What you see is not always what you get! Our News 5 I-TEAM has uncovered questionable tactics some apartment leasing agents may use to get your money before you get to see your actual unit.
Due to high demand for apartments, some complexes only have “model” units to show you.
Those units may include upgraded appliances, new carpet and flooring.
After signing a lease, some tenants say they are given keys to an apartment that looks much different than what they were originally shown.
The Summer Grove Apartments in Colorado Springs look like your everyday complex in the central part of the city.
“The outside was so beautiful,” Gladys Clark said. “When I went into the lobby, there was leather furniture and beautiful environment.”
Flowers and balloons welcomed Clark to the complex when she showed up to look at an apartment for her sister.
She says the leasing agent took her straight to the model unit!
“The walls had neutral colors that make you calm,” she said. “The furniture was beautiful.”
Gladys said she had no reason to be suspicious and paid the deposit and application fee. However, she was not happy when she was handed the keys to her actual apartment.
“When she (the leasing agent) opened the door, I couldn’t believe it,” Gladys said. “There were spots on the front room. When I went into the bedroom, it looked like (there was) dog feces that they tried to clean up.”
Gladys said their were roaches inside—an issue other tenants claimed they had at the same complex based on online reviews.
“I went to read the reviews and shame on me,” she said. “I’m telling everybody to read your reviews. They make a big difference.”
Christian Tackett and his girlfriend did read reviews online, yet they were still willing to give the apartment complex a chance based on pictures posted on numerous rental web sites.
“We were trying to be optimistic because when we called, they (management) said they were under new management and things were being changed and we asked a lot of questions about issues we read online,” Tackett said.
Tackett believes the pictures of the model unit posted online and show to future tenants is deceptive. He agreed to allow News 5 into his unit so our camera crew could take video and pictures.
“We are constantly getting sick and we wonder if its because of this place,” he said.
Tackett believes mold may be to blame. Our cameras did see mold on the wall in the hallway of the complex during our visit.
While Tackett’s apartment looked different from the model unit posted online, we wanted to see for ourselves what leasing agents are telling future tenants who walk in.
News 5 Investigates recently sent in three employees undercover on two different days.
“I’m interested in taking a tour,” one of our producers told the leasing agent.
The agent replied, “Do you have your ID?”
“I do,” our producer said.
Within minutes, the leasing agent took our employee straight to the model unit.
While inside, our producer asked, “Is this pretty much what they all look like?”
“Yeh, for the most part,” the agent replied. “There are going to be slight differences like cabinets. Some are newer than others.”
On a different day, our two other employees were shown the same model apartment.
One of our KOAA employees asked, “Is this fully renovated?”
“No, these are going to be the oldest freakin’ cabinets on the property.”
We also advised our KOAA employees to ask about bugs.
“We have a very professional pest control company that comes by every Thursday,” the leasing agent said. “They are Complete Pest Control and we take care of you until your issue is resolved.”
Tenants tell us otherwise, so we asked our undercover employees to press hard for answers.
One of our employees asked, “Have there been any issues here?
“Once in a while but generally when that happens people bring them when they travel,” the agent said. “Some people live that lifestyle where they have those issues.”
We wanted to ask management questions about their advertising practices. For example, a picture of the community laundry room posted on an online rental web sites shows a neat and clean room. A source close to News 5 shared a video showing that’s not always the case. Video reviewed by News 5 showed trash and debris in the laundry room.
A regional manager for the apartment complex had “no comment”.
Matt Pacheco serves on the board for the Southern Colorado Apartment Association.
He agreed to talk with us in general about apartment complexes showing model units vs. actual units a future tenant will get.
“That model is typically going to be decorated very well and a designer has been involved and it’s going to have many upgrades to it,” Pacheco said. “So the first question is, ‘how will my apartment home be similar or different from this model home?'”
KOAA lead investigative reporter Eric Ross asked, “I’m I leasing agent, am I legally obligated to tell the tenant that this is a model and you’re not getting all of these amenities you see here?
“It’s a good business decision to be truthful and honest,” Pacheco replied. “The leasing agent should disclose that the model is an upgraded model.”
Although Gladys paid a deposit and application fee prior to seeing her apartment, she was able to back out and get a refund.
“Their comment was that they were being kind (to return the refund), but if you were kind you would have been honest,” Gladys said. “Being kind isn’t returning a refund.”
Gladys has since found a different apartment complex for her sister and Christian and his girlfriend moved out after their lease expired.
If you’re in the market for a new apartment, here is what industry experts say you should do:
-Ask to see the actual unit you’re moving into. If the unit is available and ready for move-in, Pacheco said the leasing agent should have no problem showing you that unit.
-Ask about refundable deposits and application fees just in case you decide to back out before moving in.
-Request to put down a deposit, but not sign the lease agreement until seeing the actual unit
-Pacheco also says reviews online can be great resources too.
Summer Grove Apartments is managed by Vukota Capital Management.