Rental Ripoff: Woman scammed out of money weeks after moving into apartment

(WSVN) - Weeks after moving into her new apartment, a Broward County woman was told to get out. 7’s Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s special assignment report, “Rental Ripoff.”

The coronavirus pandemic has created financial hardship for millions of Americans, but the scramble to save money can leave the door open to scams.

Jasmine, rented apartment: “The rent was low. I saw it as an opportunity to be able to save money.”

This is Jasmine. She asked us not to show her face.

She’s afraid of crossing paths with the man she says took her money and left her with no place to live.

Jasmine: “I just want him to be locked up or whatever, just to pay for what he did.”

In January, Jasmine found an ad on Craigslist for a room to rent in Fort Lauderdale. She toured the space with “Lorenzo,” the name used by the person who posted the ad.

She liked the apartment, and asked him write up a rental agreement.

Here’s a picture of him typing it up.

On Jan. 17, Jasmine gave “Lorenzo” a $300 deposit and $800 for the first month’s rent.

Jasmine: “I was happy. I didn’t have a problem.”

But just two weeks after she moved in, Jasmine ran into a big problem.

As she was leaving one morning, she found an eviction notice on her front door. It wasn’t addressed to her, but to Travis Davis, the man who she thought was her landlord “Lorenzo.”

Jasmine: “We had 24-hour notice with his name on it, to evict the property.”

She tried calling Davis. He never picked up.

She then called the property manager listed on the notice. They told her the man she gave her money to was no landlord.

Jasmine: “He’s not the owner. He’s a tenant behind on rent — in that place that he’s renting out to other people.”

According to Broward court records, Travis Davis owes the actual owner $9,309 in back rent and other fees.

He agreed to pay off the debt through a payment plan, but after he missed his second payment in January, the final eviction notice went up on Jasmine’s door Feb. 3.

Fort Lauderdale Police detective Jesse Gossman: “Rental scams have been very common throughout the years.”

Fort Lauderdale Police detective Jesse Gossman says rental fraud cases like these are rising. He says the delay on eviction cases is adding to the problem.

Detective Jesse Gossman: “Which has allowed a window of opportunity for people to capitalize on that and purport themselves to be the legitimate owner, and take money from people.”

He has a warning for people searching online for cheap rent.

Detective Jesse Gossman: “Often people are going to Craigslist or other online message boards, and unfortunately, those message boards, anyone can go on there and post on them.”

Jasmine was able to convince the property manager to let her lease the apartment. She now has a permanent home.

Jasmine: “I feel like I’m not going to come home, and I don’t know if stuff’s going to be outside, or if somebody’s going to be waiting for me. I’m a lot more comfortable now.”

But she still hopes to recover the money she paid to a fake landlord in a rental ripoff.

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