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Downey housing rental service accused of taking cash, giving fake ads

A housing rental service in Downey is accused of collecting cash from customers and in return it gives out bogus listings.
October 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A housing rental service in Downey is accused of collecting cash from customers, and in return, it gives out bogus listings. Six months ago, the state of California ordered the company to stop doing business. But it continues to do so. In an Eyewitness News investigation, we checked out the company's listings for ourselves.

Patrick Anderson and his wife Marisa checked out several rental properties given to them by L & B Rentals of Downey.

"It's basically a bunch of addresses they just put down at random," said Anderson.

After signing a listing agreement in Spanish, which he doesn't speak, Anderson paid L & B $150 in cash. Anderson says in turn they gave him a list of eight properties, including a two-bedroom home in Anaheim, which sounded ideal to the young couple. The rent was listed as $1,100 a month, but he found out later it was $1,600 a month.

Not only that, Anderson found out from the owners of the home that L & B never had an agreement to list it. Another listing sent Anderson to a street where the only housing was a mobile home park, but with a different address.

That's the same story we heard from several other L & B clients who paid the company after finding ads in newspapers and websites, including Craigslist and El Clasificado, a Spanish-language classified ad site. Most of L & B's listings that we found are in Spanish.

The prospective renters say the $150 they paid was supposed to be applied toward rent or a security deposit, but everyone we spoke with says L & B provided them with addresses that were not currently for rent and that the prices were not the same as on the listing sheets. Plus, they say L & B never had an agreement to list these properties.

"We've investigated the business and we've issued them an order to desist and refrain from continuing their practice," said Phil Ihde with the California Bureau of Real Estate.

The California Bureau of Real Estate issued that order last April. The bureau says L & B Rentals engaged or is still engaging in acts or practices in violation of the state's Business and Professions Code.

"They're violating the law. These businesses are required to have a license that's issued through the Bureau of Real Estate, and when they don't, that's a violation of the law," said Ihde.

The bureau told Eyewitness News that if consumers have to pay in cash, that should be a red flag.

Judith and Tyrone Kurtz both worked at L & B Rentals earlier this year. Judith says when customers paid for the rental listings, they were told that money would be applied toward their rent, so in essence, it wouldn't cost them anything.

"The money never went to your apartment, neither the security or the rent, and the money did go to them," said Judith Kurtz.

Tyrone Kurtz says he was hired by L & B as a security guard, in part to help with angry customers who returned to the business demanding their money back.

"After figuring out everything that they were doing there, I thought it was wrong," he said.

The Kurtzs say on several occasions, customers called the police to complain about L & B. Downey Police confirmed to Eyewitness News that officers did come out on several occasions, but they determined it wasn't a police matter.

To check out L & B's listings for ourselves, we had Ruby, an Eyewitness News assistant, call L & B Rentals, saying she was interested in finding an apartment near Downey or Paramount. A few days later, Ruby walked into their offices, paid $150 in cash and came back with a 10-page listing of rentals properties.

The list included Compton, Commerce, Carson, Alhambra and Arcadia. Although companies are required by law to provide listings for the specific neighborhoods requested, these were clearly not, and the listings appeared to be about a week old.

State law says listing companies are required to verify rentals are current by updating them at least every 72 hours.

The first place we checked out was an apartment complex that only rents to adults 55 and up. Ruby is in her 20s. And the place never even heard of L & B Rentals.

It was the same story at another location. That apartment had a listing agreement with a property management company, not L & B Rentals.

I went to L & B Rentals' office for its side of the story. But the women there didn't want to talk with us. I repeatedly asked to speak with the owner or office manager. But, again, I didn't get a response.

Eyewitness News called L & B Rentals more than a dozen times, and they hung up on us each time. While they had nothing to say to us, their former customers did.

"I feel like I've been frauded by them and that I was given fake listings or listings that don't exist or have nothing to do with what I paid for," said Anderson.

We made one more call to L & B Rentals on Thursday and the person who answered the phone claims they are no longer called L & B. The state says businesses often do that to avoid prosecution.


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