I got ripped off by the person whose lease I took over. What should I do to recover my money?
September 28, 2008 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I got ripped off by the person whose lease I took over. What should I do to recover my money?

I wanted to take over this girl's lease. She said she needed a $1200 deposit, because that was what she had paid the management company initially. She said when the lease ended and she got that back from the management company, she would give it to me.

I gave her a check for $1000 last week. Today I gave her another one for $200 after we signed all the papers.

After we signed I found out there was no deposit with the management company. She had owed them $1200 in back rent, and she used my money to pay it off so she could leave.

I called her freaking out and she said not to worry, she will pay it back to me within one month (my mom was listening on speakerphone as she said that so I have a witness). She said she would email me within half an hour to confirm that she agreed to pay me back in one month.

Well it's been several hours and no email.

She's several states away by now, but the management company has her SSN, and parent's information on file so it won't be impossible to track her down if need be.

This is my question: what is the best way for me to get as much of my money back as possible?

Say you somehow got yourself into my situation. what would you do starting right now?

I do have receipts from her for all the money, and emails and text messages from her stating the lie she initially told me.

Is the best way to go hostile, even though that might scare her off and make it harder to recover my money? Soft and coaxing so she will at least try to give me some back? Help :(
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You will have to take her to small claims court. Someone like this is not going to respond to your "coaxing". She's a liar and a thief. Talk to your local tenants association. This might even legally be considered fraud.
posted by kimdog at 7:07 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding talking to your tenant's association. Tomorrow. They can advise you about next steps. If that isn't fruitful, try calling your state's attorney general, if you are in the US to find out what your legal options are.

Good luck!
posted by lunasol at 7:14 AM on September 28, 2008

She's out of state? Your money's gone.

NEVER EVER get yourself into a lease without speaking to the actual lessor (in this case, the management company).
posted by mkultra at 7:38 AM on September 28, 2008

First of all, you've been made to look like an idiot by this girl. You need to take "soft and coaxing" off your list of methodologies. It just doesn't produce results.

Secondly, you need to look at this primarily as a learning experience. Don't strike deals behind management especially if you don't know the tenant personally, and don't agree to terms that aren't written out in a contract, even if they're your best friend. "My mom heard this" and "I've got texts to prove that" are not the way adults go about conducting business. You are too naive and these suggestions are made so that you learn how to protect yourself (like other people do - trust does not make the world go round).

Three, seek outside help. You don't necessarily have to hire a lawyer, but talk to any friends, association or legal entity that may be able to offer you advice on how to proceed and reclaim your money.

Four, even if you have the phone number, don't act hostile on a personal level with her parents. Calling people and freaking out gets you nowhere, as you've probably already figured out. Be restrained with your emotions and diligent with your action.

If I were you (and I'm not a lawyer) I would collect your evidence, file a claim in small claims court and serve her papers with the contact information you have. At the very least to have a record. Then drop a line to her parents and let one of them know about their daughter's situation.
posted by phaedon at 7:42 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

I got ripped off

I think that about sums it up. I doubt a tenant's association would be helpful; this has nothing to do with landlord-tenant relations.
posted by kmennie at 8:16 AM on September 28, 2008

I think your best bet is to place pressure on her parents. I would start out nice and then quickly get more aggressive. Threaten their credit, etc. This girl will not pay you back. Her parents might out of some sort of guilt or perceived obligation. Not much else you can do.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:21 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Maybe call your bank?
posted by milarepa at 8:29 AM on September 28, 2008

I called her freaking out and she said not to worry, she will pay it back to me within one month (my mom was listening on speakerphone as she said that so I have a witness). She said she would email me within half an hour to confirm that she agreed to pay me back in one month.

People like this float from scam to scam, lie to lie.

Instead of pursuing this civilly, you need to take the criminal route. This was criminal fraud/theft, and you are the victim of a crime. Go to your local police station and swear out a warrant against her. A criminal warrant, for felony fraud or theft (in my state, what she did would be a felony due to the amouny) will haunt her and you will be much more likely to get your money back than if you pursued solely civil remedies.
posted by jayder at 8:48 AM on September 28, 2008

due to the amouny

due to the amount
posted by jayder at 8:49 AM on September 28, 2008

Tell her you're taking her to small claims court. Give her one week to get you the money. If she doesn't, take her to small claims court.

I doubt the management company will be able to help you (she conned you, not them) and I think bugging her parents is sort of a lousy thing to do- she's the one who ripped you off, not them.
posted by emd3737 at 8:58 AM on September 28, 2008

  1. Call your bank and place a stop payment order on the checks, if they haven't hit your account yet.
  2. Get the advice of a lawyer. For $1200, it could well be worth a couple of hundred for a consultation. Do what the lawyer says.
If you decide not to contact a lawyer, then I would start by considering this to be fraud as she obtained property by deception. I'm assuming you were in the same state when this happened and none of the communication was over the U.S. mail. So your first stop would be the local police department. Be sure you are armed with the information about the laws she violated. I bet the police won't want to do anything about it, and will probably regard it as a civil, not criminal matter. But I hope you can at least get a crime report number for further use. If the police don't want to do anything you can also try the local DA or equivalent.

Once you get a report number, send it to this woman, letting them know that you still intend to take civil legal action. Before you contact her parents, you should check that this is actually legal in the two states.

Find out what the statute of limitations is for filing a small claims action in your locality. You can wait for the criminal authorities to do the work for you, but in all likelihood you will probably have to file in small claims yourself. But if she doesn't have any money and is out of state, you should carefully consider the difficulty you will have in serving her and collecting a judgment once awarded.

Good luck. IANAL and you should really contact one.
posted by grouse at 9:10 AM on September 28, 2008

Stop the checks, call the parents and see if that'll get you anywhere. Mentioning, "I really don't want to sue and ruin her credit, but I need my money back" might do the trick.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:32 AM on September 28, 2008

I would threaten with the cops, not small claims. If small claims court determines that yes, she owes you the money, you still have to collect. I somehow doubt that will be an easy process.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:48 AM on September 28, 2008

Seconding every answer that says Call the Police, stop the check, small claims court. Do not worry about her credit, or anything else. She lied and ripped you off with zero compunction.
posted by theora55 at 9:53 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

stop the check & call the police.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:52 PM on September 28, 2008

Yeah, has she cashed the checks? If not, just stop payment on them (to do that, gather up info like check number and amount and call your bank's customer service line RIGHT NOW). (Seriously, RIGHT NOW.)
posted by robinpME at 3:28 PM on September 28, 2008

she used my money to pay it off so she could leave

That sounds pretty clear that the checks have been cashed.

I would call her first thing tomorrow and leave a message that if you don't have a signed, written promise to pay the money back by the end of the week, the next call you'll be making is to the police. If I didn't hear from her by the end of the day, I'd tell her, I would be calling her parents that night, and my lawyer in the morning.

Don't dick around here; she's a liar and will string you along forever if you let her. The longer you wait between steps the more likely she's gonna get away with this garbage. Give her quick, short deadlines and be sure to contact her parents tomorrow night if you don't hear from her immediately during the day.
posted by mediareport at 7:04 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hell, call her parents tomorrow night even if you *do* hear from her during the day. It's a sure bet you'll need to involve her parents, so might as well do it now. Just tell her you'll be calling her parents and then *do it*.
posted by mediareport at 8:16 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Call her fast before she ditches the prepaid phone she used or changes her number. Call the police and file in small claims court.

She's not going to give you your money back because you're a nice person -- she playing that fact, hard, to successfully perpetrate a premeditated scam.
posted by desuetude at 8:09 AM on September 29, 2008

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