Stop Your Rental Property From Being Stolen

It can be a huge relief to finally get your rental property ready to list and rent. It doesn’t matter if it has taken weeks or months to get to this point, you are ready to be done and get a new tenant into the property to pay the rent.

You craft the perfect rental listing ad, create an informational flier and get ready to get phone calls about the property.
Somewhere out there, someone sees your great listing online and steals it. They usually take the entire ad, lower the price and re-list it under their name. They start getting calls about the rental property instead of you.

This person usually uses a burner phone or better yet, only communicates via text or email. They tell the interested renter some story about how the previous tenant moved out and didn’t leave a key. The person who stole your listing tells the interested people to go drive by the house and see if they like it. If they do, this scammer tells them he will hire a locksmith to get them into the property once they sign the lease, wire the full security deposit and first month’s rent to them.

Some would be renters are smart and don’t fall for this. Other would be renters are desperate to find a place to live and don’t question it. They follow the directions of the scammer and unless you catch them in time, they move into YOUR property!

I personally know 4 landlords that this has happened to and I have heard of countless other landlords who fell victim to these scammers. These landlords are then left with someone who has moved into their property and they don’t have a lease with these people or the money the tenant paid to the scammer. The rental amount is usually about half of what the actual rent was and the people who moved in usually can’t afford the higher rent. Often, they have bad credit too.

The tenants who have been scammed don’t want to move because they signed a lease and paid the money to move in. If you are lucky, you can work something out with these tenants but that is usually not the case. Assuming you can’t work something out, the only recourse the landlord has it to take them to court and have them evicted. This takes time and there is no way to make these tenants pay you.

 

Tips To Prevent This From Happening To You

Over the years, I have had several of my listings stolen. It is very frustrating to say the least! But, luckily, I have never personally had to deal with someone who has actually moved into my listed property.

I got very pro-active and started making sure that the company name and all of my contact information is left all over the house.

  • Create an information flier with company name, my name and all contact information.
  • Tape my business card by every flier on the doors and windows.
  • Also tape this information flier to every door and several windows on the inside of the house.
  • Leave a stack of information fliers and business cards on the kitchen and bathroom counters.
  • Leave business cards in a couple of the kitchen drawers and cabinets.
  • State that the locks are not to be changed!

 

This so far, has stopped my listings from being stolen. I have received calls from a lot of interested people who said they talked, texted or emailed with so and so about this house (not me). They were told to go to the house and look around to see if they liked it. If they did, that person would get the lease to them. Usually, they were told the landlord was out of state so couldn’t be there to meet them personally.

Imagine their surprise when they show up and see the fliers all over the property. It also lists the correct rent amount so they call me, shocked that the price has usually doubled! Most of them are grateful that they didn’t get caught in this trap. Some try to negotiate the rental price down. Every so often someone is angry that they were mislead and they direct that anger at me!

However, because I had clearly stated who was renting the property and how to contact me, none of them signed the bogus lease and paid fees to someone who wasn’t me!

Also, my hope is that if a locksmith showed up to change the locks, they would call me before actually changing the locks. I make sure that the flier states that the locks are not to be changed.

These are some simple tips to help lower the chance that your rental listing will be stolen and rented to someone you did not approve.

There are no winners in a situation like these. Even the tenants have been scammed. They should have know that something that seemed to good to be true was too good to be true. But many of them are just too desperate to find a place to live and over look the weird vibes. Also, the scammers are usually very practiced and skilled at presenting a believable story.

I would be interested to hear if you all have any tips for helping to stop a listing from being stolen. Or, if you have become a victim to a situation like this, how did it turn out?

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