Rental Listing Scams
RENTAL TIP: Rental listing scammers are on the rise. Keep a close eye on your vacant properties.
Many of you know that there are people out there who will copy your listing and put it on other sites at a reduced rate. These thieves can be located anywhere in the world and with internet access, they can easily locate listed properties.
Once favorable listings are identified, these people copy your listing, paste it into their account, change the rental amount and then hit “Post” on their site.
Then, renters looking for a new place to live run across these ads and contact the scammer to see the property. The scammer will tell interested parties to drive by and look at the house. Then, if the potential tenants like it, they are instructed to send the money for rent and the deposit through an app. Once the scammer receives the money, a locksmith is hired to go out to YOUR property and change the locks. The locksmith meets the new tenant at the property and then gives the keys to them.
The new tenant has moved into your property. You have no knowledge that any of this has happened. You also don’t have a lease or any money from them.
These scammers are using COVID 19 as a reason to not allow access to the house and to not meet anyone in person. This seems to make more sense to potential tenants right now and they may be more willing to take a chance.
Tips To Protect Yourself:
- Type up a note, preferably with your letterhead on it, and tape it in the window by the front door as well as at any other doors in the property. The note needs to state who manages the property, along with your contact information. This will prevent a locksmith from changing the locks. A note identifying the real owner also lets anyone who has been told to go look at the house who they should call because your contact information will be on the note.
- Leave your business cards inside the house just in case. You might consider adding a flier holder to the property as well.
- At least once a day, search for the address of your home in the Google search bar to see if it comes up anywhere else. Make sure the listing is yours and that nothing has been changed.
- Physically visit your vacant property at least once a week to make sure no one has moved in and to check all windows and doors to make sure they are locked.
- Make friends with your neighbors and let them know the house is for rent. Ask them to contact you if they notice any unusual activity. Also let them know when the property has been rented.
- If you use a lock box to grant access, aggressively change your lock box codes. I am changing mine every 48 hours.
There are two victims here: The Tenant and The Landlord. I know of more than one case where a landlord showed up to check on a vacant home only to find that someone had moved in. These people who moved into the home fell victim to the scammer and paid someone else the reduced first month’s rent and the deposit.
This left the real owner of the home with a lot of issues. This owner didn’t get any of the money. The people who moved into the home hadn’t been screened and were probably paying less than what the owner wanted. The new tenant didn’t have the money to pay the real owner any more money.
This is a bad situation all around. Take the necessary precautions now so that you don’t become a victim as well.
How Do You Deal With This?
If you are faced with this situation, you will have to make some decisions.
Your options are:
- Try to make this new tenant work.
- Give them notice to vacate and see if they will voluntarily move out.
- File and eviction and have them removed from the property.
Sometimes you can work with the new tenant. This will require a new leas and in most cases, a rent increase. I would strongly recommend running a credit report on this tenant and following your normal process for approving a new tenant. If this tenant meets your guidelines, then work with them. If not, then the tenant will have to move. It is then a question of whether the tenant moves voluntarily or is set out.
Watch Your Properties
It is your job to keep a close eye on your properties but it is impossible to watch it at all times. A security system would be ideal but is expensive. Again, your neighbors can be your allies so be sure and enlist their help. They almost always know what is going on and are usually happy to spy for you. Have them contact you if they notice anything suspicious. Be sure and let them know when the house has been rented.