citisky.jpgCitiApartments (or First Apartments or FirstApartments or firstapts) is adding a twist to its alleged practice of denying former tenants their uncontested security deposits — now they’re lying and saying it’s someone else’s responsibility to pay them back.

Appeal reader T. moved out of her CitiApartments (or First Apartments or FirstApartments or firstapts) building at 345 Fulton on August 15. Her building went into foreclosure shortly thereafter, and went back into the hands of lender UBS on September 28. This has been an ongoing thing for CitiApartments (or First Apartments or FirstApartments or firstapts). However, UBS is a bank, not a property manager, so they hired a company called Laramar to take care of their newly claimed Lembi buildings.

But look at the dates — T. moved out on August 15, and Laramar didn’t enter the picture until Sept 28. Remember this, it’s important.

T says

I managed to leave several voice mails, got an angry women saying to file in small claims court, and someone from their legal department saying the building is in foreclosure and there is no money to pay back.

Finally, she was referred to CitiApartments’ Joe Vargo, whom she emailed. Now, remember those dates from a minute ago?

From: Joe Vargo [mailto:jvargo@firstapts.com]
Sent: Friday, October 09, 2009 3:42 PM
Subject: RE: CitiApartments Resident Services Inquiry

We no longer manage 345 Fulton St.
Laramar Urban SF now manages.
Thank you,

Joe Vargo
office: 415.252.3625|fax: 415.558.5860
jvargo@citiapartments.com

So, she responds

I just spoke with Laramar and they took over the property in September, so CitiApartments still needs to refund my deposit.

Please advise.

Strangely, Joe responds, again,

From: Joe Vargo [mailto:jvargo@firstapts.com]
Sent: Friday, October 09, 2009 3:42 PM
Subject: RE: CitiApartments Resident Services Inquiry

We no longer manage 345 Fulton St.
Laramar Urban SF now manages.
Thank you,
Joe Vargo
office: 415.252.3625|fax: 415.558.5860
jvargo@citiapartments.com

This is all too common, says Laramar Account Manager AJ Lozano. He confirms that Laramar took responsibility for 345 Fulton on September 28 but, “since CitiApartments didn’t notify their tenants in any way, as a courtesy” they’ve been repaying uncontested security deposits for the three weeks prior, on any date after September 7.

“It’s really sad” he told me. “(CitiApartments) apparently makes a pattern of this. I get so many calls from people who had no idea, and are hoping to get at least some money back from CitiApartments, but we can’t possibly pay every former tenant back, it’s just not feasible.”

“And honestly, why would they – I did not have any contract with them for the three years I rented from CitiApartments / Trophy Apartments,” says T.

Lozano says “they keep telling people to call us, though some of these deposits people are trying to get are from months before we took over. They keep calling CitiApartments and get turned away or sent to us — but in most cases, there’s nothing I can do to help them.”

Since we have Joe Vargo’s phone number from his emails, we gave him a call to see why he seemed to be stonewalling or misleading our reader. We left him a voicemail, but hope springs eternal, and we’re looking forward to his response.

As always, send us your Tales of the Citi. The more stories that are out there, the more educated everyone will be about them and their alleged tactics.

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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  • Brian Devine

    Don’t let Laramar off so easy. They’re just as much to blame as CitiApartments, and they’re liable to pay this tenant back her security deposit.

    In the event another company takes over for the landlord, that person is a “successor in interest.” Civil Code section 1950.5, subdivision (h) requires that the landlord either transfer the security deposit to the successor in interest or give it back to the tenant. If the landlord doesn’t do one of these two things, subdivision (j) requires that both the landlord and the successor in interest are jointly and severally liable to repay the tenant’s security deposit. In this case, this means that Laramar is just as responsible to pay the tenant’s security deposit as CitiApartments. Not only that, but subdivision (d) requires that the tenant’s security deposit is paid before any other creditor is paid.

    While A.J. may be feigning sympathy for these tenants, his company is responsible for refunding their security deposits.

  • Brian Devine

    Don’t let Laramar off so easy. They’re just as much to blame as CitiApartments, and they’re liable to pay this tenant back her security deposit.

    In the event another company takes over for the landlord, that person is a “successor in interest.” Civil Code section 1950.5, subdivision (h) requires that the landlord either transfer the security deposit to the successor in interest or give it back to the tenant. If the landlord doesn’t do one of these two things, subdivision (j) requires that both the landlord and the successor in interest are jointly and severally liable to repay the tenant’s security deposit. In this case, this means that Laramar is just as responsible to pay the tenant’s security deposit as CitiApartments. Not only that, but subdivision (d) requires that the tenant’s security deposit is paid before any other creditor is paid.

    While A.J. may be feigning sympathy for these tenants, his company is responsible for refunding their security deposits.

  • kl2real

    While you’re at it, check out Mosser Co. S-L-E-A-Z-Y!!!

  • kl2real

    While you’re at it, check out Mosser Co. S-L-E-A-Z-Y!!!

  • NYC

    Thank You Mr. Devine for pointing out that Laramar is culpable here also.

    By the way Laramar was able to do their back door property management deal with Citiapartments thru a former Citiapartments employee who now is with Laramar in a management position . This gentleman worked for the Lembi Family and David Rynal who was his “Godfather ” so to speak his name is Jim Naylor .

    When UBS BANK FORECLOSED ON 51 LEMBI PROPERTIES BACK IN JAN.09 THAT WAS THE INITIAL PIECE OF BUSINESS TO GO TO LARAMAR FROM THE LEMBI FAMILY. ORIGINALLY UBS BANK LET THE LEMBI FAMILY CONTINUE TO MANAGE THE PROPERTIES AND UBS PAID THEM TO DO SO.

    THAT ONLY LASTED A FEW MONTHS BEFORE LARAMAR THRU MR. NAYLOR GOT INVOLVED WITH THAT BIG PIECE OF BUSINESS.

    DON’T TRUST LARAMAR EITHER REMEMBER THE CANCER KNOWN AS GREED THAT HAS DESTROYED THE LEMBI FAMILY ALSO EXISTS AT LARAMAR.

    THIS COMPANY HAS TO BE LOOKED INTO AS TO TREATMENT OF RESIDENTS AND IF THEY ARE BREAKING THE BUILDING MANAGEMENT LAWS PERTAINING TO THE 16 UNIT OR MORE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT LAW’S OF S.F./CA.

    YOU MUST HAVE A RESIDENT MANAGER THAT LIVES ON SITE AT THE PROPERTY IF THE PROPERTY HAS 16 UNITS OR MORE AND THE MANAGER MUST BE PAID THE MINIMUM WAGE AGAINST ANY RENT CHARGED BY THE PROPERTY OWNER OR MANAGEMENT COMPANY THEY CAN ONLY APPLY TWO THIRDS OF THE MARKET RENT UNDER THIS LAW AND MUST PAY THE MANAGER THE MINIMUM WAGE AND DEDUCT ALL PAYROLL TAXES AS WELL AS PAY TIME AND A HALF OVERTIME HOURLY PAY FOR A WORK WEEK THAT EXCEEDS FORTY HOURS.

    THIS IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INDUSTRIAL WELFARE COMMISSION
    ORDER NO.5-2001 REGULATING WAGES, HOURS AND WORKING CONDITIONS IN THE PUBLIC HOUSEKEEPING INDUSTRY.

    MR. JIM NAYLOR NEVER FOLLOWED THIS LAW WHILE HE WAS A SUPERVISOR OR DISTRICT MANAGER OVER THE PROPERTY MANAGERS THAT REPORTED TO HIM DURING HIS EMPLOYMENT AT CITIAPARTMENTS/SKYLINE REALTY !

    His management style at Citiapartments Skyline Realty was in line with the Rynal/Lembi Family ruthless underhanded “WE WILL BE THE BIGGEST LANDLORD IN SAN FRANCISCO ” WAS THE ATTITUDE .

    MR.NAYLOR WAS ALSO PART OF THE LEMBI TEAM THAT HARASSED RESIDENTS TO GET THEM OUT OF THEIR UNDER MARKET RENT APARTMENTS.

    I understand that Mr.Naylor’s has continued his Citiapartments management style at Laramar . SO BE CAREFUL AS TO RENT IN A LARAMAR BUILDING !

    REMEMBER THE CULTURE OF A COMPANY ALWAYS AT THE TOP…
    NYC…

  • NYC

    Thank You Mr. Devine for pointing out that Laramar is culpable here also.

    By the way Laramar was able to do their back door property management deal with Citiapartments thru a former Citiapartments employee who now is with Laramar in a management position . This gentleman worked for the Lembi Family and David Rynal who was his “Godfather ” so to speak his name is Jim Naylor .

    When UBS BANK FORECLOSED ON 51 LEMBI PROPERTIES BACK IN JAN.09 THAT WAS THE INITIAL PIECE OF BUSINESS TO GO TO LARAMAR FROM THE LEMBI FAMILY. ORIGINALLY UBS BANK LET THE LEMBI FAMILY CONTINUE TO MANAGE THE PROPERTIES AND UBS PAID THEM TO DO SO.

    THAT ONLY LASTED A FEW MONTHS BEFORE LARAMAR THRU MR. NAYLOR GOT INVOLVED WITH THAT BIG PIECE OF BUSINESS.

    DON’T TRUST LARAMAR EITHER REMEMBER THE CANCER KNOWN AS GREED THAT HAS DESTROYED THE LEMBI FAMILY ALSO EXISTS AT LARAMAR.

    THIS COMPANY HAS TO BE LOOKED INTO AS TO TREATMENT OF RESIDENTS AND IF THEY ARE BREAKING THE BUILDING MANAGEMENT LAWS PERTAINING TO THE 16 UNIT OR MORE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT LAW’S OF S.F./CA.

    YOU MUST HAVE A RESIDENT MANAGER THAT LIVES ON SITE AT THE PROPERTY IF THE PROPERTY HAS 16 UNITS OR MORE AND THE MANAGER MUST BE PAID THE MINIMUM WAGE AGAINST ANY RENT CHARGED BY THE PROPERTY OWNER OR MANAGEMENT COMPANY THEY CAN ONLY APPLY TWO THIRDS OF THE MARKET RENT UNDER THIS LAW AND MUST PAY THE MANAGER THE MINIMUM WAGE AND DEDUCT ALL PAYROLL TAXES AS WELL AS PAY TIME AND A HALF OVERTIME HOURLY PAY FOR A WORK WEEK THAT EXCEEDS FORTY HOURS.

    THIS IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INDUSTRIAL WELFARE COMMISSION
    ORDER NO.5-2001 REGULATING WAGES, HOURS AND WORKING CONDITIONS IN THE PUBLIC HOUSEKEEPING INDUSTRY.

    MR. JIM NAYLOR NEVER FOLLOWED THIS LAW WHILE HE WAS A SUPERVISOR OR DISTRICT MANAGER OVER THE PROPERTY MANAGERS THAT REPORTED TO HIM DURING HIS EMPLOYMENT AT CITIAPARTMENTS/SKYLINE REALTY !

    His management style at Citiapartments Skyline Realty was in line with the Rynal/Lembi Family ruthless underhanded “WE WILL BE THE BIGGEST LANDLORD IN SAN FRANCISCO ” WAS THE ATTITUDE .

    MR.NAYLOR WAS ALSO PART OF THE LEMBI TEAM THAT HARASSED RESIDENTS TO GET THEM OUT OF THEIR UNDER MARKET RENT APARTMENTS.

    I understand that Mr.Naylor’s has continued his Citiapartments management style at Laramar . SO BE CAREFUL AS TO RENT IN A LARAMAR BUILDING !

    REMEMBER THE CULTURE OF A COMPANY ALWAYS AT THE TOP…
    NYC…

  • sunshipballoons

    What Brian says may not be right. He’s probably right in a situation where one landlord sells to another. However, it’s possible that the acquisition of ownership through foreclosure creates a different situation. You’d have to look at state foreclosure law to be sure.

    Actually, I should say that Brian is definitely wrong. I’m fairly certain that the provision he refers to deals with *owners*, so it’s unlikely that CitiApts or Laramar have any direct liability for any of this — the building owner (now UBS) may, but not the property manager. This is a technical nit, since obviously the property manager is the one who deals with these issues. But I suspect that Laramar could easily get a lawsuit against it thrown out, as could Citi. I think you have to sue the owner.

  • sunshipballoons

    What Brian says may not be right. He’s probably right in a situation where one landlord sells to another. However, it’s possible that the acquisition of ownership through foreclosure creates a different situation. You’d have to look at state foreclosure law to be sure.

    Actually, I should say that Brian is definitely wrong. I’m fairly certain that the provision he refers to deals with *owners*, so it’s unlikely that CitiApts or Laramar have any direct liability for any of this — the building owner (now UBS) may, but not the property manager. This is a technical nit, since obviously the property manager is the one who deals with these issues. But I suspect that Laramar could easily get a lawsuit against it thrown out, as could Citi. I think you have to sue the owner.

  • Guest II

    It’s amazing to me how all the blame is placed on CITI and the Lembis for how they handled their business. It would seem to me that RENTERS have just as much responsibility in this drama as do the landlords. Renters have every opportunity to perform their own due diligence so why didnt they? The reason is as long as the properties were for rent, and the renters were willing and able to rent them, renters didnt care how CITI obtained the property! There is no cause to malign Citi or the Lembi’s for providing that service, their business could have never grown to the size it did without the help of RENTERS, so RENTERS are just as guilty for the current situation. Everyone who rented or is currently renting from CITI made a conscious decision to do so knowing full well who they were renting from. It did not matter to the renter at the time he/she was signing the lease how CITI came to own the property. So why now all of a sudden is CITI a bad guy! Greed knows no bounds, I think the renters were and are just as greedy because is the end they didn’t care how CITI came about the property all they wanted was a place to live. CITI has made some questionable business decisions in the past as have all business in this country, they may even pay the ultimate price for the most recent business decisions they have made by over buying the last several years. Will everyone be happy when they have been brought to their knees? Will this really make anything better for the rental market? The grass is always greener on the other side just remember you could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire when it comes to the new landlord.

  • Guest II

    It’s amazing to me how all the blame is placed on CITI and the Lembis for how they handled their business. It would seem to me that RENTERS have just as much responsibility in this drama as do the landlords. Renters have every opportunity to perform their own due diligence so why didnt they? The reason is as long as the properties were for rent, and the renters were willing and able to rent them, renters didnt care how CITI obtained the property! There is no cause to malign Citi or the Lembi’s for providing that service, their business could have never grown to the size it did without the help of RENTERS, so RENTERS are just as guilty for the current situation. Everyone who rented or is currently renting from CITI made a conscious decision to do so knowing full well who they were renting from. It did not matter to the renter at the time he/she was signing the lease how CITI came to own the property. So why now all of a sudden is CITI a bad guy! Greed knows no bounds, I think the renters were and are just as greedy because is the end they didn’t care how CITI came about the property all they wanted was a place to live. CITI has made some questionable business decisions in the past as have all business in this country, they may even pay the ultimate price for the most recent business decisions they have made by over buying the last several years. Will everyone be happy when they have been brought to their knees? Will this really make anything better for the rental market? The grass is always greener on the other side just remember you could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire when it comes to the new landlord.