YOU SHOULD NEVER GIVE ANY MONIES WITHOUT SEEING THE APARTMENT IN PERSON. IF IT IS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT IS!
I originally wrote the article posted below two years ago regarding "The Affordable Equity Project." They are a fake company that preys on desperate renters to submit $40.00-$50.00 as a general application fee or credit check and then they never have any intention of showing or renting you the apartment.
This website has been complained about many times with the Better Business Bureau so now they have started a new website called SuperLowRentals.com. Please, please read below before you ever considering giving money to a company before you have seen the apartment.
I have been emailed and contacted more about the Affordable Equity Project (AEP) than any other topic as the director of HowToRentInNYC.com. The Affordable Equity Project lists several very below market priced apartments on their website and then instructs users to send $40.00 for a processing fee and that credit scores and income do not matter.
From the AEP Website: "The Affordable Equity Project is a company that was founded with one goal in mind, to connect affordable housing with the responsible people who need it most. We believe every person on earth who needs and wants housing should be able to get it at an affordable rental price. Affordable Housing should not be a privilege, it should be a right."
Many people have contacted me letting me know they think it is a straight scam charging people $40.00 for application fees for apartments they think never existed. I allow people to write reviews of their experiences with landlords on my website and there have been exactly 35 negative reviews of their service and 3 positive for an average rating of 1.4 out of 5. Many people claim the three positive reviews were in fact "planted" by AEP themselves and found errors within their messages.
Most recently I was contacted by a Columbia journalism student and a person who used the service (who will remain anonymous) with detailed information on their experiences. I feel it is my duty to report this to the general New York City rental community because of this information that has been brought to me. I have been contacted as well by the Affordable Equity Project with requests to take down all the negative reviews, but when I asked for legitimate referrals or information I never heard back from them. I still welcome the Affordable Equity Project to contact me with concrete information about people they have helped as well as directly respond to the postings from the people below.
MY BOTTOM LINE: With over 30 negative, detailed reviews, negative standing with the Better Business Bureau and their lack of response to my own requests, I do believe the Affordable Equity Project is a well run scam. For the sake of argument even if an apartment exists for $1000.00 in Union Square- companies should NEVER accept an application unless the apartment is genuinely vacant. Reading through the reviews there were at least five applicants for one apartment. This should never be the case unless each one of them was contacted with reasons for being rejected and then they can accept the next applicants $40.00 for processing. A company cannot collect 5 or my guess about 50 applicants and $40.00 per application - process all of them and then "pick" the best applicant. Regardless, I do not believe these units exist. Please read below for further information.
FROM ANONYMOUS: (a personal story in using the Affordable Equity Project service)
I was really desperate to find something without paying a brokers's fee, and when I saw their very professional looking website (www.equityproject.net), it gave me hope. I did not immediately send in money, as they only have listings available every few months. But they offer to send you an email once new properties become available, so I signed up.
When an email came in my box one day, and it happened to be in a neighborhood I was looking to live in, I jumped on it without much thought. I did call the office to ask a few questions, but the woman was reassuring and she said that they showed people the apt. based on who got the application in first. So I ran to the bank and got a money order, and sent it in that day. But then, after the first buzz of possibility wore off, I started questioning it further and started researching them online.
Here's what I found:
- They claim on their website that they are listed "in good standing" with the Better Business Bureau. This is misleading, as it makes it sound like the BBB is holding them to some standard. They are not members, nor are they accredited. Anyone can be listed, but there is no such thing as being listed in good standing. In fact, according to the BBB, out of 24 known complaints, only 2 complaints were resolved to the satisfaction of the consumer, and 6 were partially resolved. That is hardly a track record to brag about, or interpretable as in "good standing".
- I googled the company again, looking more closely this time, and this time I noticed that all of the "articles" about the company were put forth by the same person, Ron or Ray Subs, and always the same spiel, and on websites where there were no comments allowed.
- I looked again at their website, and noticed that the FAQ's all sounded kind of false and similar in tone. I also remarked that in the year I have been going to their website, they NEVER have any office space or condo listings, and that it seemed very strange in their FAQs, they say that there is no limit to how much someone makes to qualify for one of their low price apartments. It seemed to go against their mission to provide affordable housing to people who were struggling to find it, esp. since they only offer a few apartments every few months.
So, this was just a day later... I called them and asked them to withdraw my application when it arrived, and that I wanted to be notified when this was done. I got the biggest run-around. For weeks, I called and emailed every day, as I really could not afford to throw away $40. But calling so frequently and so doggedly made me see other things about how they run. Probably most people were not so determined as me, and just gave up their money. But I kept calling every day. One of the things I noticed was that it was always the same two voices. One was a man ("Dusty"), the other a woman. The woman's voice in particular was very distinctive, kind of high pitched and nasal, and she sounded very smooth in a corporate customer service kind of way. Anyway, I always knew it was the same person, and so I started asking, "Who am I speaking with?" And then it became really comical, because each time she responded with a different name. I started writing them down after a while, and got Wendy, Holly, Sue, and Christy, all with the exact same voice. Each time, she had no idea how to answer my questions, but always said she would have someone email me and always with the same friendly voice. I asked to be called and she said okay, but no one ever did. I did get many email form letters, saying that they had received my concern, and would get back to me. I kept calling, and then I got a more personal email asking when I sent in my application. I responded, and then received an email saying he, "John Henderson", would look into the matter. We went through a few rounds/repetitions of this, and then I finally said that I was reporting them as fraudulent and I was really upset about the run-around. To that, I got a final email saying,
"We will look into this for you, if a refund is warranted, then please allow up to 6 to 8 weeks for it to be processed for you. But please understand that our normal policy is that the processing fee is normally non-refundable. I hope this helps, if you have any other questions, then feel free to email us back."
When I asked on what criteria they judged if a refund is warranted, there was no response, nor to any subsequent emails or inquiries.
FROM JOURNALISM STUDENT AT COLUMBIA
- The Affordable Equity project communicates only by email. If you call the number on the website, someone at a call center will answer. He/she will take a message, which will be returned with an email usually from "Jon Henderson." (Come on...) He/she at the call center doesn't know (or pretends not to know) anything about AEP.
- The company that designed the web site refused to give me any information about the people they dealt with while building the AEP website. They also answered my calls with emails and used first names only.
- The people on the testimonials part of the web site do not exist. (That page hasn't been updated in a year and a half by the way.)
- Another reason for suspicion is that AEP doesn't have a physical location--just a PO box in Long Island City.
- I know that they bank(ed) with Washington Mutual, which couldn't give me a shred of info because AEP is their customer.
- Being "listed" with the Better Business Bureau, as AEP advertises, means nothing. The BBB awards accreditation to select businesses that have been reviewed, but will list anyone who provides information. http://search.newyork.bbb.org/reports.aspx?id=98005&pid=44&page=0&FindStr=Affordable+Equity+Project&SearchBy=company&Address=&City=&Phone1=&Phone2=&Phone3=&MembersOnly=False