The reality of the threat of losing their property or "buying" it from fraudsters for the rest of their lives is extremely high.
"Every night we fight off attacks on our apartment"
The other day on the Moscow-24 TV channel there was a story about "black realtors" who wrestle rented apartments from Muscovites. The family of Olga Sokolova from the city of Vidnoe was at the epicenter of events. Serious-looking "realtors" of Caucasian ethnicity demanded to pay a "fine" of 160,000 rubles and leave the apartment in which the Sokolovs managed to barricade themselves. Without waiting for the denouement, the TV crew left for other addresses. The frightened family remained. What's with them now? Novye Izvestia contacted Olga Sokolova by phone.
“I’m even afraid to talk to you”, - Olga said. - They will find out that we have again turned to the press, and it will begin - fines, assaults. After the story on the M-24 we were attacked until two o'clock in the morning, knocked on the windows, climbed on the doors. On Friday they came again ... We do not leave the apartment, at the slightest rustle we hold the door from the inside. Four times in a week they burst upon us, twice they had to change castles flooded with something. My dad is a disabled person of the first group - they attacked when he was at home alone. He saved the heck - he managed to push it in and did not let go, as much as he had the strength, his whole hand is now blue. Mom has a hypertensive crisis, she needs to go to the hospital, she refuses, because there is a gap in our defense, and they can again take over the apartment. It's useless to complain, the police have one answer: decide the issue in court. We filed a lawsuit to terminate the lease agreement, the court is scheduled for October. But you still have to live to see that...
The Sokolovs rented out the apartment to “daddy for the medicine” on June 26 this year. Olga's mother, Irina Ivanovna, posted an ad on Avito, she almost immediately received a call from the White House firm, offered good conditions: they rent an apartment for 43 thousand rubles a month instead of the average market price of 36,000. Why so, they explained: our employees will live from the regions, the company pays for them, so the accounting deposit does not pass, but we increase the rent by a few percent. It is more profitable for you - you receive an increased income for three years, and in the end you will not have to return anything.
The Sokolovs saw the "benefit" the very next day after the conclusion of the contract. The firm put up their apartment on Avito for 30 thousand rubles and... stopped communicating. For several days it was impossible to find out what was going on and why they were not receiving the rent money.
“Later, when we got acquainted with other victims, it became clear what the ambush was about,” says Olga. - They were not going to pay anything. They sublet our apartments, and not at all in order to lodge some of their employees from the regions, as everyone is told. They rent to anyone who responds, most often to migrant workers from Asia, they take a deposit and rent from them for two months. That is, they have 100 thousand or more in their hands at once, after a while the subleasers are kicked out under a far-fetched pretext, things and money are not returned. Then the operation is repeated. Some apartments have “turned around” in this way two, or even three times in a few months. That is, they not only deceive the owners, but also rob tenants in full confidence that people will not complain and will not download their rights.
The owners, as it turned out, have no more rights: he signed the contract himself - he drove himself into bondage. Moreover, for several years and practically without the possibility of terminating it peacefully. Olga Sokolova's mother, like everyone who finished with this company, entered into three contracts for 11 months each (“don't worry, this is in order not to register the contract with the Russian Register and not expose you to taxes.”) The family was interested in long-term lease , and even more so - under an agreement mutually signed on both sides, they could milk someone else's apartment and at the same time the owners for three years, imposing fines on them for literally everything - for an unauthorized walk near their house, for indignation that the rent does not come payment for disclosing the terms of the contract to third parties, for contacting the press ...
GOT A DIVORCE
I don’t want to read morality, but it just takes evil: haven’t you seen what they are signing up for? Yes, they seem to have seen ... Among those for whom renting an apartment is a business, there are not so many simple-minded people. But, apparently, an experienced business is not always accompanied by good luck. “I have been renting an apartment for a long time, clients have always been normal, and I have never violated my part of obligations to them either, so the penalties did not bother me,” one of the victims, a Muscovite Irina Umarova, confessed to NI. - Who knew that this time they would have to face an organized criminal group, and they would not pay..."
The lady has an excellent three-room flat in "stalinka" house near the Alekseevskaya metro station, now there is a hostel for 10 people, redevelopment, a balcony littered with rags, habalistic tenants and a lot of debts for housing and communal services... And she has a fine of 170 thousand rubles for deciding to visit the apartment on her own and check the safety of property, twice without obtaining consent from the company. I came in a company with strong friends. Otherwise, he says, it would be bad - a bearded "manager" with the habits of a professional bouncer is on guard of the privacy of the tenants. They are only affectionate when discussing mind-boggling rental prices.
- With money, the trick is this: it is negotiated with the owner that the advance payment will be received 5 days after the conclusion of the contract, and they give a copy for signature, where all this is spelled out, and then, when the deadlines pass, there is no money, and you start to worry and call, they tell you: Wipe your eyes and read the contract, - Olga Sokolova is indignant. - Began to read. Indeed, it says "not prepayment", but "postpay" plus 10 days after a month of residence. Mom, how is that? What have you read? What did you sign? Mom was in tears: there was no post-payment there. Begins painfully to remember: the manager noticed a slight blot on one of the pages and left for a second to correct it. This second, apparently, was enough to replace the contract. When we found other victims and began to communicate, everyone - Karen Sarkisov, Ira Umarova - had the same story with a "blot". They began to dig information on the Internet - there are hundreds of testimonies from people who were divorced just like us. We in the family decided that we should finish business with this company and return our apartment. We had some kind of lodger, or rather appeared in the apartment from time to time. We tracked down when she arrived and then went to the store. They opened the door and went in. Why was it impossible with her? Under the contract, tenants are not allowed to open the door and communicate with the owners. For this and fines, and early eviction. Karen had a gas leak in his apartment, the Ministry of Emergency Situations was called, the police, the whole house was on their ears, and the tenants with the child were closed and did not breathe. Under pain of death, they managed to force them to open the apartment. We assumed that they would not let us into our apartment either, so we cheated. At first glance, it turned out that there were no tenants in the apartment, there were no other people's things, there was a bag by the door, with which our "lodger" had just come. Here and she comes from the store. Did not expect. We asked for documents on what basis she is in someone else's home. There were no documents. She said that she was a White House realtor, preparing the apartment for delivery, but for now she was just keeping watch. We looked at the girl's passport - it was swollen from temporary registrations all over the world. They put her out with a bag, and we began a cheerful life in a trap...
REALTOR WITH THE CRIMINAL PAST
A remarkable moment. Almost all the victims discussed the terms of the contract on the Internet, to sign the documents, the "manager" came to their apartment with a power of attorney from the general director of the company. We drank tea, talked nicely, discussed the prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation. The next morning, some went online to see what the company was, and grabbed their heads. Hundreds of reviews that these are scammers. Kaliningrad, Kirov, Peter, Moscow... Dozens of investigations into how the same people create different LLCs - Investment Group, Russ-Auto, North-West Consulting Group, etc., and as soon as other people's housing and become overgrown with lawsuits, change the name and place of deployment. Yes, years ago, a many-sided office was sharash in Moscow under the guise of "Union-Expert". In August 2018, their office on Basmannaya was closed by the Investigative Committee, a permanent sharashka lawyer, and in fact, its think tank, Konstantin Taran, was sent to a pre-trial detention center to the jubilation of hundreds of deceived Muscovites. In May of this year, the company was revived under a new name - White House LLC, and the aforementioned lawyer "rose from the ashes".
“I read these dossiers at night and could not wait for the morning to cancel the contract,” Karen Sarkisov, who concluded the deal on August 2, told NI. - According to the documents, I was given three days to think. Half a day had passed, but the manager’s phone did not answer. I ran to the firm where they were supposed to sit - Dmitrovskoe shosse, 71 B. This is a shopping center, they didn’t let me in, the guards said that there was no “White House” here and never was. Couldn't find them anywhere. Well, I think, okay, it's good that I didn't give them the key to the second lock. They will find themselves. Three days later, my neighbors called me: strangers are opening your apartment. He ran, and there already bearded men from the company cut off the lock by welding. I was pushed away: who are you? Rented out an apartment - don't bother tenants from entering. He summoned the district police officer: stop arbitrariness, I do not recognize this agreement and terminate it. He threw up his hands: if you can't agree on the spot - go to court. And so they stood: they cut off the lock, the district police officer looks indifferently, I shoot all this mockery on my phone.
Karen bought the apartment on a mortgage in May this year. Monthly payment - 35 thousand, expected to pay off at the expense of tenants. Everything turned out differently. He, of course, wrote an application to the court, but while the essence and the matter are, the company imposed fines on him under 200 thousand rubles and filed a counterclaim for an attempt to early terminate the contract and the losses that it allegedly bears because of this. 200 thousand in three weeks of delays and ordeals! At this rate, Sarkisov will lose his apartment before he pays off the mortgage. Karen cannot come to terms with this, writes everywhere - to deputies, to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to the prosecutor's office, he even got to the Main Directorate of Economic Security and Anti-Corruption. Demands to expose the scammers and protect gullible tenants from them. Alas, economic security did not even answer him.
“There’s no help from anywhere”, - he says. “Why does the state cover the swindlers? Why, after so many lawsuits for causing property damage to citizens, does the company continue to cheat people for money? Are those who rent out apartments not citizens anymore? The state has withdrawn from us.
THE CRITICAL MASS
Not certainly in that way. When the number of victims reaches a critical mass, the police, as a rule, begin to intervene, the prosecutor's office accepts allegations of fraud, if clients believe that it was. Another question is that inspections do not always find corpus delicti in the actions of a real estate company. Well, if only the "managers" in the heat of the moment did not notice some very protesting landlord before losing his pulse. It is not considered a crime to starve a person to death.
“The point is this: according to the law, a lease agreement is a priority and it can only be terminated by court, for example, in case of non-payment for accommodation within two months,” said Nikolai Stepanchikov, associate professor at Moscow Law University, State Duma legal expert... - This is fair, the law protects the rights and interests of the employer. I have specially looked now at the latest research by NAFI - About 10 million Russians (9% of the country's population) rent housing, almost half of them (49%) plan to rent an apartment at least within the next two years. This is a huge army, and it should not be in a legal vacuum, the rent law is on its side. By renting out an apartment, the owner agrees with these and guarantees compliance with his obligations to the tenant. That is why, when disagreements arise, the police do not react and send to the court to resolve civil law relations. It works in a civilized society.
Let's not forget what kind of society we live in. According to Stepanchikov, the rental housing market is one of the shadiest in the country - it has not yet emerged from the "dashing nineties" and there are plenty of apartment swindlers who have studied the psychology of landlords - to quickly rent out their living space and thereby solve some of their financial problems. or live like a rentier on dividends. The companies “meet halfway” - at the moment of signing the contract, they deftly put on a show and slip the “left” document, which had been stored in advance, on the signature. After that, the deceived landlords are intimidated by bulls, and then events develop according to the already known scenario.
- The State Duma faced this in 2018, - says Nikolai Stepanchikov. - There was a wave of appeals to the LDPR deputy Vitaly Pashin with a request to check the activities of several real estate companies in different cities. The citizens had reason to believe that they were dealing not with simple fraudsters, but with criminal elements who had five or more "walkers". The name of the founding lawyer, Konstantin Taran, appeared everywhere. We dug deeper, contacted the regional law enforcement agencies. It turned out that earlier this man was Shibaev. He changed his last name ... while in prison. But the name and patronymic left the same - Konstantin Pavlovich. Then he changed his last name to Monakhova. Has four convictions, one of them in 2009 under Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (fraud). At large he became a Taran and continued to do what he loved - to create companies and "breed suckers" in renting out housing. In Kaliningrad alone, there were 177 cases in court with a total debt of over half a million rubles. Several hundred victims were in St. Petersburg, where the housing market is much larger. But the greatest expanse was in Moscow. The victims not only lost their money, but, in some cases, their lives and health were in real danger. We must pay tribute to the deputy Pashin - he wrote many requests to law enforcement agencies, achieved that the shop was closed and a criminal case was opened.
Unfortunately, the Investigative Committee did not combine all the episodes by region into one case, but at least in Moscow there was a lull for a while, and the deceived landlords got a chance to get satisfaction from Taran - a partial refund for the rent. There was no reason to re-qualify the article presented to him for a more serious one - “fraud”.
“From a legal point of view, the lease agreements are flawless”, - says Stepanchikov. - According to rumors, all of his firms are served by one of the strongest legal companies in Moscow, but he himself is a specialist with such and such "universities" behind him. After sitting for a year in a pre-trial detention center, Taran came out, and to be honest, I was not very surprised that he took up the old thing. Another thing is surprising - how deaf to criminal information is the rental market, and how careless the owners are when they hand over their expensive housing to the first comer.
Well, again, people are to blame ... Although the state starts to get involved in this sphere - to bring the rental housing market out of the shadows, register every transaction and appoint inspectors from among honored state officials, many will probably not like it either - bureaucracy, control, taxes... Here in Moscow, for a minute, only 26,000 apartments are legally rented. This is according to the Department of Economic Policy, but according to expert estimates, only within the boundaries of "old" Moscow there are three times more offers of apartments and rooms, and they all go somewhere in a week or two. It is not at all excluded that the patrons from the "White House". Konstantin Taran himself is sure that he will not remain without work. Firstly, as it turned out, there is nothing illegal in the activities of firms, the contracts are "flawless". Secondly... But you can't say better than he himself said in the only public interview for BFM.ru when he emerged victorious from the battle with offended landlords:
“Have you seen at least one psychiatrist who could help a fool? In my opinion, no one can cure him. The contract is a product of our mutual agreement with you. What we came to strictly as a result of negotiations. We discussed it - you agreed. You have read, verified, signed. On every page. I sent you a message and once again gave you the opportunity to revise the provisions of the treaty. You haven't done that either. I have made every attempt to satisfy your probable requests. Well, now, they walk, holding hands together, start shouting: "How to screw up Taran". And I answer them that happiness is when they envy you, but they cannot shit".
POWER TO POWER, MONEY TO MONEY
It is unknown how many Muscovites have been caught in the net since May - since the beginning of the White House in the capital - and now "envy" Taran. The Sokolov hermits from Vidnoye claim that there are hundreds of them, judging by the responses to Pikaba, which traditionally welcomes all the offended. Many come anonymously, because until the very end they hope to resolve the issue with realtors in the world - that is, not to scandalize, not to be fined, quietly and peacefully wait two months without rent, sue, terminate the contract and breathe freely.
- I also wanted to and did not advertise, - says Irina Umarova. - No one will succeed. They will always find something to cling to and set up for fines. For example, I just went into my apartment to inspect her condition. They immediately rolled out a fine equal to two months' rent. I didn't get a dime from them, but I already owe them! They understand very well that I was biding my time to go to court. Now they threaten to file it themselves if I don’t voluntarily give the money. This is war! And they will lead it to infinity. Teamed up with other victims and went to submit an application to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Northern District. Not taken - they already have their own heap, and I am from another district. But the investigator at least started work - he went to the address of the White House on Dmitrovka, showed us the photographs - there is nothing there, the legal address is just a wall with a number. I don’t know how it will help him... But for me, I ask what to do, how to get rid of “horns and hooves”. He advised: "Hire people, take over the apartment by force and hold it until the court decides in your favor". Knowing how dragging out our courts, the apartment will have to be held for a year, if not more. And pay, pay - for nothing, no one will guard me...
Some people pay. Only not to the hired guard, but to realtors, agreeing with their horse requirements. At first, the community of victims condemned such people, but as events developed, they came to the conclusion that it is cheaper to appease realtors than it is not known how much to feed the mercenaries and to wait for what consequences for themselves are unknown.
Our condolences to everyone who gets caught. For those who are going to do business in the housing market and are looking for someone to rent out their apartment, Maria Arkhipova, chairman of the Russian Bar Association for Human Rights, gives advice:
- First. Before signing a contract, consult a competent lawyer. It is better to spend time studying the document than looking for ways to terminate this agreement a few days after signing. For those who comply with the first recommendation, this usually ends the threat of falling into bondage and losing the ability to dispose of their property. For those who ignore this basic rule, a whole panorama of the clauses of the agreement opens, according to which they, being the owners, remain with them, but, for example, do not receive payment under the agreement, cannot enter the apartment and cannot evict unknown persons forcibly, because that they simply do not know their names in order to indicate them in the statement of claim. Second. If you do decide to sign an agreement with a company, read the reviews, collect information about the registration of a legal entity and founders - it is available on the Internet for everyone. Third. Ask clarifying questions, especially about the terms of termination of the contract, the timing and procedure of payment, otherwise you will have to knock out your money every month or be content with promises postponed for tomorrow. Fourth, be careful when signing the contract, whether it is in the office of the organization or in your home, avoid the offered drinks, rooms without windows and people. It does not hurt to study the power of attorney for the person who signs the contract - the power of attorney may contain contradictory powers, for example, to sign any documents and at the same time contain a prohibition on terminating contracts. Pay attention to the tone of communication, what questions the manager leaves, and what he consults with third parties. If the contract is replete with penalties, then, most likely, your attempts to "restore justice" will be rejected on the pretext that you yourself signed these terms. If you are already in a situation, then to help you - a statement to the police and eviction of guests through the court. An application to the Investigative Committee on the actions of an organized criminal group will also help. And the last recommendation - contact organizations that are involved in property management professionally and on transparent terms. Such a contract is more expensive and safer at the same time.