Rental property scamming is a thriving business, and as one of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s top property managers, we at Westrom Group would like to share our own tips on how to avoid rental property scams.
It’s an expensive lesson in caution for the unfortunate people who happen to become victims of rental property scams. According to ABC News, the FBI pegs these scams cost Americans almost $20 million in 2014, with even more cases going unreported.
As an example, one person in Indiana unwittingly responded to a Craigslist ad by wiring a $275 rental deposit for a supposed three-bedroom property. After depositing, the aspiring tenant subsequently visited the said property only to find out it was not actually for rent and that she had been scammed.
Another couple from Fort Worth wired $1000 to the supposed owner and had already settled in, even enrolling their children in nearby schools. Until one weekend when the real property manager knocked on their door to tell them the house they were staying in was supposed to be vacant. This second case was more sophisticated, as the scam artists actually made the effort to mail the actual keys to the house.
These types of bogus online ads are but one of the several tricks up rental property scammers’ sleeves.
Below, we would like to share our own tips on how to avoid rental property scams:
- Check public records to verify ownership. If a person contacts you saying he or she owns the house, contact your local title company or the County Tax Assessor’s Office. For Texas properties, some websites provide home ownership info for free such as the Texas Department of Housing and & Community Affairs, the Texas Assessor and Property Tax Records Directory, and the Harrison County Appraisal District websites. You can enter the name or property address and can even download home ownership records.
- Check online directories such as scamwarners.com or the Texas Real Estate Commission consumer alerts section to make sure the person you are transacting with or the property you are planning to rent has not been flagged in scams before.
- Be wary of “renters” or “property managers” who only accept cash. This should be a red flag. Always give payments through your bank. Paying through a bank ensures you have a paper trail in case you get scammed. This also makes it easier for authorities to trace your scammer since your bank will have the relevant account and personal information — information you can’t verify if you pay cash directly.
- Do not base your choice solely on online postings. Visit the property first, make a personal and ocular inspection and check the property and all its amenities mentioned in the posting.
- Do not sign anything unless they are notarized by a verified and relevant authority. Contracts are enforceable even without notarization, but a notary public ensures the parties involved cannot claim fraud, forgery, or mistaken identity. In short, a notarized contract ensures you are paying who you think you are paying — the rightful owner.
- Verify all the contents of the contract, such as the length of your lease, the total amount you’ll be paying for the duration, as well as other clauses and exceptions. Make sure you are okay with all the terms before you sign any contract or give out any payments because once a contract is signed, it is binding, and you will have to comply with all those terms for the extent of the contract.
- Transact with a legitimate property manager to ensure all these details are handled for you. Property managers can verify property ownership, take care of legal papers, and even handle issues such as house maintenance and repairs.
If you are looking for reasonably priced, top notch properties and trustworthy rental property management in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, get in touch with us at Westromgroup.com
Some of the areas we cover are in:
North Richland Hills