With the large number of foreclosures, bank repossessions, and declining home rates, people are forced to rent rather than buy. But the increase in renting also increases the risk of rental fraud.
There are two common types of rental scams: the outright con job that’s been going on for dozens of years and the more recent foreclosure scam. The classic rental fraud involves the scammer asking for the first and last months’ rent and sometimes the security deposit as well. The scammer then vanishes with the money, leaving the renter out of a lot of money and with nowhere to live. The second scam entails the scammer actually renting out a home or other property (such as units in a converted home or an apartment complex) that is already in foreclosure. The renters have no idea that they are renting out a foreclosed property until an eviction notice shows up from the bank, and by then the scammer is long gone with the money.
So what can an expected renter do to protect themselves from frauds and scams? There are many questions to ask and steps to take in order to make sure you won’t be scammed. Listed below are several protective measures for prospective renters to take.
- Verify the landlord’s identity at the county assessor’s office. This simple action will let you know if the person actually owns the property you’re looking to rent.
- Check with neighbors of the property. See how long it has stood vacant, as a longer time period might indicate a foreclosure property.
- Make a visit to the county recorder’s office. This will let you see if there has been notice of default recorded for the property.
- Be wary of a landlord who uses an answering service. If you pick up the phone to contact the landlord of a property you’re interested in, and an answering service answers the phone, you should be very wary. There are a lot of scammers who use an answering service, and then respond back via email. If the prospective landlord does this to you, you definitely need to take more steps to verify them.