Rental Fraud Avoidance
We all need to be mindful of rental fraud schemes and learn what to watch for. Here at Farnsworth Realty and Management Company, we’re working hard to protect the best interests of our owners and tenants.
In this article, we’ll explore common leasing scams and how you can avoid them when looking for a rental property. We have also prepared a handout that you can use to guide you in avoiding rental fraud.
Rental Fraud in Online Rental Ads
Renters Beware. Beware of advertisements you find online in places like “Craig’s most popular list of stuff for sale”. There are a lot of places online where people can post FREE community advertisements.
We’re not saying that every single one of these ads is fraudulent, but how would you know which ones are scams by looking at a random ad?
Many false advertisers pull photos randomly online and then create enticing text that makes the offer sound really good. They may post a rental amount that is slightly below the market value. They also use phrases like: Eviction/ Credit Friendly, Pick Me! and Everything Included to draw potential renters into their scheme.
Trusted, professional management companies may post their properties to such lists. However they also have a website of their own that provides a company phone number, verifies the application process. A professional management company’s website should also verify the property advertised with matching photographs and monthly rental amounts.
Independent property owners also use these lists, when they don’t want to use a professional management company. Beware if you see the property listed multiple times with conflicting information. A good rule of thumb is how EASY a potential landlord makes the rental process.
Too good to be true, usually is
If they make it TOO EASY to live there, if they don’t ask for verification of your income, there’s a concern. Additionally when the ‘owner’ doesn’t ask about or verify your credit, it’s problematic. Finally, if they want to close the deal in too fast, it might be too good to be true.
On the other hand, if someone asks for too much personal information, and doesn’t have a verifiable system for running a credit check, they may be less than honest.
When the property you see listed, is way below the rental rate for similar properties, that’s a sign it’s too good to be true. Generally, prices flex with market demands and similar sized properties in the same area will generally have a comparable price.
Without a formal application process: no written application, no formal lease agreement- there may be rental fraud involved. Consumer Reports published an article, that still holds true in today’s rental market: 5 Warning Signs That A Craigslist Rental Listing Is Probably A Scam. These schemes have been going on for awhile and tend to come back around over time.
Transactions built on trust
Building trust is essential in any transaction, yet even more important in a transaction regarding housing decisions. Know who you’re renting from and that they will be there to support you throughout the terms of the lease.
As a potential renter, you’ll want to work with someone who is professional and knowledgeable about the local area. The property manager should be able to answer your questions straight forwardly, without hesitation.
You should be told the requirements for renting a property and they should be verifiable in documentation or through the company website.
You should verify the property management company by a simple online search to match their company information with known resources such as Yelp or the Better Business Bureau.
Avoid Rental fraud when renting from an individual
If you do rent directly from a property owner, they should be able to verify ownership of the property with you. Their name and information should match the property records.
Make sure that the entire transaction is done in writing and backed up by a signed lease.
If you have any concerns, about the terms of a lease, seek professional advice.