All landlords know that running a rental property comes with a whole host of responsibilities. But there are plenty of hidden responsibilities that many property managers aren’t even aware of. For instance, imagine someone showing up at one of your properties to view it because she’s interested in renting it. You’re confused because the property is occupied and not for rent, but she insists that she saw it for rent on Craigslist and shows you the ad. Guess what? Your property has suddenly become part of a Craigslist scam.
This kind of scam has become increasingly popular lately and gullible renters are none the wiser. Even worse, some renters will actually pay a deposit and a month of rent to the scammer and show up with a moving truck ready to move in! The scam has spread so quickly that the FBI has even issued a public warning, but not all renters are aware that this kind of scam is out there. It’s more important than ever for landlords to be aware of these scams and take steps to avoid them. Follow these tips to help make sure you don’t get scammed.
Scan Online Listings
The easiest thing you can do is to take some time each week to quickly scan online listings. If you see listings other than those you've posted that look similar to your property, you will know that someone out there is trying to scam you. Search online databases with your address or zip code, then poke through the results to make sure your property is in the clear.
Avoid Renters You Can’t Meet
Renters who aren’t available to meet you should raise red flags. Many renters will offer to rent the unit without seeing it and will ask if they can wire money to you – this is an easy gateway for a scam to unfold. Try to only go with renters that have Social Security numbers and credit backgrounds that you can verify.
Be Careful in Your Listings
When you are listing your property, there are measures you can take to make it less likely for your property to show up in a scam. Try to avoid listing the exact address of your property. If listing an apartment, avoid listing the specific apartment number as well. Don’t advertise your home as being ready for immediate move-in – these are usually the apartments that scammers go after.
Don’t Leave Property Unmonitored
If you have any vacant properties, check in on them fairly often. Empty properties can lure scam artists to pose as the landlord, and even have the locks changed or steal your property. You might come back after six months and find a family of four living there who are paying rent to the scammer with no idea that they’re doing anything wrong! Also, make sure you have all your legal documents in order so that if you do come across an illegal tenant, you'll be in the best position to handle the matter.
Post on Craigslist About Scams
In every one of your listings, make a note for renters to be aware of potential scams in the area and to never wire any money or rent sight unseen. That way you'll spread awareness to potential renters about the possibility of scams in your area and tenants will be more careful when investigating different properties.
It's just not possible to completely protect a property, but these tips will reduce the chances of your property getting used in an online or real-life scam.
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