The Honest Broker: Rental Scams
BY: Diane Lott, Broker
Paradise Found Realty
Whether you are a property owner looking for a tenant or a potential tenant looking for a property to lease, this is a very important warning. There are numerous ways for the unscrupulous to take your money and rental scams happen when either a property owner or potential tenant misrepresents themselves. Rental scams include misrepresenting the terms and availability of a rental property. Fake ads and fake responses to rental ads can hurt both tenants and property owners.
RENTERS should be suspicious that the property or transaction could be a scam if:
The advertised price is much lower than that of similar properties.
Ads for the property have grammatical and spelling errors, or overuse capital letters.
The owner or agent requires you to sign the lease before you see the rental property.
The owner or agent can’t let you enter the home or apartment or charges you a fee to view it.
The owner or agent uses high-pressure sales tactics. They may urge you to rent quickly before someone else gets the property.
Ways to protect yourself:
Get the terms of your rental in writing, including fees, rent, and maintenance.
Get a copy of the lease, signed by both you and the property owner/manager.
Do a search on the owner, real estate management company, and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
Visit real estate websites. See if the home you want to rent is also listed in another city. A scammer could have copied the photo or description of another rental to use in their ad.
Don’t do the following:
Don’t wire money as a deposit or payment for the first and last month’s rent. Wiring money is the same as giving cash; you can’t get a refund, even if you find out the offer was a fraud.
Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics.
Don’t pay a security deposit, fee, or first month’s rent before you’ve signed a lease.
Don’t rent a property that you are unable to see before signing the agreement.
Don’t send money for a rental overseas.
Don’t give your personal information or Social Security number to a property owner without verifying their identity.
Search your renter’s name and email address to see if others have flagged them as a scammer.
Consider using a tenant background check, also known as a consumer report.
Before renting your property, meet the prospective tenant or the person who will pay the rent.
Conduct an image search of your property. An imposter may use images of your property to create their own listings as part of a scam.
Request each renter’s personal references and follow up with those individuals.
Carefully verify your renter’s income.
Be present to show your own property or hire a realtor – never give access to your property to anyone out of convenience. Verify the identity of anyone seeking access to a possible lockbox with a key.
Don’t accept overpayment for rental properties.
If you receive a check that’s for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it.
Don’t rent or sell to a would-be tenant or buyer sight unseen.
Don’t accept a cashier’s check from your potential tenant if he or she is out of the country.
Don’t fall for an unexplained urgency to rent the property.