SAN ANTONIO — You may think your apartment complex is safe because many managers run background checks to screen out people with criminal records, but News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila made a startling discovery about those checks.
With the apartment boom here in San Antonio many complexes are using apartment locator services to find new tenants. The locator can make hundreds of dollars if they get a tenant approved. That’s a big incentive for them to help cover up a renter’s criminal record or work history.
Johnathan loves his new $1,525-a-month luxury apartment on San Antonio’s North side. He says he never would have qualified for it without the help of a local apartment locator service.
“I am a nine-time convicted felon, I’m not ashamed to say it. They knew that was my issue,” Johnathan said.
On top of an extensive criminal record, Johnathan didn’t have a job. Those two factors would normally disqualify anyone from renting a high-end apartment. But Johnathan says the apartment locator he worked with made changes to some old pay stubs to make it look like he was receiving income.
Johnathan says she also altered his birth date on the application.
“To go ahead and hide my criminal history. She said it will run through just fine and none of your felonies will come up. That’s what happened. I got accepted here in probably around an hour or two,” he told us.
We wanted to know if the kind of thing Johnathan described is common among local apartment locators.
So we chose several of them at random off the internet and went in for consultations with a hidden camera.
Three apartment finders made it clear: proof of income and a criminal background check were a must.
They never offered to conceal or alter information.
Then we went to a fourth location, the one where Johnathan says he went: Apartments Today on Babcock Road.
“We can help you, guide you, do stuff to help you get approved,” we were told by a sales agent, who says she can help people with felony records get into certain apartment complexes.
“They’ll either work with it or there are certain things we can do where it won’t come up it just depends what it is,” she continued.
The sales agent also tells us they can make pay stubs to provide proof of income.
“We can help you get where you need to be. We can make you stubs or something like that,” she said on hidden camera.
The sales agent suggested we go look at some apartments then return.
“Come back we’ll help you fill out the application and we’ll help you with income. We can make the stubs but, is that something you’re okay with?”
Apartments Today’s president emailed us the following statement:
“We take these matters very seriously and to heart, and will immediately do our own investigation and perform whatever administrative actions that must be taken to rectify the situation. We value the integrity of this company, and strive to deliver only the best service in the most honorable manner.”
Jodi Southwick, president of the National Association of Apartment Locators, says agents who offer to falsify records are looking to make more money.
“They are absolutely targeting people that have challenges in their credit, challenges in their criminal record and are trying to help those people that are getting them in even though they aren’t qualified and collecting a hefty commission on the back side,” Southwick said.
Southwick says apartment managers aren’t the only ones getting cheated. Renters like Johnathan can end up getting evicted when they can’t afford their rent, burying them in debt and further damaging their rental history.
Their neighbors are affected as well.
“Finding your way to get around the fact that a renter has a criminal record, that just puts any tenant at the apartment complex renting at risk,” Southwick said.
As our investigation shows there are plenty of legitimate apartment locators, and many people rely on them to help find the best deal on a new home.
The National Association of Apartment Locators has a list of agents who agree to follow a code of ethics. You can view that list by clicking here.
Credit: News4 San Antonio