Prepaid Rental Listing Service…or Prepaid Rental Listing Scam?

shutterstock_164228687Searching for a rental home or apartment can be a daunting and time-consuming task. So to save time and energy, you decide to have a company take care of the search for you. You do some quick online research, and then tell the prepaid rental listing service (PRLS) company representative what you are looking for in a rental, pay them a fee for a list of rentals matching your criteria, and find that dream rental in no time.

Sounds easy enough. The problem? There is more to the PRLS business than meets the eye, and scams are common. To avoid getting scammed and to get in the door of the rental you’ve been looking for, consumer education is the key.

Watch for red flags
Unfortunately, not all PRLS businesses are on the up and up. Here are some common problems and scams to be aware of:
✔Unlicensed companies
✔False advertising
✔Lists of rentals that are not available as advertised
✔Lists contain properties that are not for rent or do not exist
✔Lists do not meet a consumer’s requested specifications
✔Failure to provide refunds

Before handing your money over to a PRLS company, it’s best to understand whom and what you’re dealing with. A PRLS provides prospective tenants with listings of residential real property for tenancy while collecting a fee at the same time or in advance of when the listings are supplied. In order to legally conduct business in California as a PRLS, the company must be licensed by DCA’s California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE). Always check the license to verify the company you’re dealing with is in good standing. If the company is not licensed, do not conduct business with them!

Look before you sign
Before any PRLS company accepts a fee for rental listings, it must provide you a written contract that includes detailed information, including:
✔The amount of the service fee
✔A description of the services to be performed in exchange for the fee
✔Specifications for the rental unit that you want the service to find for you
✔The expiration date of the contract, which is no more than 90 days from the date it is signed
✔The small claims court remedy available should any issues arise

If you have a problem with a PRLS company, you may not be able to recover all of your money or time, but you do have rights and should fully understand them. Keep in mind it is always good consumer practice to do research before conducting business with any company. Ask friends and family you trust for recommendations of companies they have had good experiences with. It is also a good idea to research the company online and check with the Better Business Bureau.

Refunds
You are entitled to a full refund if you have not received within five days of signing the contract three available rental listings that meet the property specifications listed on the contract. You are entitled to all fees you paid, minus $50, if the service does not locate a rental for you or if you find housing on your own within the timeframe of the PRLS contract. You will have to provide documentation in order to receive a refund. If the service failed to locate a rental property for you, you will need to provide documentation proving that you have not moved and still reside at the same address. If you found a rental on your own (without the assistance of the PRLS), you will need to provide documentation of your new address. If documentation cannot be provided, a statement of the facts should be prepared and submitted to the PRLS company. If the PRLS company does not issue a refund, a court of law can award you the refund, plus additional damages, up to $1,000 (Business and Professions Code section 10167.95). The quickest way to obtain a judgment in these cases is through small claims court.

The mission of CalBRE is to safeguard and promote the public interests in real estate matters through licensure, regulation, education, and enforcement. To check a license, file a complaint, report unlicensed activity, or for more information about PRLS, visit http://www.calbre.ca.gov or call (877) 373-4542.

Additional Resources
Prepaid Rental Listing Service Information

Prepaid Rental Listing Service Consumer Alert

List of unlicensed PRLS companies that have been issued orders to desist and refrain from engaging in further prepaid rental listing service activities

CalBRE_Logo_HiRes_small

Hiring a Pest Control Company to Combat Bug Infestations

shutterstock_246709621Yet another issue concerning the drought—an increase of household pests. The lack of rainfall is causing bugs such as ants, spiders, and cockroaches to come indoors in search of water. In addition, the past winter, which had fewer days than normal of freezing temperatures, didn’t do its typical seasonal job of killing pests’ eggs.

According to the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Structural Pest Control Board (Board), many household pests are easily controlled: “Good housekeeping and thorough sanitation are important as aids to control or prevent infestations of many pests.”

However, if your home’s pest infestation gets out of control, you may want to seek help from a professional pest control operator. Prior to hiring a company, make sure you’ve done your homework. Be aware that any company that controls mice, rats, pigeons, spiders, ants, roaches, and other household pests must be registered with the Board. Also, the operator who applies the pesticide must be licensed, so ask to see proof of licensure. You can also confirm a company’s registration or a license by contacting the Board’s Licensing Unit at (916) 561-8704 or doing a license search on the Board’s website, www.pestboard.ca.gov.

For more information about pest control and finding a qualified and licensed pest control operator, visit the Board’s website at www.pestboard.ca.gov.

Do Your Part During Wildfire Season

shutterstock_209851783As the heart of wildfire season approaches, state fire agencies are asking for the public’s help to prevent wildfires—95 percent of which in California are caused by human activity, according to Cal Fire.

As part of the One Less Spark—One Less Wildfire campaign, Cal Fire highlights four major areas of concern that can cause a wildfire:

Using outdoor equipment. Lawn mowers, chainsaws, grinders, welders, tractors, and weed-eaters can all spark a wildland fire. Mow before 10 a.m. when it’s coolest but never when it’s windy or excessively dry. Metal blades striking rocks can create sparks and start fires. In wildland areas, spark arresters are required on all portable gas-powered equipment.

Grinding and welding operations in wildland areas require a permit and 10 feet of clearance. Don’t drive a vehicle onto dry grass or brush—hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires. Keep a shovel and fire extinguisher nearby.

Debris burning. First, obtain any burn permits that may be required and be sure burning isn’t currently restricted in your area.

Landscape debris piles must be in small 4-foot by 4-foot piles. Clear all flammable material and vegetation within 10 feet of the pile’s outer edge, and keep a water supply and shovel nearby. An adult is required by law to be in attendance until the fire is out. No burning should be done in unsafe conditions, particularly if it’s windy and surrounding vegetation is very dry.

Campfires. Be sure to have any necessary permits for a campfire, and check on any local fire restrictions in the area. Select an open, flat location for the campfire and be sure there are no heavy fuels (logs), brush, leaves, or needles within 10 feet of the fire ring.

Never leave a campfire unattended and keep a shovel and bucket of water on hand. Never leave children around a fire unattended.

To completely extinguish a campfire, Cal Fire recommends the “drown, stir, and feel” method. Drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire pit coals with a shovel to be sure remaining embers are out. Smother the ashes with dirt and, finally, feel the area with the back of your hand to ensure nothing is smoldering.

Vehicle and towing safety. To practice safe towing, secure any chains that could possibly drag and throw sparks. Use appropriate safety pins and hitch ball to secure chains. Be sure your vehicle is properly maintained, and that there are no dragging parts that could cause a spark. Make sure your brakes are in good working order—brakes worn too thin can cause metal-to-metal contact, which may cause a spark.

For additional information on wildfire prevention and safety, visit Cal Fire’s website, www.calfire.ca.gov, and the agency’s accompanying site, www.readyforwildfire.org.

Five Things You Can Do During National Safety Month to Curb Prescription Painkiller Abuse

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

June is National Safety Month, an excellent time to learn more about safety issues such as prescription painkiller abuse. According to the National Health Information Center, prescription painkiller overdoses are a growing problem in the United States, especially among women. About 18 women die every day from a prescription painkiller overdose— more than four times higher than in 1999.

  1. Watch the California State Board of Pharmacy’s video  which warns of the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
  2. Check the expiration date on your medicines.
  3. Keep track of your medications, safely dispose of unwanted medications.
  4. Don’t purchase or use any controlled prescription drugs obtained from illegal websites. They could be counterfeit or may not contain the correct ingredients. They may even be toxic.
  5. Get help if you or someone you love is abusing prescription pain medications.

Visit these sites for more information:

California State Board of Pharmacy
Information on prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment for teens, students, parents and educators.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America
Comprehensive information, resources and tips from experts and other parents; opportunities to connect and share experiences with other families.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Provides information, statistics and articles on improving the quality and availability of drug and alcohol addiction treatment.

SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) 1-877-SAMHSA7
Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: A resource for federal government agency publications dealing with alcohol and drug use prevention and addiction treatment.

SAMHSA’s Center on Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT)
1-800-662-HELP
Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Toll-free treatment referral hotline provides callers with information and listings of treatment and recovery services for alcohol and drug problems.

Cemetery and Funeral Bureau Holds Roundtable Discussion on Impact of Drought on Cemeteries

CFB_logo_color

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cemetery and Funeral Bureau on Wednesday hosted a roundtable discussion to discuss the impact of the California drought on cemeteries and to brainstorm ideas for coping with water use reductions.

“Everyone needs to do their part to save water during the drought,” said Lisa Moore, Chief of the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau. “We want to help our licensed cemeteries achieve a balance between their responsibilities to reduce water use while being sensitive to families who have loved ones interred in those cemeteries.”

The Bureau invited all licensed cemeteries to participate in the roundtable and addressed issues facing cemeteries in the current drought. In addition to discussing the issues cemeteries face because of the drought, solutions and alternatives were explored to help cemeteries adapt. Some of the topics discussed in the meeting were:

  • Best practices at cemeteries for effectively implementing water restrictions
  • Water efficiency measures currently in use by cemeteries
  • Conformance with State/Local watering restrictions
  • Potential impacts on business
  • Informing consumers about water restrictions

The Bureau will solicit additional input through the end of this month and then create a consumer information fact sheet to educate consumers about the California drought and the water restrictions under which cemeteries must operate. That fact sheet will be available on the Bureau’s web site.

By reducing their water use, cemeteries will help achieve the reductions called for in Governor Brown’s Executive Order.

The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau licenses and regulates cemeteries, with the exception of cemeteries operated by religious organizations, cities, counties, cemetery districts, the military and Native American tribal organizations.

# # #

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The Department of Consumer Affairs promotes and protects the interests of California Consumers. Consumers can file complaints against licensees by contacting the Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210 or www.dca.ca.gov.

Have Your Vehicle Ready for Rising Temperatures

Driving_blogHot weather can be rough on cars. Higher temperatures break down fluids and lubricants more quickly, which leads to more wear and tear on an engine.

Following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your car or truck (see your owner’s manual) and using these precautionary tips from the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) should have you roadway-ready as temperatures climb.

  • Before taking any road trips, consider a pre-trip inspection by a licensed auto repair facility. Have any recommended repairs done before you leave.
  • Test the air conditioning. Turn it on and let it run for a few minutes. Inspect the belts and hoses. You may want to have a service professional inspect the entire system.
  • Inspect the battery and battery cables for corrosion, cracks, and dirt. Hot weather can shorten a battery’s life, so have it tested if it is near the end of its warranty. Replace the battery if necessary.
  • Change the engine oil and filter according to the manufacturer’s service intervals and specifications. Your licensed service technician should also check the coolant, brake, automatic transmission, windshield wiper, and steering fluids.
  • Have a licensed brake adjuster inspect your brake pads and linings for wear according to the manufacturer’s service intervals and specifications.
  • Make sure all tires, including the spare, are properly inflated. Look for uneven or excessive tread wear. Have your tires rotated based on the manufacturer specifications.
  • Never leave for a trip with your car’s check-engine light or malfunction indicator light on. Have the problem diagnosed by a qualified technician and make necessary repairs before you leave.
  • Test your car’s interior and exterior lights, including turn signals and high beams, to make sure they work. Clean the lenses to get maximum visibility.
  • Change your car’s air filters according to the manufacturer’s specifications—a dirty air filter lowers gas mileage and limits engine performance.
  • Have the radiator and hoses checked for leaks and wear. Have the cooling system flushed and refilled according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. This service should include a check of the pressure cap.

Remember: You can verify the license status of a repair dealer or other service specialist and check for possible disciplinary actions by visiting the Bureau of Automotive Repair website, www.autorepair.ca.gov. Click on “Verify a License.” Or, call (800) 952-5210 for the same information. For the Top 5 Reasons to Read Your Owner’s Manual or to find a registered repair shop in your area, visit the BAR website.

Cemetery and Funeral Bureau Consumer Guide Video

Whether planning for yourself or a loved one, making funeral and cemetery arrangements in advance can help control costs and ensure final wishes are carried through. Check out the new Cemetery and Funeral Bureau Consumer Guide video for guidance during this process. The video covers a wide range of topics—from making preneed arrangements and understanding contract terms to verifying a license and filing a complaint.

Visit Cemetery and Funeral Bureau’s website at www.cfb.ca.gov for more information.

The latest edition of the Consumer Connection magazine is now available!

CC 2015 SummerNeed tips for water-wise landscaping during the drought? Do you need to dispute a Smog Check test result? Have questions about prepaid cards? The latest and greatest edition of the Consumer Connection magazine is here with helpful and informative articles that may help answer your questions.

Click here to view the magazine online or if you would like a copy mailed to you, simply call (866) 320-8652.

Now Online: New Board of Barbering and Cosmetology Consumer-Safety Pamphlets

bothCovers (2)New safety tips are available from the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology!

The latest pamphlets, Chemical Exfoliation Safety Tips and Waxing Safety Tips, are now available online for viewing and downloading. Check them out for important safety information, and take a look at the other downloadable publications, including Pedicure Safety Tips, Manicuring, and fact sheets on topics such as chemical hair services, medical spas, skin tag/mole removal, and whirlpool foot spas.

For more information, visit the Board’s website at www.barbercosmo.ca.gov or call (800) 952-5210.

DCA Brings Home Seven Gold and Four Silver Awards!

IMG_6839

The Department of Consumer Affairs brought home seven gold and four silver awards at this year’s State Information Officers Council (SiOC) Awards held on May 13, 2015, in Downtown Sacramento. DCA received the highest number of total awards in this year’s contest, with CalPERS coming in second with eight. The yearly awards recognize the best of the best in State service in the arena of communications. DCA’s Office of Public Affairs, Office of Publications, Design and Editing, Medical Board of California, and State Board of Pharmacy submitted entries in this year’s contest. SiOC posted a press release with the entire list of winners the following day on their website.

The awards received by DCA were as follows:

Gold Category 1C, Feature
Candy … or Pill?
June Vargas Consumer Connection magazine, Fall–Winter 2014

Candy or pill

Category 2B, Special Report
California Board of Registered Nursing 2014–17 Strategic Plan
Kari Keating

BRN Strat Plan Cover

Category 3C, Brochure
Telemarketing Scams: What to Do Before You Pick Up the Phone
Kari Keating, Laura Kujubu

Pages from telemarket_scams

Category 4C: PSA
Natalie Coughlin—Prescription Drug Awareness Medical Board of California Cassandra Hockenson, Bryce Penney, Cesar Victoria

Category 5B, Brand Identity Package
California State Board of Psychology Project (website, For Your Peace of Mind booklet, Journal newsletter, 2014–17 Strategic Plan)
Kari Keating, Carol Stover

Psych websitePeace of Mind coverPages from spring2014-1Strat Plan Cover

Category 4A, Video: Training or Education
Board of Behavioral Sciences Apply for an Associate Clinical Social Worker Registration in California
Cristina Valdivia Aguilar, Bryce Penney

Category 5C, Photography
Mattress Burn Test, BEARHFTI
Cesar Altamirano

Unknown Unknown-1

Silver
Category 3B, Magazine
Consumer Connection Spring 2014
Carol Stover (designer), Laura Kujubu, Cristina Valdivia Aguilar, June Vargas, Monica Vargas, Lisa Stratton (writers)

Pages from spring2014

Category 3C, Brochure
Subcontractors and Drop-off Points: Guidelines for Registering (BEARHFTI)
Cesar Altamirano, Laura Kujubu
BEARHFTI Subcontractors

Category 4B: Video: Education, Outreach, or Marketing
Dr. Michael Bishop – Prescription Drug Awareness Medical Board of California
Cassandra Hockenson, Bryce Penney, Cesar Victoria

Category 4C: PSA
Board of Pharmacy Prescription Drug Awareness PSA
Bryce Penney, Joyia Emard