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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 eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Larry-bob Roberts

    Boohoo rental agents. It seems like by flagging, it’s helping to protect people who could be ripped off by CitiApartments. On the other hand, if it’s forcing the listers to go stealth, it’s going to get harder to suss out and flag.

  • Larry-bob Roberts

    Boohoo rental agents. It seems like by flagging, it’s helping to protect people who could be ripped off by CitiApartments. On the other hand, if it’s forcing the listers to go stealth, it’s going to get harder to suss out and flag.

  • Daniel

    I must be biased, since I’m the one who wrote the email with the names of rental agents who had stopped listing CitiApartments in their craigslist posts. I feel for the rental agents who are hurt by this situation in the same way that I feel for the employee whose job it is to handle tenants who are getting the run around about their security deposits. Whenever I spoke to her, she sounded so depressed that I found myself feeling terrible for her. It’s an awful job, just like trying to fill the quickly increasing vacancies in CitiApartments buildings in the current rental market must be – particularly with all of these stories coming out and tenants likely beginning to avoid the company altogether.

    CitiApartments has had a bad reputation for a long time. But to be perfectly honest, they’ve managed to survive this long not only because of a real estate bubble in San Francisco, but also because in the past their victims have been generally older tenants from a different socioeconomic background, who likely had fewer resources at their disposal to fight Now their actions are having an effect on more technologically-minded former tenants who are using means such as Craigslist flagging to quickly have an effect on CitiApartments’ bottom line (which was already well beyond shaky).

    At this point, it is becoming clear that this company is about to topple at any moment. Hastening this process by flagging craigslist posts that mention deposits that we now know are very unlikely to be returned may hurt these employees in the very near short term. However, if flagging the posts gets the employees to leave more quickly, this could actually be a good thing. At the end of the day, CitiApartments is about to go under anyway, and these employees will have to look for new jobs. The company bought real estate at the top of the market and paid too much for it, and is now liable for $1 billion in loans, when the real estate they own is likely worth nowhere near that.

    I just don’t see how flagging craigslist posts is hurting these employees any more than the company’s inevitable bankruptcy will.

  • Daniel

    I must be biased, since I’m the one who wrote the email with the names of rental agents who had stopped listing CitiApartments in their craigslist posts. I feel for the rental agents who are hurt by this situation in the same way that I feel for the employee whose job it is to handle tenants who are getting the run around about their security deposits. Whenever I spoke to her, she sounded so depressed that I found myself feeling terrible for her. It’s an awful job, just like trying to fill the quickly increasing vacancies in CitiApartments buildings in the current rental market must be – particularly with all of these stories coming out and tenants likely beginning to avoid the company altogether.

    CitiApartments has had a bad reputation for a long time. But to be perfectly honest, they’ve managed to survive this long not only because of a real estate bubble in San Francisco, but also because in the past their victims have been generally older tenants from a different socioeconomic background, who likely had fewer resources at their disposal to fight Now their actions are having an effect on more technologically-minded former tenants who are using means such as Craigslist flagging to quickly have an effect on CitiApartments’ bottom line (which was already well beyond shaky).

    At this point, it is becoming clear that this company is about to topple at any moment. Hastening this process by flagging craigslist posts that mention deposits that we now know are very unlikely to be returned may hurt these employees in the very near short term. However, if flagging the posts gets the employees to leave more quickly, this could actually be a good thing. At the end of the day, CitiApartments is about to go under anyway, and these employees will have to look for new jobs. The company bought real estate at the top of the market and paid too much for it, and is now liable for $1 billion in loans, when the real estate they own is likely worth nowhere near that.

    I just don’t see how flagging craigslist posts is hurting these employees any more than the company’s inevitable bankruptcy will.

  • Greg Dewar

    TS for the “rental agents.” they are representing a company that lies, cheats and steals. If you represent jerks, you get the fallout that goes with it.

    And in the interest of Advancing The Internet I’m totally not using the most obvious play on words regarding CitiApartments’ name.

  • Greg Dewar

    TS for the “rental agents.” they are representing a company that lies, cheats and steals. If you represent jerks, you get the fallout that goes with it.

    And in the interest of Advancing The Internet I’m totally not using the most obvious play on words regarding CitiApartments’ name.

  • sf_tenants_union_counselor

    So the first thing that we want to make clear: if you are in a CitiApartments Building which has been foreclosed upon, your security deposits are still safe.Your new landlord is liable for all claims against the old landlord when they assume responsibility for the building. Further, if your building is still owned by CitiApartments, then they remain liable for all security deposits. We encourage all tenants to read California Civil Code section 1950.5, which applies to all tenants within the state.

    The most important provisions of this code include: Your landlord is always liable for your security deposit. Any money given to your landlord at move-in aside from first month’s rent and a credit check fee is considered to be a security deposit. When you give possession of your unit back to your landlord, then you must get your deposit back within 21 calendar days or copies of receipts for repairs deducted from the security deposit. If the landlord withholds your security deposit beyond 21 days in bad faith, then you can sue your landlord for your security deposit and punitive damages.

    Further, under San Francisco Administrative Code section 49.2 your security deposit accrues interest at a rate determined by the San Francisco Residential Rental Stabilization and Arbitration Board every year. This security deposit must be paid to you by your landlord every year for ALL funds of yours that he is holding, including last month’s rent and illegal deposits such as “pet deposits” and “cleaning deposits.”

    Second, even if your apartment changes hands, rent control still applies to your apartment. Any rights that you had while living under CitiApartments, you have under your new landlord. AND REMEMBER: YOU NEVER HAVE TO SIGN ANOTHER LEASE THAT IS NOT IDENTICAL TO YOUR ORIGINAL LEASE.

    Finally, under San Francisco Rent and Eviction Control your tenancy can only be ended for one of 14 just causes.You can review these reasons by looking at San Francisco Administrative Code Section 37.9. However, even if you do not read these codes please know that FORECLOSURE IS NOT A CAUSE FOR EVICTION. If your building has been foreclosed upon, you have every right within San Francisco to continue living there.

    Please note: This advice only applies to those buildings which fall under the rent control ordinance.These buildings are any building built on or before June 1979. We do not hold ourselves out to be lawyers, and if you require representation–which most people won’t– we can recommend attorneys who represent tenants only for you to meet. If you would like to meet with a counselor please come see us!.

  • sf_tenants_union_counselor

    So the first thing that we want to make clear: if you are in a CitiApartments Building which has been foreclosed upon, your security deposits are still safe.Your new landlord is liable for all claims against the old landlord when they assume responsibility for the building. Further, if your building is still owned by CitiApartments, then they remain liable for all security deposits. We encourage all tenants to read California Civil Code section 1950.5, which applies to all tenants within the state.

    The most important provisions of this code include: Your landlord is always liable for your security deposit. Any money given to your landlord at move-in aside from first month’s rent and a credit check fee is considered to be a security deposit. When you give possession of your unit back to your landlord, then you must get your deposit back within 21 calendar days or copies of receipts for repairs deducted from the security deposit. If the landlord withholds your security deposit beyond 21 days in bad faith, then you can sue your landlord for your security deposit and punitive damages.

    Further, under San Francisco Administrative Code section 49.2 your security deposit accrues interest at a rate determined by the San Francisco Residential Rental Stabilization and Arbitration Board every year. This security deposit must be paid to you by your landlord every year for ALL funds of yours that he is holding, including last month’s rent and illegal deposits such as “pet deposits” and “cleaning deposits.”

    Second, even if your apartment changes hands, rent control still applies to your apartment. Any rights that you had while living under CitiApartments, you have under your new landlord. AND REMEMBER: YOU NEVER HAVE TO SIGN ANOTHER LEASE THAT IS NOT IDENTICAL TO YOUR ORIGINAL LEASE.

    Finally, under San Francisco Rent and Eviction Control your tenancy can only be ended for one of 14 just causes.You can review these reasons by looking at San Francisco Administrative Code Section 37.9. However, even if you do not read these codes please know that FORECLOSURE IS NOT A CAUSE FOR EVICTION. If your building has been foreclosed upon, you have every right within San Francisco to continue living there.

    Please note: This advice only applies to those buildings which fall under the rent control ordinance.These buildings are any building built on or before June 1979. We do not hold ourselves out to be lawyers, and if you require representation–which most people won’t– we can recommend attorneys who represent tenants only for you to meet. If you would like to meet with a counselor please come see us!.

  • cactus

    The rental agents are making their living by screwing new tenants.

    Google “citiapartments andrew hawkins”. That’s the guy who’s going to come into these tenants’ apartments, carrying a sidearm, for an unannounced “inspection” to try to find a reason to evict them if market rent rates go up, and then the company will try to not pay the security deposit back.

    Gosh, tears are welling up because of how bad I feel for the rental agents.

  • cactus

    The rental agents are making their living by screwing new tenants.

    Google “citiapartments andrew hawkins”. That’s the guy who’s going to come into these tenants’ apartments, carrying a sidearm, for an unannounced “inspection” to try to find a reason to evict them if market rent rates go up, and then the company will try to not pay the security deposit back.

    Gosh, tears are welling up because of how bad I feel for the rental agents.