“A San Francisco woman has been arrested and charged with bilking would-be apartment renters of thousands of dollars apiece by accepting their deposits [of $5,600] and then spinning a tale that they couldn’t move in for a while because her mother had cancer…Rachael Marie Smith, 29, recruited victims by posting ads on Craigslist, offering to rent her apartment on the 5300 block of California Street near 15th Avenue…”
S.F. woman accused of bilking would-be tenants [SFGate]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    So all those socketsite commenters who post over and over again that buying in The City is too expensive relative to renting and that a 2x ownership premium is too much?
    Consider situations like the one described above as just one of many counterarguments. And while this is just one anecdote, the general lesson we should take away is that owners don’t get taken for their security deposit by greedhead grifter landladies.

  2. Posted by Live Smart

    The real lesson here for prospective renters is never give a security deposit and first month’s rent without a simultaneous signing of the lease and delivery of possession (getting the keys.)
    Ms. Smith just pissed away what is left of her future. Good luck finding a job, place to live, ever with an arrest and civil record for fraud.

  3. Posted by sfrenegade

    How much was the apartment rent, $2800? So she was asking for two-months’ deposit?
    In the current climate, I’ve had two friends tell me that they refused to rent SFRs that required more than one-month’s deposit because generally such a request correlated well to those who were likely financially distressed and would likely be foreclosed on, especially if they were first-time landlords. At least one landlord-to-be required a deposit that was suspiciously close to what her mortgage payment would have been on her overpriced purchase. And there are certainly some scammers out there like this lady (and also ones who don’t actually own the properties they are claiming to own).

  4. Posted by HappyRenter

    @Brahma,
    I think you meant to say that owners only need to worry about getting taken for their downpayments by greedhead grifter mortgage brokers.
    :)

  5. Posted by lyqwyd

    Brahma, how do you know she’s the owner? It doesn’t say it anywhere in the article, is there another article with more details?

  6. Posted by dub dub

    On the other hand, one can afford to be fleeced quite often this way if the alternative is a 2x ownership premium :-)

  7. Posted by Live Smart

    sfrenegade – even in this economy, landlords will still ask for one and a half months worth of security deposit, not one month’s. This offers some protection against a tenant who decides not to pay the last month’s rent and is not able to cover whatever damages and/or lack of cleaning to the unit.
    An easy way to find out whether the property owner is in distress or not is to look up online the property tax bill. If it is low and payment is current, then the owner likely owned the property for a long time and is not in distress. If property taxes are high, and there are gaps in payment history, chances are the owner recently bought the property, more likely than not be underwater and in distress.

  8. Posted by tjg

    with a mug like that, how you can take her serious?

  9. Posted by DiverJ

    “This offers some protection against a tenant who decides not to pay the last month’s rent and is not able to cover whatever damages and/or lack of cleaning to the unit.”
    By law security deposits are not meant to cover rent. I think for SF, one month’s rent is plenty.

  10. Posted by sfrenegade

    “An easy way to find out whether the property owner is in distress or not is to look up online the property tax bill.”
    That’s just one of the simple due diligence items people can do to lower their chances of getting ripped off. The internets are a treasure trove…

  11. Posted by anonee

    two months rent as security deposit is common if you have a pet.

  12. Posted by spluj

    @brahma
    Buy now or lose all of your rent money to grifters!!1!!1!!
    When the real estate sales slogans slip to this level, you KNOW it’s a bear market.

  13. Posted by geoff the realtor

    Ha hahah. ^New material^. At last.

  14. Posted by mikel

    Now if I can only get my holding deposit back from Arden Van upp that I won in a lawsuit and still haven’t received it.

  15. Posted by Delancey

    How’s it going with getting deposits back from citiapartments?

  16. Posted by lol

    What? The conclusion of some salesmen is that you should buy to avoid being scammed by con artists? From people that call paying 2X+ rent to purchase a “real bargain”? LOL!
    That’s a new low, and we’ve seen our share already.

  17. Posted by geoff the realtor

    Brahma (incensed renter) is a salesman? I don’t think so.

  18. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    No, I am not a salesman, broker or agent, and don’t play one on the internet (I hope I haven’t inadvertently misrepresented). I wouldn’t say that paying 2x+ rent to purchase is a “real bargain”, but nevertheless, I think owning is “worth it” in countless ways, some, perhaps most, not easily quantifiable. Even in The City.
    But that doesn’t mean that you have to “buy now”. lyqwyd wrote:

    Brahma, how do you know she’s the owner? It doesn’t say it anywhere in the article, is there another article with more details?

    I don’t know she was actually the owner, and now that you mention it, if she wasn’t the owner and managed to rook that many people by making it just appear that she had the right to lease the apartment, she was even more of a talented flim-flam artist than it appears.

  19. Posted by Gail

    As one of the scammed, the $5100 to $5600 Ms. Smith got was for deposit and first month’s rent, pretty typical for SF rentals. She is not the owner of the property and there are at least 26 other families that were defrauded by this woman. Tally it up, over a few weeks, she collected more than $150,000.

  20. Posted by A.T.

    Sorry about you’re being scammed, Gail. Hopefully, the D.A. finds something left for restitution to the victims.
    I’ve got to admit, this was a pretty sharp, easy con to pull off. What I don’t understand is why she (presumably) used her real name and why she did not hightail it out of town sooner. Easy as this was to pull off, no way you can get away with it for more than a couple of weeks.

  21. Posted by i know her

    She used to work at Guarantee mortgage in SOMA as a receptionist/ office manager/ LOAN PROCESSOR!!!!! Imagine all those social secutiry #’s, bank account #’s she had access too.
    If you refied- or bought a house using that company I would pull your own credit and see if there was any other fraud done.
    (if I recall she is a berkley grad too- might be off on that though)

  22. Posted by Ryan

    @DiverJ
    You can absolutely charge outstanding rent and late fees against the deposit. Seriously, do you think a landlord would have to return the deposit and then file what, 3 day pay or quit to collect the rent?

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