Horses

Company defends its recruitment of homeowners for WEG rentals

While nearly 400 people have inquired about his company with the Better Business Bureau, the man in charge of Major Event Rentals said homeowners need to be patient.

"Every one of these clients, they have to give us an opportunity to do our job," said Ajmal Leyasi, whose Phoenix-based rental company has recruited Lexington homeowners since the spring to rent their houses for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, asking for large fees in exchange for the potential to earn tens of thousands of dollars.

But homeowners, apparently, are getting restless.

As of Thursday, two complaints have been filed with the consumer protection division of the Kentucky attorney general's office.

There also have been 388 inquiries in the past 30 days about the company, said Felicia Thompson, vice president of communications for the Better Business Bureau of Central, Northern and Western Arizona. People making inquiries could be requesting information about the company or filing a complaint.

Complaints are filed through the BBB branch that geographically covers the area where the company has its home office. Thompson said she couldn't release a specific number of complaints until the BBB finishes its review of the company.

Leyasi said in an interview with the Herald-Leader that he has resolved several complaints with the BBB by showing them a contract that clearly states homeowners aren't eligible for refunds.

Thompson said the BBB is still looking into the company, and she didn't know of any resolved complaints.

Lexington homeowner Robert Hayslett is sure his contract allowed for a refund. That the $920 he spent to list his home with Major Event Rentals was fully refundable was the reason he signed up with the company.

"You are rolling the dice going into it," he said.

But "if it doesn't rent or I don't agree with the contract, it is fully refundable."

A half-dozen other homeowners who contacted the Herald-Leader all said their contracts offered refunds. A copy of a contract obtained by the newspaper also stipulated the availability of refunds.

Hayslett said he knew the pitch made by the agent —that he could get $50,000 if he rented his four-bedroom house for the 16-day span of the Games — "was crazy."

But, he said, he thought if he could get half that, it would be worth the investment. But, Hayslett said, he ultimately broke ties with the company because he became increasingly uncomfortable with how things were being handled. He initially paid his upfront fee by credit card. When the agent suggested he cancel that transaction and send a cashier's check, that was the end. He called the credit card company and asked to stop payment on the charge to Major Event Rentals.

But, he said, he has to give credit where credit is due. His agent did a great job of convincing him that his house was always just on the verge of being rented.

"I totally trusted this dude," he said. Usually "I am skeptical about these things."

Leyasi said any agent providing false information to clients would be fired.

He said many of his agents are trainees.

Leyasi said he has 10 listing agents, but he said he didn't know how many houses have been rented or how many Kentucky homeowners signed up for his service. "I don't have that information in front of me," he said in the phone interview.

While there are some 99 homes listed on the company's Web site, it's unclear how many homeowners have signed contracts.

Leyasi said about 60 homes are under contract, starting at about $1,000 a property.

Stacy Borden, a local photographer who claims the company owes him about $7,000, said that he took pictures for 93 Major Event clients, some with multiple properties, and that a second photographer took over after he complained he wasn't being paid. Leyasi said Borden stopped being paid because he stopped doing good work.

In addition to the BBB and the attorney general's office, the company has come to the attention of the Fayette County attorney's office after code enforcement collected some 500 signs from Lexington streets. Placing a sign in a public right of way is subject to a fine of $500 per sign.

As for those hundreds of signs, Leyasi said he's not sure how so many got placed along Lexington streets.

He first blamed the confusion on a group that he said copied Major Event Rentals' business model.

When told the signs contained the company's toll-free number, he said, "We did have an advertising team down there." He said that he gave the subcontractor money for the job but that he didn't know how many signs were placed or where they were displayed.

Leyasi said he received three tickets about the signs from code enforcement. But code enforcement director David Jarvis said, "I don't know where they are getting that from."

He said his office hasn't issued any tickets.

Homeowners concerned about their dealings with the company can file a complaint through the BBB Phoenix Web site, Central-northern-western-arizona.bbb.org, or through the attorney general's office at Ag.ky.gov.

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