March 16, 2011 (SAN DIEGO) - As a result of 93 consumer complaints filed in the last 36 months, the Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning to consumers regarding the services of Rent San Diego Properties, a local property management firm.
Though complaints vary, the vast majority of past consumers report that Rent San Diego Properties requires an $88 upfront fee in return for sharing their rental listings. After the consumer receives the list, they often find that the properties listed are already inhabited, or misrepresented by the company in order to expand their database.
“Per the contract, if Rent San Diego Properties did not provide me with at least three available rental properties meeting my criteria within the first five days, I was entitled to a full refund, provided I notified them within 10 days,” explained past customer Alicia Mertz. “So I faxed a refund request, stating explicit details about why the terms were not met. I was told that my request was invalid.”
Rent San Diego Properties primarily advertises its property listings over Craigslist. They lead perspective consumers back to their website with the promise that they can provide clients with the most exclusive and coveted properties in the city. While Rent San Diego Properties operates almost solely over the internet, they have a local office at 7966 Arjons Drive in San Diego and provide the same services in Orange County.
The BBB has also fielded complaints from concerned property owners, as well as consumers, who have seen their property advertised through Rent San Diego without their prior consent. A 17-year veteran in the rental business, property owner Jean-Marie Barbara contacted the BBB citing that the company duplicated his listing.
“This company has never contacted us to ask if they could advertise for us and we certainly never heard of them. In fact, all they are doing is taking away [from] our business by directing potential tenants to other apartments or units,” said Barbara. “This is plain wrong.”
A recent investigation of current Rent San Diego Properties uncovered:
· Nine different phone numbers under which the company operates. Within the last eight days, each phone number had an average of 70 listings attached to it on Craigslist alone.
A BBB investigator contacted Rent San Diego Properties, posing as a potential client, and spoke with a Rent San Diego Properties customer service representative who confirmed that there is a “one-time application fee” of $88.
The company representative also confirmed to our investigator that perspective tenants “pretty much” have to go through Rent San Diego Properties to see the Craigslist property, and that there is no other way to contact the landlord or property manager. They also guarantee placement to callers, citing that perspective clients don’t have to pay until they have seen the listings.
The BBB contacted Laverne Bosse, owner of Rent San Diego Properties, who has a Prepaid Rental Listing Services license with the California Department of Real Estate. She claimed that Rent San Diego Properties entertains nearly 10 new clients each day, and around 75 total clients a week.
When asked if she thought her listings were misleading or false, Bosse explained that her staff asks clients what they are looking for in a rental property and then “shows them exactly what we have.” She denied claims that the listings were, or have ever been falsified.
“We don’t guarantee [that the leads] are exclusive,” said Bosse. “We aren’t working exclusively with landlords.”
While the service that Rent San Diego Properties and other prepaid rental listing companies provide is not illegal, the BBB recommends consumers:
· Use extreme caution when dealing with anonymous internet listings. Never exchange money or personal information until you have seen the property or have signed and understood the contract.
· Ask questions. Know what you need and want to ask before paying or signing anything, and always verify the answers.
· Read the contract or lease. Using prepaid rental listing services can ease the stress of finding a new place to live, but make sure you are knowledgeable of the actual service a company is offering, their refund policies and service charges before entering into a contract.
· Check the BBB Business Review before deciding on a company.
The non-profit organization Better Business Bureau of San Diego and Imperial Counties opened in 1921, and is San Diego’s largest county-wide business membership organization with more than 6,300 accredited businesses and charities. The BBB promotes business ethics through voluntary self‑regulation, consumer and business education, and helps consumers with free pre‑purchase information and consumer protection advice, including business reviews on more than 101,000 local companies. Before buying decisions are made, consumers are encouraged to phone the BBB's free 24‑hour Consumer Helpline at (858) 496‑2131 or (800) 600‑7050, or visit the website at bbb.org, to obtain free pre-purchase information and a list of BBB accredited businesses by type of industry.
Public Relation and Marketing Coordinator
Better Business Bureau, San Diego