Searching for an annual rental in Lee County can be stressful. To help with the process, consider using a professional Property Management Company such as Malt Realty. One benefit of using a professional is avoiding falling victim to a rental scam.
Rental scams are not always easy to spot. Scammers know that finding a rental is hard work and that a good deal is hard to pass up. Below is a list of best practices on spotting and avoiding scams:
- Wire money – The easiest sign of a rental scam is when someone asks you to wire money via Western Union, MoneyGram or Prepaid Visa card. Don’t send money for any reason.
- Request money before viewing property – It is not common to pay a lot of money for something sight-unseen. If a landlord expects you to pay a lot before you lease an apartment, there is a reason to be concerned.
- They say they are out of country – Though some scammers will readily meet tenants in person, many, especially those operating from over-seas, will not. A personal meeting with the landlord will allow you to screen out some con artists. Insisting on a local landlord or Property Management Company will lessen the risk of fraud.
- The landlord seems too eager to lease the apartment to you. Many landlords want to know your credit score. They may also want further information such as criminal background check and employment verification. If a landlord doesn’t seem interested in any form of tenant screening or appears too eager to negotiate the rent and other lease terms with you, it’s suspicious.
- You feel unwarranted sales pressure. If a landlord acts too pushy, it can be a red flag.
Preventing the most sophisticated scams can be hard, but the following tips will help minimize your risk.
- Never dealing in cash – Most criminals will insist on difficult payment forms to reduce trace of payment. If you refuse, they will seek an easier victim.
- Demanding a written lease – Lease should still be in writing to prevent fraud and to lay out the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Not only should a tenant require a written lease, the tenant should also demand a copy of the lease signed by the landlord.
- Never renting sight-unseen – So many bad rental situations begin with a tenant signing a lease for an apartment without seeing it. Viewing an apartment helps prevent fraud and also ensures that the tenant is aware of the condition of the unit.
- Meeting the landlord in person –A personal meeting with the landlord will allow you to screen out some con artists and will also allow you to get an impression of the landlord’s personality. Though many out-of-town landlords are legitimate, insisting on a local landlord or Property Management Company will lessen the risk of fraud and usually leads to better service.
- Identifying the actual owner – When considering an apartment, take some time to do a Google search. Google the address of the apartment and also the landlord’s name and the name of the management company.
- Using a Property Management Company – Many rentals in Fort Myers are managed by licensed real estate agents and it is not uncommon for tenants to have their own agent. Having an agent represent you is a substantial safeguard because there is less risk that a scammer will list a property with an agent and also because if you are scammed you can hold the agent responsible. Keep in mind that some scammers claim to be agents and really sophisticated ones even manage to hijack the agent’s accounts and substitute their contact information. All licensed real estate agents in Florida must be registered with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Malt Realty is one of Southwest Florida’s only full service real estate businesses serving both rental property management and home sales. In effort to STOP internet fraud, we highly recommend that you DO NOT send funds to someone who cannot allow you to enter the home for a showing. If you live out of the state and cannot verify a rental, we urge you to perform a Google search on the address. This should reveal the true rental listing agent. You may want to drive by the property to see if there is a sign indicating the true rental listing agent, although many association communities do not allow signage.
Have you been a victim or spotted a rental scam? Share your story and tips in the comments below!