Leasing Lifestyle: Couple Out in the Cold after Craigslist Housing Scam Involving Invitation Homes.
Casey and Nikki Granger thought they hit the rental lottery: a four-bedroom, 1,600-square foot bungalow with a two-car garage in an idyllic suburban neighborhood in League City listed for $1,000 a month.
After moving from Oregon to Texas and living with Nikki’s father, Lonnie Cannon, a disabled veteran, in a trailer home with no air conditioning for two weeks, simply having a solid roof over their head felt like a dream.
The Grangers wired $2,300 — two months rent plus application fees — to Jeffrey Anderson, the listing agent named on the Craigslist ad to move into the rental on Newport Boulevard in League City. The Grangers never met Anderson, who gave them an access code to enter the home.
Several days after moving in, a woman knocked on their door claiming to be the rightful tenant , showing them a 40-page lease as proof. Just like that, the Grangers’ dream turned into a nightmare.
“This woman knocks on the door and says, ‘Hi, this is my house.’ We were like, ‘What’s going on?’,” Casey said, chuckling and shaking his head in disbelief.
The home on Newport Boulevard is owned by a leasing company called Invitation Homes, which has a portfolio of over 80,000 rentals in 17 markets across the country. A representative with Invitation Homes told the Grangers they had been the victims of a scam. Days later, the company informed the couple they would have to vacate the property or they would commence eviction proceedings.
The scam artist, Jeffrey Anderson, disappeared with the Grangers’ money. But he apparently still has access to at least two homes in Invitation Homes’ portfolio and, as recently as Tuesday, continues to post on Craigslist advertising the home on Newport Boulevard.
The Galveston County District Attorney is looking into the Grangers’ case, but has thus far been left stumped.
“I haven’t really seen, at least in my time here, this type of housing fraud happen,” said Austin Fletcher, an assistant criminal district attorney in the major fraud division of the Galveston County District Attorney’s office.
Claire Parker, a spokeswoman for Invitation Homes, asserted in a written statement that the “number of misleading listings is very small.”
“We encourage any consumer interested in renting one of our homes to contact us directly via our website at InvitationHomes.com,” Parker wrote. “With regard to the home on Newport Boulevard, Invitation Homes understands the difficult situation these individuals are in and we have offered them the opportunity to apply to rent the home or to review our website to find another home that might be more affordable for them.”