craigslist stalker is on the loose
January 20, 2006 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Craigslist flagging question: How to avoid harassment?

Here's the condensed version: One year ago, landlord offers subsidized apartment in a great area. Potential renter calls, and has very apparent personal issues. Not a good candidate. This individual decides to flag landlords postings each and every time. Landlord did manage to rent the unit at that time.

Fast forward to today. Same unit is vacant and up for rent. Same individual is flagging ads before any actual renters can respond.

The landlord has contacted several lawyers, to no avail. He is contacting craigslist via phone. This an honest landlord. This is a low-income housing opportunity that rarely presents itself.

How is one person manipulating the flagging system? How can I direct a non-savvy computer user to remedy this situation?
posted by vaportrail to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
 
The landlord needs to contact Craigslist and explain what's happening, why the flags are unfair, and what he'd like to be able to do (post listings without harrassment).

He should start with this page.
posted by bshort at 11:14 AM on January 20, 2006


First, how are they identifying the posting as one by this landlord? Is the address in the posting? Is it a non-anonymized email address? Something else?

Second, according to what I've seen, more than one flagging must happen before a removal is made. However though, perhaps Craigslist itself is automatically dropping the post after continued annoyance from this user?

Third, I'm seriously desperate for a 2 or 3 bedroom in the Vancouver area that accepts a cat and a baby-to-be. If this landlord is in my area, please let me know!
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:14 AM on January 20, 2006


How does the landlord know who's flagging it?
posted by duck at 11:19 AM on January 20, 2006


Second, according to what I've seen, more than one flagging must happen before a removal is made.

As I understand it, one person can keep pushing the flag button until the ad disappears.
posted by winston at 11:26 AM on January 20, 2006


Can the landlord use a different email and phone number to advertise the suite?

Kickstart (sorry, I don't know how to do small text), I don't know where you're looking, but many pet stores have lists of pet-friendly buildings. As for the baby, can you hide the pregnancy? In BC, landlords are not allowed to discriminate against families, but it might help to hide the belly. Also, I believe that they can only ask you to leave after a child is born if an unreasonable number of people are living in the apartment. (And it doesn't matter if your lease says 2 or 3 people.) Even if the tenancy board determined that you could not have 2 or 3 people in the apartment, the landlord must give you two years to find another apartment! And that's assuming it's considered unreasonable. Downtown, I know many, many families with one child in a one bedroom apartment.
posted by acoutu at 11:29 AM on January 20, 2006


Response by poster: The landlord posts his rental 'hotline' phone number in all ads. He also posts the address for his own reference as he manages many properties.

He only logs on 1-2 times a week from a internet cafe or friends computer so the phone number is essential. Knowing this individual, I doubt a change of phone number and/or email address is possible. I did suggest he change his ad description to create some grey area on harasser's part.

Apartment is 1 bedroom and in Noe Valley in San Francisco. Thanks for your help thus far.
posted by vaportrail at 11:36 AM on January 20, 2006


Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist handles all their customer support and is very generous with his time on solving issues like this. If I were you, I'd send a nice email directly to Craig asking him to look into the situation.
posted by mathowie at 11:45 AM on January 20, 2006


Response by poster: Landlord knows who is flagging it as the harasser posts his own ad:

This posting is very, very fishy. I called this person several times and believe that this person is taking advantage of his/her posting of an "equal housing opportunity". This person will most likely claim that he/she received no phonecalls or emails about this apartment, and therefore, can raise the price. Don't even bother. This isn't legal and it's taking advantage of the less fortunate of us.

It is also possible other craigslisters are flagging the original ad due to above. For the record: none of the above is true. The harasser went on a Tourette's-esque rampage on landlord's answering machine after he didn't get an immediate response to his first message.
posted by vaportrail at 11:47 AM on January 20, 2006


Are you sure there's not a problem with the ad? That it's in the right section? That it's in the right city? Etc?

From the FAQ:

One person cannot set multiple flags on one ad. Well, ok, they can. But because of the protections craigslist uses it is a LOT of work to do. Even those that know how are very unlikely to bother. It's easier to send a hate-o-gram from an anon. email if you think something is truly wretched.
posted by Manhasset at 11:51 AM on January 20, 2006


Response by poster: Okay I have contacted craigslist. Thanks again for the help.
posted by vaportrail at 12:15 PM on January 20, 2006


The key is to take a different perspective on the problem.

1) It's easy for this guy to undermine your CL advertising, so focus on the non-CL marketing for now. More important to get the place rented than to invest effort and money into trying to thwart a jerk with a vendetta. Diversifying the advertising expands the audience of potential tenants, while making it harder for this guy to poison the well. Pick a mix of media: flyers, newspaper/newsletter advertising, the off-campus housing service of a local college, etc. Even if this person manages to track down every ad, it'll take time, and some--like newspaper ads--are much harder to vandalize than others.

2) Ask the phone provider whether there's an option to add additional numbers to the line. We used to do this for some of our rentals, to track response rates from one ad vs another. Cost was ~$5/mo for I think 3 extra numbers that would each ring through to the existing line. Gving each ad a different number AND phrasing should be sufficient to keep the landlord effectively anonymous in a busy housing market like SF. (Though he'll need to stop including the address as reference. Obviously that's a dead giveaway.)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:17 PM on January 20, 2006


Response by poster: NCM:

Great suggestions. Landlord is an older gentlemen, very set in his ways. Change is not easy for him.

Unfortunately, Craigslist is just about the ONLY means of advertising apartments in San Francisco. Craigslist was started in my neighborhood! Even this old landlord said "No one reads the newspaper anymore!" How things have changed..
posted by vaportrail at 12:25 PM on January 20, 2006


Craigslist is just about the ONLY means of advertising apartments in San Francisco.

No it really, really, really, truly is not. Being one of many similar listings in the #1 pool of ads has its advantages, but so does being a standout listing in the #3 or #5 pool. There are thousands of people constantly moving into SF with no idea that CL is such a local favorite. Also, there still apartment hunters who don't have access to the Internet regularly or who do but aren't CL-savvy. Put up flyers in seniors centers, international students' centers, or hostels for instance -- he'll soon hear from people who probably never would have seen his or anyone else's CL ad.

SF is an intensely competitve rental market. In marketing, diversification = advantage. Instead of being victimized by this ass, he can turn this incident into an competitive opportunity.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:21 AM on January 21, 2006


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