It would be nice to be able to trust everyone you come in contact with out there in the world. A sad reality is that you can’t. Some people are out there looking to take advantage of others. This is especially true in the real estate sector. Large sums of money exchange hands in many real estate transactions and the scammers want to get their cut of it. As an owner and a tenant, you have to be careful you don’t get caught in their web of lies.
Rental scams come in various forms. There is the case of a legitimate landlord renting out his home to a “tenant” (a scammer in disguise) who then turns around and “rents” the home to someone else, collecting first and last month’s rent and any other fees they could get and then splits leaving behind a confused landlord and renter.
Another popular scam is aimed at renters. A scammer will create an amazing listing for a home that doesn’t exist, use a real home that’s actually not for rent, or even use a real rental listing and change the contact info. They will list the rental price at some incredibly low amount to attract hopeful renters and when someone bites, they’ll say anything the can to get the prospective renter to send them money without seeing the home first.
Phrases to watch out for:
- “I live in another state and am not available to show the home.”
- “I’m moving suddenly (for whatever reason) and need to get a renter asap!”
- “I have a few other people interested, but I really like you (even though they’ve never met you).”
- “I’m not in town, you’ll have to wire me the money.”
Avoid becoming a victim
Before sending any money, divulging any personal information or signing any contract, make sure the person you are talking to is actually who they say they are. Make sure you meet them in person. For renters, ensure they really own the property by checking the County Assessor’s records on your local website to make sure the name matches the home. For landlords, conduct a proper background search and contact their employer and references.
If something sounds too good to be true, is probably is. The rental industry is a business and just like any other market, the supply and demand affect the cost. If you find a home for rent at $900 in an area where a dozen other homes are renting at $1,500 it’s more likely that you’ve found a scammer than a deal.