In our first story on CitiApartments’ alleged refusal to return tenants deposits, Commenter Hillraiel raised this point:

As a former leasing agent I have to say that deleting and flagging craigslist ads is rude and irresponsible unless you know for a fact that the ad is bogus. In the case of Citiapartments, who has leasing agents that are treated like 3rd party vendors and have nothing to do with the financial decisions made by the executives of that company, your “fun” flagging simply wastes the time of those 3rd party vendors. Leasing agents are told what Citi’s guidelines are and are asked to essentially liaise on their behalf. I’m not here to defend Citi, but you should know that you are adversely affecting the lives of people that aren’t responsible for Citi’s mishandling of money.

We emailed her at the address she provided on registration, asking her if she was CitiApartments leasing agent. Her response:

I am no longer a leasing agent for any firm. Just thought people should know who they were actually hurting in these instances.

“We just had a meeting with our manager who told us that that is why, that we don’t have access to the (deposit) money. They should be mad at the bank, not us.”
Feeling rather Steve Jonesy (in a good way!), we emailed her back, asking if she thought Citi’s leasing agents were aware of the company’s financial straits, the allegations leveled against them in the suit brought by the City, or that many of the businesses rental agents are showing prospective tenants are, or are about the be foreclosed upon. She did not respond.

Then a reader emailed us this:

I’ve been noticing a trend toward Citi agents not directly listing CitiApartments in some of their craigslist posts. These won’t come up if you just search for CitiApartments. On Monday there were a number of posts up that were clearly for CitiApartments buildings that did not mention their name anywhere, so they’ve clearly become aware of this.

He included a list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses that we have verified as those of CitiApartments employees, who have now resorted to stripping the word “CitiApartments” from all their craigslist listings.

The Appeal called one of those numbers, and spoke to Guy Valdman, a leasing agent for CitiApartments. We made absolutely sure sure sure he understood who he was talking to, then asked:

Why are you removing the word ‘CitiApartments’ from your craigslist listings?

“Because someone slagged me out and bothered me in my business, my income, my job.”

We asked him to elaborate.

“Craigslist is one of the main places I promote myself. I guess someone don’t like my business, someone slagged me out. Or they don’t like my business owner. I don’t know.”

We asked if he was aware of the City’s suit against CitiApartments, the allegations of tenant harassment, or the allegations of poor to no maintenance of their properties. He said he did not.

We asked if any of the buildings he was showing tenants were foreclosed on, and he said they were not.

“Right now we are taking care of all our buildings. They are top notch.” He said.

Are you aware that CitiApartments is making it very difficult for former tenants to get their deposits back?

“We had a meeting about this today, and they told us that right now the bank won’t give us the money. We just had a meeting with our manager who told us that that is why, that we don’t have access to the money. They should be mad at the bank, not us.”

We probed Guy on this rather mysterious point, but he said he didn’t know anything more. So we called Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union.

“When a normal person walks into a bank, we don’t have to ask them for our money, we just withdraw it.”“Their responsibility is to hang on to security deposits and pay them back.” Gullicksen said “They can’t use ‘the bank’ as an excuse, they still have an obligation to pay up. Even if a building is sold or transferred, it is up to the new owner to pay (the deposit) back, but that’s the new owner’s responsibility. And that doesn’t sound like that’s what they’re saying”

“When a normal person walks into a bank, we don’t have to ask them for our money, we just withdraw it. If a landlord has to ask a bank for money, it sounds like they are asking for a line of credit to pay back (deposits).”

We asked Gullicksen if it was possible to infer from this that CitiApartments had been intermingling deposit money with their other accounts, and isn’t that illegal?

“CitiApartments definitely has a pattern of intermingling — one of the foreclosure lawsuits (against CitiApartments’ owners) included a document submitted by the foreclosing bank, discussing the sate of the finances. It specified that the funds had been intermingled.” However, intermingling is “not illegal, but is considered a violation of good business practices.”

As we’ve noted, craigslist still hasn’t responded to us on whether or not CitiApartments’ craigslist advertisements from rental agents requesting security deposits that we now know the agents are aware might not be returned would constitute a violation of CL’s TOU. (That was a terrible sentence. Sorry about that.)

So, what we’re asking is, now that we’ve heard from some folks who claim that their livelihoods are in jeopardy over our flagging, should we discontinue this practice?

We’re not being disingenuous — we get that a lot of former tenants are out money from lost deposits, too (look at this poll!), but do these rental agents deserve a break? We have a list of search terms and details we could share with you, and use to continue to flag them, but is that the wrong thing to do?

Let us know what you think in the comments, we really want to know.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!