The surprise $70 “application” fee wasn’t so visionary

When Otis Millbrook Jr. applies for a new, low-income home in California, his application is turned down. But not before the company extracts a $70 “application” fee. Is that right?

Question: I have a problem with a company called Visionary Property Management, a division of Visionary Home Builders of California. This parent company and its various divisions purport themselves to be providers for affordable housing for “unserved communities.” They position themselves to be a resource for all things related to HUD housing.

I want you to investigate its application intake and interview process. Earlier this year, my wife and I participated in the so-called “interview” portion of application process in Stockton, Calif.

My wife and I arrived on time for this interview. We brought with us all the documentation needed to verify the information contained in our application packet.

The most troubling thing to us is the $70 fee collected from us. The representative told us it was “company policy” to collect this fee for processing our application. We find this assertion highly questionable as well possibly fraudulent because the company did not “process” anything. All the representative did was collect the money orders she told me over the phone to bring. Nowhere in the application packet is the $70 fee mentioned.

After the representative collected the money, she added our social security income in a calculator and told us we didn’t qualify. We were completely flabbergasted, since we had already provided our income to the company six months before.

Visionary Property Management did nothing to deserve this fee. Can you help me get a refund? — Otis Millbrook Jr., Manteca, Calif.

Answer: That application fee should have been clearly disclosed to you before you set foot in Visionary’s office. I could not find any mention of the fee on Visionary’s website or in the materials you provided when I reviewed your case.

Related story:   A successful Amazon gift card case. How did he do it?

Springing that $70 fee on you at the last minute was not right, but the way you were turned down was even worse. I agree — Visionary had all of your income information and, based on that, could have told you not to bother to come to the office to fill out the rest of the paperwork. From your perspective, it sure looks like it just wanted to get your $70 in order to tell you “no.”

Finding a real person at the company isn’t too difficult. The contact us page offers several ways to get in touch (I recommend writing). If you’re being stonewalled, you can always go straight to one of its higher-ups. They’re also listed on the site. The email convention is

I’d like to believe this disclosure issue was just an oversight on Visionary’s part and that it will fix it for future applications. Knowing all the fees before you apply is a key to keeping existing customers happy and winning new ones.

I contacted Visionary on your behalf and it refunded your $70.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at

  • DChamp56

    Chris, I’m charging you $50 for this comment. Contact me privately so I can give you the details of where to send your check. *LOL*

  • jim6555

    If the collection of $70 without prior disclosure, from all of their clients is standard operating procedure for this company, the California Attorney General’s office needs to be advised of this scheme and legal action should be taken.

  • Altosk

    This has all the hallmarks of a phishing scam, but with the face-to-face. I suggest the OP get some identity theft protection. I’m sure all of those documents he handed over to this shady company has his SS#, DOB, and all the other information needed for identity theft.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Scam scam scammy scam scam.

  • Dutchess

    This sounds like those For Rent scams. Where people place ads for non existent apartments and collect application fees from prospective tenants. This is pretty common in areas where rental markets are tight and people are desperate to find a place. They will plug down $40-$60 for an application fee then never hear back or you hear lies such as “Ooops, you’re too late the apartment was rented, we’ll let you know if another opens up.”

  • Annie M

    I am not seeing it as an “oversight”. I see it as a deliberate rip off to the consumer. They asked for money orders, which are pretty hard to stop payment on unless you lose them.

    This was deliberate and sneaky and should be reported to the Attorney General in his state for failure to disclose the fees.

    Let alone the fact it had all the info for 6 months and waited until they had their $70 to turn them down.

  • gpx21dlr

    Think of the possible 100’s of others who didn’t question this fee or asked for your help. They got screwed out of $70!

  • greg watson

    I would hope that there is a follow-up to this story. A supposedly ‘do good’ company should not be conducting business in this manner, & if they are knowingly doing this all the time, they should be shut down. Of course like some shady construction companies, they could just re-surface under a new name.

  • sirwired

    I’m sorry to inform you that before you can be an Approved Professional Commenter, you’ll need to undergo a Mandatory Background Check because of the PATRIOT ACT. Luckily, I’ll provide such a service to you for the low, Low, LOW! fee of $200.

  • joycexyz

    The whole thing reeks of a scam. Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies who claim to serve as intermediaries for government agencies. Their aim is to make money from unsophisticated people who don’t know that they can deal directly with said agencies themselves without paying fees.

  • LonnieC

    “I have an idea: let’s set up a plan that can’t work, and keep all of the money the investors put up.” Oh wait, that scam was already used in “The Producers”.

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