There are scammers targeting potential tenants. One scam that is quite common starts when scammers find online photos of a house. The photos may be from a current property rental or sale listing. They steal the online photos, and list the property for rent on Craigslist or some other listing site. The price is usually quite attractive. They may tell you some reason why you will not be able to see the inside of the house and ask you to put up a deposit. Some of them have even been daring enough to gain access to the house by breaking in or getting a key from a lockbox and then personally showing you the house. That takes a lot of nerve! It is a tough scam to avoid because they can be quite convincing with a sob story, that may include being a disabled veteran, being trapped out of state, or being away assisting a sick relative.
We are all vulnerable to people trying to rip us off, but there are some things on a rental that you can do to help reduce that risk.
- Be sure to check out the house in person, or have somebody do it for you. If the house seems too good to be true, it may be. Generally, property owners have a sense of the rental value of the house. If it looks like a $1,500 rental, but it is only renting for $900 it should start triggering your “Spidey-sense”. Go into the house, preferably with the owner or agent. In addition to trying to avoid a scam, you also want to make sure that you are not going to be moving into a house that has major repairs needed, mold or unfinished projects. Renting-out a dump is grass-roots scam that has been going on for decades. You can also hire a Realtor to work on your behalf as a Tenant’s agent. This can be especially helpful if you are relocating. There are agents that specialize in relocation.
- Be sure to check out the owner or professional. The owner may be renting the house his/herself, or using the service of a professional Realtor or property manager. If it is a professional, you should be able to verify some type of online presence through their company webpage, Realtor.com, or even check their license on your state’s Department of State page. If it is the owner, it can be a bit more difficult. As a potential tenant, it can be a difficult balancing act of trying to not to seem like a pain-in-the-neck tenant but also cover your bases. You can try asking for previous tenant references that you can speak with, but that may not be available. You can check with the county to see who is listed as the owner of the house.
- Read the Lease! Yuk. I know. Nobody likes to read all that mumbo-jumbo. IT’S A CONTRACT! You really should know what you are signing, and upon execution you should get a copy signed by the landlord. If you are not sure what to look for, you can hire a real estate attorney to help you with it. To be honest, that is not done often in most places, but a few hundred dollars expense on the front end can help avoid surprises that could cost you thousands. At the very least, if you are not comfortable reading it, get the help of somebody you trust. If the Lease is fifty pages long, that might be excessive. It may clue you in that the landlord is planning to hold you responsible for every possible contingency.
- Take pictures of everything when you move-in. There are applications like Happy Inspector that you can get on your phone or tablet to help with this. Your landlord may do this also. Make sure to take pictures of damage, stains, etc. so that you can document that you were not responsible for them. If you discover something shortly after move in, take photos and email them to your landlord just to let them know of the damage and that you did not do it. Be sure to notify your landlord IMMEDIATELY if you discover an infestation. It is common in leases to identify a discovery period for infestations. You may be responsible for extermination if it is thought that you brought the infestation with you.
- Use your intuition! If something doesn’t feel right, that may be your brain telling you to use caution. Be prepared to find another opportunity. If you are being bullied, guilt-tripped, or shamed, that should be telling you that things will only get worse.
It can be a challenge to avoid scams; particularly with renting a home. Having limited options with your housing can put you in a situation where you feel pressured to do something not in your best interest. If you take the time to plan for your housing, and be a good tenant at your current place, you will be best suited to have options available when it is time to move.
DECEMBER 2020 UPDATE - See example! : https://myfox28columbus.com/news/local/from-moving-in-to-homeless-columbus-man-says-new-rental-home-was-a-scam-from-the-start?fbclid=IwAR2uv3p3RH2tsrOTx8AzvFF3_6grmvNv-LU70oKSat3h0fdsYVk27jRtnP4
This article was originally published by https://www.thekeytorentals.com/
Thank you for reading! 😊