Real estate agents rip off customers in rental deal

(WSVN) - A woman needed an apartment to rent and found two real estate agents who said they would help her, but now she’s out of a deposit and is still looking for a place to live. What can she do to get her money back? Call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser, of course.

Elizabeth Rodriguez is a wonderful daughter. So says her mother.

Esther Rodriguez: “Yesterday, when I got home, my house was clean, and she really does help me.”

And when Esther needed a new place to live, of course Elizabeth jumped in to help.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: “She needed something smaller and less expensive. She is just retiring now.”

Elizabeth and Esther went to a real estate office that handles rentals. They were shown an apartment that Esther liked, and so she put down a cash deposit.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: “They took our deposit, $1,400 for that place, and had to sign a lease. We thought we were moving, we thought everything was A-OK, like they told us.”

A month passed.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: “They kept us in limbo. First they said they wouldn’t approve it because of something in the background, an eviction.”

But Esther’s never had an eviction. And then the two real estate agents at the Homestead office told her they needed more money to get her an apartment.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: “A realtor named Trinicia, and there was also a manager named Carmen.”

That’s when Elizabeth knew something was wrong and contacted the head of the real estate company, who did a little digging.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: “And he confirmed there was never any money put in escrow, that the lease, the paper trail was erased, and they basically scammed my mom and pocketed the money.”

They had been ripped off. Elizabeth then got in touch with one of the realtors.

Elizabeth Rodriguez: “And she basically told me to stop calling her and texting her.”

Esther could sue but, thinking she had a new apartment, she moved out of her old one, and she needs her $1,400 back to get into another place.

Esther Rodriguez: “All these people put me in this predicament. Not very nice, not very nice.”

Well, Howard, is this a civil dispute or a criminal case?

Howard Finkelstein: “Both. What the agents are accused of doing is theft. It’s a crime, and they could go to prison. And it’s also civil theft, because they did not put the money into the real estate agency’s escrow account. They put it in their pocket, so they are liable for returning the money.”

Mohamed Morsy, business owner: “To stop these girls. Obviously, they are no longer with our company, but stop them of what they have done.”

Mohamed Morsy owns Buy N Rent Free Now, where the two agents work. He says they not only ripped off Esther, but took money from him as well.

Mohamed Morsy: “The agent took the money outside. They never created a deal in our office, so basically [they were] taking money from the customer and taking money from the company, too, as well.”

Mohamed got the agents to return $1,000 of the $1,400 they took from Esther, and Mohamed took $400 from his pocket to get Esther all her money back.

Esther Rodriguez: “Thank you so much. It’s a blessing, a blessing.”

Mohamed Morsy: “I’m glad to help you out.”

Esther Rodriguez: “I’m happy. I’m surprised at this outcome.”

Miami-Dade Police are now involved, and Elizabeth has filed a complaint with the state, which can take the licenses from the two realtors accused of the theft.

Mohamed Morsy: “I just want to help people out.”

Most importantly, Esther has what she wanted — a new place to live after everything turned out well.

Mohamed Morsy: “I’m glad she came here and we were able to return everything back to you.”

Esther Rodriguez: “Very happy ending, more than happy ending.”

Patrick Fraser: “Miami-Dade Police have said if those two real estate agents at the agency ripped you off, let them know. And by the way, to avoid this happening to you, never give a real estate agent cash. And don’t make out the check or deposit to the agent. Make it out to the broker or owner of the agency.”

Got a lease that feels more like a leash? Need to deposit the problem with someone? Rent us out. Help Me Howard doesn’t have a real estate, but we do house a few legal books. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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