Shore rental nightmare for group of teens

July 18, 2012

"We knew this was going to be one of the best summers of our lives and I was just so excited, each day it got closer," Kyle Murphy of Somerton told Action News.

Kyle and his group of 11 friends from Northeast Philadelphia spent years planning and more than a few months saving for what they hoped would be a summer to remember.

Instead, it turned into an experience they'd like to forget.

"Angry doesn't even sum it up because I've never, I've never been that mad about anything before in my life," Mike Allendorf said.

Allendorf worked weekends for three years to save up $2,000, his share of the $20,000 needed to rent the house they wanted in Wildwood. It was modern, clean, and new.

On November 5th of last year, they signed a lease with landlord Matthew Titus and began dreaming of lazy days on the beach.

"We thought everything was good to go, but then, probably mid-May we got a call from him saying he was going to switch our house," Murphy said.

Days before they were supposed to move in, Titus told them there'd been a mix-up, but for the same cost, they could live at another house, a smaller house nearby with few of the luxuries they'd paid for.

This house consisted of patched and torn wall paper, holes in the wall, and one working shower for 11 people.

It turns out, weeks before Matthew Titus rented the original house to them, he already signed a one year lease with someone else, and the paperwork proves it.

Titus spoke with Action News and described the ordeal this way: "A situation with a mix-up with the rental and I have an attorney representing me on that."

But when the boys asked for their money back rather than accept the smaller house for the same price, the money was gone.

Titus, as even he admits, had already spent it.

He offered them $2,400 in regular installments to repay them, if they promised not to press charges.

They declined.

Confronted by Action News, he insisted to us that he would repay the boys and settle the issue this month. So far, they've received nothing.

Now, Titus has been charged with theft by deception and the case is in the hands of Cape May County prosecutors.

Alerted to the issue by Action News, the Attorney General's Division of Consumer Affairs tells us they too are looking into it.

"I'd like to make it right, too, and I'm kind of glad you're here because I've been kind of left in the dark with it," Titus said to Action News.

Doctor Forrest Huffman, a real estate expert with Temple's Fox School of Business, says this nightmare can be avoided.

"You want to protect yourself as a tenant from those things, things that you may not be able to forecast ahead of time," Huffman said.

Here are some of the tips experts say to keep in mind to avoid being scammed:

  • Don't overpay
  • If possible, go through a real estate agent and ask for references
  • Take pictures
  • Talk about lease agreement
  • Don't accept less than promised

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