I did something a little out of character today. I turned into a nag and put a company on blast for scamming me.
It’s not that I don’t like to stand up for what’s right or whatever, it’s that I don’t like to cause a scene. I weigh my options very carefully when I have to throw a lot of energy behind something. And I hate doing something half-assed. I would rather not do something at all than not give it everything.
So lets rewind to December 2011 when I started a whirlwind adventure called, “So You’ve Landed A Job In New York City.” This midwestern kid was aiming to get her first apartment on her own and had no idea what to expect. I had about two weeks to search for a place, and from what everyone had told me, this didn’t seem like an issue considering how fast the New York City real estate market moves. I spent every free minute I had looking at Craigslist ads, researching neighborhoods, getting advice, trying to be as prepared as possible. And then I had one day to go down to the big, bad city to look at places and find the Prince Charming of apartments.
Possibly one of the most stressful trips of my life up until that point (my LA trip from June still beats it). We worked with one realtor who was a friend of a brother of my boyfriend’s sister’s boyfriend, and she was extremely nice but nothing she showed me was a great option. Especially not the place she showed me in East Harlem.
So a guy from this little company called Rapid Realty had contacted me when I started this search back in Buffalo. He had spent some of his childhood in Buffalo, so I immediately thought he would be trustworthy. I managed to get in touch with him as my mother and I sat exasperated and exhausted in a Starbucks near Penn Station, and he was able to set up an appointment to see an apartment out in Queens. I was relieved to walk around in a neighborhood where I didn’t feel like I was going to die, and to see an apartment that actually worked for me and was within my price range.
I was ready to get paperwork and payments rolling since I needed approval as soon as possible so I could have a place to live once my job started. The realtor was informed of this before he even showed me the place. Rather than getting down to business and applying right then and there, he was all like, “I’ll have our closer call you tomorrow.” I was so tired and happy to have found a place I almost didn’t care.
And then I learned what a nightmare it is to apply for an apartment in New York City, especially when you need to be approved within days. I went back and forth with this closer dude, trying to get bank information to wire over my security deposit, making sure I had all the necessary documents. And of course he would always forget something and we would have to run back to my mom’s office to use the fax machine and send another document over. To say it was draining would be an understatement.
After all this, I still didn’t know if I was approved. I was packing up my Uhaul and didn’t know if I was approved. We made it to Staten Island all the way from Buffalo before I knew I was approved.
My parents and I ate at a local diner that night after finally unpacking the truck. It was a pretty standard diner, and my dad proclaimed that the burger there was the best thing he’s ever eaten. It’s amazing what a lack of sleep and stress can do to your mind.
Fast forward three months, everything seems to be fine with my first apartment. I still feel like a kid living in a dorm given how tiny my little studio was, but overall it was fine. And then a leak developed in the middle of my ceiling and it was never properly fixed. For nine months I dealt with buckets on my coffee table, having my laptop and other electronics get drenched, and not once was I reimbursed for items that were damaged (like the carpet I brought to the apartment) or for rent I was paying in order to live in a place that was uninhabitable.
I learned very quickly how shady my management company was, especially when they switched the building manager without informing us, and then also changed the name of the company altogether without any notice. My superintendent was the only good person who worked for that company and he fought so hard to have my ceiling fixed or to get me reimbursed, and when I would call them to check up on it, they would said he didn’t do any of that.
Needless to say, I knew I was moving when my lease was up. I started looking for a new place four months in advance. I can’t tell you how happy I was to sign the document saying I wouldn’t renew and telling the new building manager that there was nothing he could do to keep me with their company.
I hoped the last contact I had with him would be when I gave him my new address where he could send my security deposit. Three months passed before he told me they were keeping it since I never paid my last month’s rent.
Going back to the initial deposits on the apartment. I was told I needed one month’s security deposit ($1250), first and last month’s rent ($2500) and a one month broker’s fee ($1250). I paid all of these and had the receipts for them. I told the management company this…and they said they only required one month’s security deposit and first month’s rent. So I go back to Rapid Realty and ask if they can provide any documentation showing that they also gave the management company my last month’s rent. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, wasn’t at all on the offense, just stated that I wanted their help in showing that the management company owed me the security deposit. I spoke with an agent there that seemed like she wanted to help me, sent over all the receipts, told this whole story. She said they would get back to me. I check a month later, because why not give them plenty of time, and all she says is that corporate is still looking into it.
I have emailed at least once a month since this started in April, and that is the only response I’ve ever received from them. There is $1250 missing that belongs to me, and they couldn’t care less and have probably pocketed it as some undocumented profit.
I wish I could tell you I don’t need that money, but I live in New York City where prices constantly go up and where my paycheck is sucked dry before it even hits my bank account. I don’t even live anything close to an extravagant lifestyle, but that is money I most certainly need.
Today I decided I had had enough of them ignoring me. I wrote a Yelp review exposing what they did to me, and it sits alongside many other poor reviews of others getting swindled out of money and baited. I have emailed that agent again and copied the guy who closed the deal for me back in December 2011. He conveniently no longer works for them. She has yet to respond to my email. I emailed their generic email address asking how I can get in touch with corporate, given that the number listed on their site has led me nowhere. I sent them a Facebook message asking the same thing.
Where do I go next? I’m sure Gothamist has covered this more than enough times for it not to be newsworthy. I could probably submit a list to Buzzfeed of why you should never work with either of these companies. I think NY1 has more important stories to cover than a young girl from Buffalo getting scammed by Rapid Realty. I need to do something to get their attention though, and legal action might be too expensive if it’s not worth it. God knows they probably wrote some loophole into something I signed that allows them to keep my money.
As I sit here typing this, I can’t believe it’s allowed to happen. But these types of things just go unnoticed in a city as big as New York that has much larger problems. In Buffalo, all I would have to do is call up my local TV news station or get in touch with my newspaper contacts, and as a community we would bring these crooks to their knees. In New York City, no one cares. They’ve probably also been scammed and dragged through something much worse than I have.
I’m hoping that something I’ve done today will get their attention and convince them to get in touch with me before I start screaming louder. I know many people don’t read my blog, but perhaps it will show up in someone’s Google search and they won’t make the same $1250 mistake that I did.
Or hey, maybe someone in that company will have a heart and give me my money back. Doubtful.