Rental application fee not returned

7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda has the story.
Seven On Your Side
February 26, 2014 6:51:20 PM PST
Renting an apartment is a necessary part of life for some.

There are things you can do to make sure you're protected to make the experience better and to protect yourself.

If you get denied an apartment through no fault of your own, brokers usually return your money within a week or two.

This was taking a month or two and the delay was denying a family from finding a home of their own.

"Clients say they didn't get their deposits back, do you know what the delay is?" 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda asked.

7 On Your Side didn't get a whole lot of love at Alotta Apartments.

"Is this a practice here; is this what you do how you treat your customers?" Pineda asked.

Natasha and RJ Santiago, a young husband and wife, say they've gotten the refund runaround after Alotta denied their application to rent an apartment.

"If we were not approved for things that were out of our control then we were entitled to the $1,300 back," Natasha Santiago, a renter said.

That's the amount of their security deposit. And according to their contract, rejection means refund.

"And it was supposed to be returned in a week or two," Natasha Santiago said.

But it wasn't, leaving the couple and their toddler son still crammed in a shared walk-up with their in-laws, in rental limbo with no funds to secure another place.

"We couldn't do it, we didn't have the money," R.J. Santiago said.

7 On Your Side called Alotta Apartments and spoke to the so-called owner, a Mr. Lewis, who insisted the couple wasn't denied, but backed out of the deal because they broke up. But the reality?

"I have my husband and our son, we are looking to start new and fresh," Natasha Santiago said.

So 7 On Your Side went looking for Mr. Lewis.

"Is Mr. Lewis here?" Pineda asked.

"No he's not," a woman said.

"Are you sure?" Pineda asked.

"I said he's not!" the woman said.

That was a lie.

"We want to ask about these clients deposits," Pineda said.

Turns out he was there, but was not the owner, but a broker.

He apologized off camera saying he mixed our couple up, admitting the Santiago's were owed a refund.

"We picked up cash, I paid in cash, and we picked it up," R.J. Santiago said.

They had $1,300 back in their hands.

"We are forever grateful for you guys, thank you so much," Natasha Santiago said.

Even the angel Gabriel had to pipe in.

"Thank you!" baby Gabriel Santiago said.

The big takeaway here goes without saying; read your lease or broker's contract thoroughly before signing.

Pay close attention to what the refund policies are.

And always research your broker to see if they're licensed. This one was licensed,but the clients say only after running into trouble they unearthed similar complaints about alleged refunds problems.