Despite government instructions to remove misleading listings, online housing rental platforms including 58.com (58同城), Anjuke (安居客), and Fang.com (房天下) have failed to abide by the order.
An investigation by the Beijing News found that after the Beijing Municipal Housing and Urban-Rural Development Committee, among others, issued a deadline of September 1 to clean up these listings, the companies still had not complied with the directive.
Rental agencies have been found to include fake pictures of apartments in their listings on these platforms to attract more customers. In some instances, what appears to be newly renovated apartments turn out to be old and run down. Location data is also faked, with agencies advertising properties as being close to public transport when long walks are required.
Once prospective renters have been attracted by low prices and striking apartments, agents take them to view numerous properties within in the same price range, often with none of them matching the pictures in the listing.
Despite the government order, the websites still contain fake information and allow unconfirmed personal accounts to post listings. The report claims that rental agencies including 5i5j.com (我爱我家) and Danke (蛋壳公寓) are among those responsible.
58.com and Anjuke responded by saying that they had repeatedly notified rental agencies and individuals that make use of the website about the cleanup. They also claimed that the process was ongoing. The companies said they would make use of varying degrees of punishments, which include deleting the listing, deleting the user, and blocking guilty parties.
This is not the first time this year the housing rental industry has found its in hot water. The widow of an Alibaba employee filed a lawsuit against apartment leasing giant Ziroom (自如) after her husband died of leukemia in July. She alleged that high formaldehyde levels in the apartment had caused his death. The company has also been accused of ramping up apartment rental prices in Beijing.