Imagine getting a letter from a stranger who is trying to rent the home you already live in. It’s happened to a number of people because a company advertises homes as available for rent to own, but many are not.
Looking for a home on Craigslist, Wesley, Susan and Kelly found ads for attractive rent-to-own homes at a low cost.
“I was excited quite honestly,” Kelly said.
They called the number advertised and say a high pressure sales pitch had them pulling out their credit cards to pay $199 dollars for a list of what was described as “distressed properties” in “pre-foreclosure” from a company called American Standard.
“The houses are vacant or they are moving out because they are getting ready to lose the house,” explained Kelly.
Wesley said a sales representative told him the company had already been in contact with the home owners.
“Absolutely, I mean how else are they going to bring us on sight for a face to face with a homeowner if they didn’t have some type of business relationship with them?”
According to Kelly, a telephone rep also sold her on the list of desperate home owners who would let her check out their houses, then rent-to-own if she wanted.
“I would actually be able to see the house and be inside the house.”
But soon after American Standard had their money, Wesley and Susan learned they wouldn’t be directly connected with the homeowners at all.
“Then they started stipulating that “’well when you do find a house we’re going to send you a letter. You fill out the letter and then you send that to the homeowner.”’ Wesley explained. “And then flags really started raising because you contradicted yourself from what you told us initially.”
They went ahead and sent the letter for a house they liked anyway. When they didn’t get a response, they managed to track down the owner by phone.
“They never heard of American Standard,” said Susan.
They started to question just what had they had paid $199 for?
“We never saw anything that they indicated they would provide us,” said Wesley.
The company’s website states they are “Among the largest providers of distressed properties.” But, if you look at a different link on the website, American Standard warns they take “No responsibility for the accuracy of the list”. Wesley says the sales person never said that over the phone when he handed over his money.
Troubleshooters showed Wesley and Susan another home on their list that was quite a shock. It’s the one they’re living in now!
“There it is son of a gun,” gasped Wesley in surprise.
How is that possible? Wesley says they’re in a three year lease. I spoke with the owner of his home who tells me he has never heard of American Standard and he purchased the house less than a year ago and has never been behind in the payments.
Kelly says she feels tricked by the company.
“They took my money and ran.”
Her troubles started when she found a home she was hoping to rent, and own. She says the company never contacted the home owner like she was promised over the phone, instead they told her to send a letter asking if she could take over the mortgage payment.
“But I mailed it to the homeowner at the address and never got anything back,” Kelley explained.
That’s probably because the owner never tried to rent out her house. She tells me she has never heard of the company. And she’s not the only one. We reached out to other homeowners, like Rosa whose Hartford house is advertised by the company as available.
“My house is not on the market,” she explained. “My house is not for rent.”
Some of the homes on this list from American Standard don’t even exist. For instance, went to verify the listing of what is supposed to be 23 Todd road in Shelton, but it’s just vacant land. The city of Shelton has no record of a home being here.
According to the list, there is supposed to a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom home here. We found 9 other addresses on the list where the homes don’t exist.
We also took a closer look at their Craigslist ads. In one, there is a picture and details for a 3 bedroom home in Hartford that is also listed as a 4 bedroom home in Naugatuck.
“I want my money back,” said Wesley.
The American Standard website advertises they are “one of the most trusted names in the business.”
However, we found more than 700 complaints about them and the other name the company sells the list under, “Anchor House Financial”.
After repeated attempts to contact the company’s’ owners at their Santa Barbara California offices, the troubleshooters received an email back. They did not answer any of our questions, but asked for the names of the customers so they could contact them directly about their issues.
Meanwhile, Kelly, who accidentally bought lists from both companies not knowing they are from the same owners and have the same information, got a refund from Anchor House Financial. But not American Standard, they emailed her and said too much time had passed.
She hopes her story will serve as a warning for others.
“They took advantage of somebody who needs housing who doesn’t have a big income and they made money on me,” said Kelly.
The Better Business Bureau has an alert out for both companies. They urge you to file a complaint if you have dealt with them and have a problem with American Standard or Anchor House Financial.