WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A Wyoming landlady is accused of taking advantage of potential renters by charging them for background checks with no intention of leasing to them.
Wyoming’s city attorney confirmed to Target 8 that he’s seeking three counts of larceny by false pretenses against Angela Arvizu, 39, of Manchester Road SW.
“Housing is hard enough as it is,” said Renee Reese, who contacted police and Target 8 to report Arvizu’s alleged rental ruse.
Reese’s lease was about to run out and the single mom was struggling to find an affordable apartment. She posted an ad on Craigslist and got a call from Arvizu soon after.
“I said, ‘How come I didn’t see your house listed on Craigslist because I’ve been looking for months?'” Reese recalled. “She said, ‘Because there’s too many people who get scammed on Craigslist.’ She actually said that to me.”
Reese was at work, so her friend met Arvizu at the home on Manchester off Buchanan Avenue.
“She asked for $40 for him because we were going to move in together and then $40 from me to do background checks for both of us,” Reese said.
Her friend forked over the cash only to have trouble reaching Arvizu later.
“I texted her, ‘Hey, I need to know what’s going on,’” remembered Reese.
She wasn’t alone. Alexis Cline, 19, was also struggling to get a straight answer from Arvizu after touring the house on Manchester.
“She showed me the house,” explained Cline. “She had me give her 40 bucks for the application fee.”
Cline said it looked like someone was in the process of moving out, so she believed the house would be vacant soon. But then she had trouble getting back in touch with Arvizu.
“I kind of gave up hope and I was actually scrolling down Facebook and I seen somebody else post her picture and I kind of was like, ‘Hey, she did the same thing to me,'” Cline said.
Ultimately, Reese, Cline and two other apartment hunters called police to complain that Arvizu was collecting application fees and failing to follow up.
When Target 8 tracked down Arvizu, we found her living in the home on Manchester. she and her husband own it, along with at least one other house on Celia Street SE, just a couple blocks south.
Arvizu told Target 8 that she has done nothing wrong.
“I’m not making money on it,” she explained. “Background checks is 40 dollars.”
Arivzu said she performed background checks on five people, none of whom passed.
Wyoming police could not tell Target 8 whether they found evidence that Arvizu conducted the checks because the case is still open. But the city attorney is seeking the criminal charges.
Target 8 discovered Arvizu is wanted on a felony welfare fraud warrant as well.
She also previously pleaded guilty to shoplifting previously and admitted to writing bad checks.
“It’s not right what she’s doing,” Cline said. “She’s affecting people’s lives majorly.”
“I’m struggling enough as it is,” explained Reese. “Because I waited for (Arvizu) to tell me, ‘OK, here’s the keys, you can move in,’ I now have no place to live, so I’m living with a friend.”
Reese is still looking for an apartment, but says she’ll have to move out of state if she can’t find one. She’d rather stay in Grand Rapids.
Reese and Cline didn’t even think about running a background check on Arivzu before paying the application fee.
It’s common practice for landlords to charge an application fee, which can run up to $50. They’re under no obligation to return it, either.
If you’re touring a unit and it seems like someone’s still living in it, experts say you should ask exactly when the lease expires and listen to your intuition. If it seems suspicious, walk away.