We recently got an email from a reader regarding our coverage of the allegations that CitiApartments was refusing to return uncontested security deposits from departing tenants. It said:

This is long time (CitiApartments head) Mr. Lembi etal tactic. He never returned security deposits, even when I worked for him from 1987 through 1995.

After independently verifying that this person did, indeed, work for Lembi on those dates, we asked the reader Why do you think this is? What more can you tell us about this? This reader’s response:

It is a “game” to him. He figures that few tenants that truly bitch will sue for their security deposits anyway. It’s all about cash flow – it was key to the Lembis then as it is more so now. So it is really that simple. The few (dozen) that he can stall out… he will, the others (the few that really bitch) will get theirs and the balance is money is his pocket.

That insight seems borne out by another reader’s email:

I just wanted to share with you my success story of getting my deposit back. I moved out of my apartment on the 14th of July, and was told I would have my deposit back in 21 days.

When 21 days passed without my deposit, I began exchanging voice mails with the person who was in charge of my account. I was told that my check would be coming, however, they couldn’t tell me when.

Long story short, I was able to get a hold of the name and number of the CitiApartments Controller. Her name is Eileen. I left a message with her, informing her that I was going to be in the following morning to discuss my deposit with her. Apparently she has the final word on who gets their check cut, and who doesn’t.

A few hours after leaving her a message, the person in charge of my account called and told me Eileen had given him permission to cut my check. I picked it up the next day. I believe that being tenacious, and not letting them put me in a pile with everyone else who is waiting for their deposits, helped me out. Thought this story might be helpful for others who are trying to get their money back.

This is something we’ve seen again and again: That if you persist, keep pushing, and don’t give up, you can eventually get your deposit back.

Sure, it’s unreasonable and offensive that this is what you have to do to get your own money back — and, honestly, there are probably a lot of folks out there for whom it might not be worth it.

Here’s hoping that hearing things like witholding deposits is a “game” to Citi, combined with “success” stories like the one above will keep folks fighting to reclaim their money from CitiApartments. And, as always, keep us posted on your experiences with Citi, OK?

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

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