provided the owners information so I could file a complaint or at the very least just let them know what kind of nut jobs they had living in the house. A lawyer looked up property and owner details and found a convoluted line of people claiming to have rights to the property, all with names, numbers and addresses I’ve never heard of – none that I’ve ever written a rent check out to, that’s for sure. I had a curt conversation with someone who claimed to be the owner and was unable to string two sentences together without being cut short and told to |= |_| [  |< off, essentially. She told me that she is the owner’s mother-in-law (ex) but by name identification would be the owner’s mother (same last name), not the mother of the guy I paid rent to (different last name than both) who is the ex-husband of the owner… Got that? Me neither. Regardless, she hung upon me without allowing me to ask for the contact info of the husband or wife.

Now, it’s passed – a few months have gone by; I’ve had a reprieve from the battle front and I’m thinking I should do something to recoup my losses. I should get my full deposit back! I did nothing but repair issues in the house. They saved money because I fixed holes in the drywall, re-caulked the bathtub, repainted doors that their handyman fixed but left looking unfinished. I should get my months worth of rent returned because they took my money and forced me out through intimidation. I should be reimbursed for the money I put in to cover the rent the first month I moved in when the dude bailed and may or may not have cancelled the check. I should get back the money I gave to the cable company for programming I had no access to and for all of the food and all of the hygiene products they trashed. If we’re going to nitpick, I should be able to recoup for the time I spent living with sewage outside of my window and being forced to chance personal injury while passing through a window in order to avoid a mental or physical assault.  Mostly – I should be able to receive compensation for the time I spent talking to the police late into the night and by phone during the daytime and all the strain in between. I should be able to get my share of what has been taken from me because of their hatred – ultimately issues in my place of employment – inability to concentrate on my work, continuous calls from detectives and housing reps, researching new homes, asking to leave early to look at places, tardiness from waiting for the girls to leave before venturing out of my room to shower or make breakfast. I was fired from a company I was with for almost 10 years and while I was offered unemployment insurance, I lost my family. That job was all I’ve know for my adult life. I grew up there. It’s painful.

Does anyone know anything I can do about this? If it’s a scam, it has to be stopped! Has anybody heard of a scam like this, or are these people just crazy?

Edited on: Friday, October 1st, 2010 12:40 pm

3 Responses to “Roommate Rental Scam”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)
 

Bryan Goodwin

September 10th, 2009 10:54 pm

Anne,
Let me say wow times 3! I must say that your post was very entertaining, not to down-trod your renting hardships. First things first. When it comes to renters rights, you will find that there are few people includings, police departments, District Attorney, Housing Authority, Consumer Protection Division that will care to do anything to protect your renting rights. The most common type of answer is that its a “Civil Matter” and out of their control.
So where can renters turn for help? Unless you can afford a private attorney, the Rental Protection Agency is really the only real choice when it comes to investigating your tenant rights. Now, there are a few local tenant associations that may be able to help you somewhat, but you they won’t be able to make a lasting effect like the RPA will. There are several things to consider when dealing with rent problems or even rent scams.
1) How can I stop them?
2) How can I get my rent deposit back?
3) How can I alert future tenants?
Can this be done with an rent attorney, no! They can help you get your money, but will probably have little ability to stop scams or to alert future tenants. Even, local tenant unions or associations can’t do much more than that. This leaves you with the RPA. All you really need to do is file a landlord complaint… most likely the RPA Complaint process will be just as effective at getting your money back as the other two options mentioned. However, the bigger benefit is that the entire case is documented and attached to the landlords public record. This will allow you to alert other tenants of the problem plus it should put a stop to all of their non-sense.
I used to work with one of the RPA Agents that handled complaints… they’re good, they know what they’re doing and will be the best option for resolving and stopping this scam. If you choose to file a complaint through the RPA, you will need to pay a processing fee of $35– a small price for sanity!
Good Luck!


Liz

September 26th, 2009 6:32 pm

OMGosh, I just have to say I thought I had it bad.
Girl, I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure what you have.
I’m trying to escape a “psycho-bitch” roommate situation which I won’t go into details about; and that’s why I started searching for relevant information that might help me identify my rights. Determine if I should call the police the next time she barges in my bedroom door and screams at me, demanding I engage in a conversation with her that I don’t wish to have because it would be a complete waste of time and energy!

She has an incredibly distorted perception of reality and her behavior. Oh gee, and I said I wasn’t going to go into it didn’t I? Sorry.
All I wanted to say is, to let you know that someone READ YOUR WHOLE story, and feels for you. I’d say I know your pain, but mine doesn’t even come close to what YOU’ve been through!

I don’t know about you, but I’ll NEVER, EVER have another roommate situation!! Good Luck with everything. I don’t have anything to offer you as far as resources or advice, but I will certainly pray for you!! I don’t consider myself a “religious” person but I believe in God and I do believe in prayer.

Good Luck.
Liz


Randy

May 29th, 2011 9:34 pm

I don’t allow roommates in my rentals anymore– I had way too many problems.


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