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THE FINE PRINT

An untimely death leads to years of frustration over an apartment rental

In 2018, when the real estate broker suddenly died, Kirstin Krinsky and her husband, Ross Krinsky, put a $7,200 deposit on an apartment for their son, Nate Krinsky, and his roommates because no one else had access to the funds in the escrow account. They have been trying to get the money back ever since.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

In 2018, Nate Krinsky found an apartment in Medford with the help of a hired apartment-finding service called All Boston Apartments Inc. He and two roommates planned to live there during their senior years at Tufts.

But their plans were totally upended when the owner of the apartment-finding service, Thomas Rohan, died suddenly a couple of days later.

The problem was that Rohan had apparently deposited $7,200 in upfront payments received from Krinsky and the others into a bank account that only he had access to. The money was, in effect, locked up with no available key.

Without access to that money, All Boston Apartments Inc. couldn’t pay the owner of the apartment the money due to him. And without payment, the owner wasn’t willing to rent the apartment.

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Andrew Camara, the salesperson who showed the apartment, told Krinsky the deal could not go forward unless another $7,200 was paid to replace the now locked-up money. He said that money would be refunded, probably “within a month or so,” when someone figured out how to get into the corporate account of the apartment-finding service.

Two of the roommates couldn’t afford to pay their share again. So, rather than lose the apartment in a tight housing market, Krinsky’s parents stepped up to cover the whole amount, thinking of it as a short-term loan.

Now, almost five years later, the Krinskys still haven’t received the promised refund.

How can that be?

Back in 2018, after the Krinskys intervened to secure the apartment, Nate Krinsky and the others moved in, completed their senior year, and graduated. All the while, the Krinskys waited to be contacted by All Boston Apartments Inc. or Rohan’s estate. But the money remained “stuck” in the bank account.

Finally, the Krinskys went to small claims court to get their money back. When no one showed up in court for the apartment-finding service, the Krinskys got a judgment for almost $7,500. But enforcing the judgment proved impossible because legal documents sent to Rohan’s company bounced back as undeliverable.

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The Krinskys next filed a complaint with the state Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons, which licensed Rohan. But the board’s investigative supervisor, after questioning Camara, told the Krinskys the board had no authority to access Rohan’s bank account.

“I spoke to Mr. Camara and he agrees that you are owed the money,” the supervisor wrote last year to the Krinskys. “Mr. Camara is a salesperson and does not have access to Mr. Rohan’s escrow account … Mr. Rohan was the only person with signing authority on that account.”

Camara declined to comment.

What about Rohan’s estate? Could the Krinskys make a claim against Rohan’s personal assets? For years, the Krinskys looked online for a filing on behalf of the estate but never found one.

Eventually, in frustration, Kirstin Krinsky, Nate’s mother, asked for my help. “We’re afraid we’ll never get our money back,” she told me. “We don’t know what the solution is.”

Kirstin Krinsky is photographed next to the apartment building at 229 Main Street, in Medford on Dec. 5, 2022.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

I got an explanation for why there was no filing by the estate last week when I reached Rohan’s sister, Jeanne Rohan, in Florida. She told me, Rohan, 68, had virtually nothing of value when he died. His death certificate says he died of an accidental cocaine overdose in his Somerville apartment.

As Rohan’s next of kin, Jeanne Rohan donated his furniture and sold his car for $1,000. She said her brother had about $400 in a personal bank account. She said she did not make a filing in probate court, where judges oversee the distribution of assets of deceased persons, because there was basically nothing to distribute.

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Jeanne Rohan said she had no knowledge of any assets belonging to her brother’s business. In fact, Rohan had established at least two companies, both of which appear to have been long out of compliance with corporate filing requirements at the time of his death. The company he used in his dealings with Nate Krinsky is designated as “void” in corporate records, with no new filing made in almost 20 years, despite requirements to do so.

But one thing that gave me hope was that All Boston Apartments Inc. had an account with Bank of America. Kirstin Krinsky told me she knew about the account because Camara, back in 2018, had offered her the choice of paying upfront costs by check or wire transfer. (The upfront cost to each roommate was three-fold: first month of rent, $800; security deposit, $800; and broker’s fee, $800).

The Krinskys opted to write a check, but the wire transfer option they were told about included the name and number of the bank account.

Is the money still there and can it be accessed?

I asked Bank of America about it in a detailed email that included copies of All Boston Apartments Inc.’s corporate records. Bank of America responded by saying it would begin looking into the matter and asking for Kirstin Krinsky’s contact information, which I furnished.

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I hope the Bank of America account contains at least $7,200 and that it can soon be accessed and the Krinskys refunded. I also learned from lawyers familiar with such cases that, if need be, the Krinskys can go to court asking for an order that Bank of America open the account.

I think the Krinskys got caught up in very unfortunate circumstances. But there are some lessons to be learned.

It would have been safer for the would-be tenants if the checks they originally wrote had been made out, not to All Boston Apartments Inc., but directly to the owner of the rental property — safer because the owner obviously had assets that could be easily tracked down in the event of a problem.

In fact, in the second go-around, when the Krinskys paid $7,200 to save the apartment for their son, they did exactly that, writing checks payable to the owner.

I also think it’s obvious Rohan should have had a second signatory on the All Boston Apartments Inc. account. That would have saved a lot of hassle for the Krinskys, presuming the money is actually in the account.

I understand the property owner’s insistence on getting paid for the first month of rent and security deposit from All Boston Apartments Inc. before renting his property. At that point, the lease hadn’t been signed by the owner, and he was free to walk away.

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But what I don’t understand is why the Krinskys had to pay a second broker’s fee, even if only temporarily, because the breakdown that occurred was the fault of All Boston Apartments Inc.

In fact, I think the broker’s fee should be waived altogether. Yes, the Krinskys should get the $7,200 they are owed as a refund. But they and the roommates should also get their original $2,400 broker’s fee returned too. That could help make up for what turned out to be a hellish experience for a family simply trying to do the right thing on behalf of their son.


Got a problem? Send your consumer issue to sean.murphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.