Roomster App Manages To Make Bay Area Apartment Hunting Even Harder

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Roomster, an app that’s supposed to help people find roommates is actually making it harder for some apartment hunters on Craigslist to find a room in the Bay Area.

Tristan Seymour wants is a room in San Francisco for under $700 a month, but when he responds to ads on Craigslist for shared apartments, he says he keeps getting the same — almost instant – response.

For example, Seymour responds to an ad for a private, spacious bedroom in a Russian Hill apartment advertised at $550 per month. But then he receives a text or email with a weblink to a site called Roomster.

Seymour says when he clicks on the link there’s no sign of the apartment listed on Craigslist, only an application to sign up for Roomster, described as a roommate search service.

“It’s making my search like ten times harder,” Seymour said.

Consumer watchdog Joe Ridout says that while Roomsters does allow customers to join for free, he says “they’re essentially hijacking the space that Craigslist offers.”

In order to actually connect with people looking for roommates you have to pay.

Ridout says, “If you don’t pay, you don’t get to look at your messages.”

And according to the Better Business Bureau, “Its files indicate a pattern of complaints” from some people who have paid concerning a renewal policy and deceptive advertising.

Roomster tells us it’s aware of the billing complaints, but says it is “fully transparent” with its subscription cancellation process. As for the ads on Craigslist, Roomster says affiliate members, who receive cash for leads, have been posting advertisements on Craigslist in violation of company policy. Roomster says that as soon as it’s notified the ads are taken down.

But for Seymour, and apartment hunters like him, that’s not fast enough.

“It leaves me so frustrated,” Seymour said.

Craigslist tells us its terms and conditions ban companies like Roomster from posting on its site. It also says its told Roomster to stop posting and removes Roomster posts when they’re reported.

More from Julie Watts
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