When you're desperate for a new home, any advertisement promising free rent can seem like the answer you've been waiting for. But two North Texas women say they wish they'd just kept on waiting.
A Craigslist scheme left two families without a home and cost them hundreds of dollars.
The two families saw the same post on Craigslist that offered a sub-lease on an apartment and guaranteed the first two months were rent free. But they quickly realized their dream apartment was too good to be true.
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"I responded to an ad that sounded great," Rosa Martinez said.
A two-bedroom, two-bath apartment at Summer Villas in Dallas with the rent paid through October was just what her family needed.
The woman sub-leasing her apartment said she needed to move quickly and was hoping to help Martinez and her family out.
"She just wanted to bless someone with a place, free-rent until October, so I jumped on it," Martinez said.
The sublease for the apartment was $750 a month with a $300 down payment.
Within days, Martinez moved in.
"She gave us the keys and everything," Martinez said. "I thought it was God-sent."
But the Martinez family learned their so-called gift from above had been offered to another family as well.
"A lot like Rosa, I had been looking at the Craigslist," said Heather Bentz, who saw an ad for the same apartment.
In her case, a $350 down payment got her the keys and she was ready to move in.
"We walked up, opened up the door and, boom, there was somebody else's stuff in that apartment," Bentz said.
That stuff belonged to the Martinez family. It turns out both women sub-leased the same apartment from a tenant who'd been evicted.
Bentz went to the leasing office and found out the apartment complex doesn't even allow subleases.
"That's one of the things I would have done is gone to the apartment and say, 'Do you sublet,'" Bentz said.
A manager at the apartment complex told NBC 5 Responds she regrets this happened to the two families but recommends all future tenants work with the apartment directly and never enter a sublease agreement with a tenant alone.
As for the woman behind the Craigslist post, she vanished, leaving Bentz and Martinez without their money and without an apartment.
Subleases in Texas require the landlord's consent. A quick phone call would have saved both women so much pain and money.
Bentz and Martinez say one good thing came out of the experience. They are both good friends now. They went to police, but unfortunately there wasn't much they could do to help in this case.