How to not fall for rental scams (e.g. renting with intent of ren

9 Replies

Can you guys tell me how to not fall for rental scams (e.g. renting with intent of renting to others; renting on behalf of the owner; etc.; etc.)? How do you verify the owner of the apartment/building? Do you always verify the owner of an apartment/building when renting? How do you do this? I am planning to rent a private room in Houston, Texas.

I'm not sure I understand your question.

I think you're planning to rent a private room in someone's home, in Houston.

I wouldn't worry about whether the person owns the home or not. That's not your concern. The only thing you need to know is if the living situation is compatible with your lifestyle. If there's a problem later, you can just move.

Originally posted by @Mark Mathews :

I'm not sure I understand your question.

I think you're planning to rent a private room in someone's home, in Houston.

I wouldn't worry about whether the person owns the home or not. That's not your concern. The only thing you need to know is if the living situation is compatible with your lifestyle. If there's a problem later, you can just move.

 What do you mean? What if they don't own the place or the rights to the place and they just take my money and run (and the landlord comes and says that I can't live there because they never gave them permission to rent it out)?

@Bryan T. I'm guessing that you're referring to the scam where dirtbags will take the photos of a home that's not theirs and advertise it for rent on Craigslist.  

They then get responses from prospective renters and get them to send first, last and security deposits, which is promptly stolen.  The renter is out 3 months rent with no apartment to show for it.

One thing to watch out for is that the apartment is listed on Craigslist in the first place.  Craigslist is like a back alley of real estate.  Sure, there are legit deals there, but if you don't want to get mugged, stay out of the back alley.

If you do want to follow up on a Craigslist deal, be sure you've seen the inside of the apartment and that the person showing it has keys for the unit.  That's at lease some assurance that they're legit - or it could be that it's a dirtbag who changed the locks for this specific purpose.

I've never heard of this happening with an apartment that was represented by a Realtor, so that would be my recommendation.  Find  local real estate brokerage and ask who there specializes in rentals.

Originally posted by @Joe Villeneuve :

Sub leasing isn't  scam...it's a strategy.  If you don't want to allow it, then just put a clause in your agreement saying so.

 No, I mean what if you are subleasing from a tenant that does not have rights to sublease? They just take your money and run? Or a renter who rents a place just to "sublease" it out to 20+ people and runs with everyone's money?

Here's a article I am referring to:

https://www.fraudguides.com/consumers/rental-scams/

You can verify ownership by checking County records. I don't know where you live so I can't point you to the web site. Call your county clerk or visit their web site. Look for the County Map Server which allows you to look up an address and verify ownership.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

You can verify ownership by checking County records. I don't know where you live so I can't point you to the web site. Call your county clerk or visit their web site. Look for the County Map Server which allows you to look up an address and verify ownership.

 
Not sure how helpful that'll be. I own dozens of buildings, all in their own LLCs. If you search for one of the buildings I own it doesn't say "Owned by Cody". If you really deep dive into the LLC structure you'd find me.

For the OP:  If you're trying to sublease from someone, then you could always ask to see their lease to make sure the lease offers that ability.  You could also ask to talk to the landlord directly as maybe it's better if you take over the lease.

We allow subletting but we have to approve the person.  And the other person is still on the hook if they don't pay.  So more often we allow the new person to just take over the lease and charge about 1/2 month rent to do the switch. 

All that said, if you're trying to keep it informal, if you go and meet someone at the apartment you're looking to sublet, it's going to be a damn near 0 chance they just broke in and are showing something they are not really renting.  But you still need to know what they're lease is.  Let's say someone says "I'll rent you the apartment I'm renting for $500/month".  If their rent is more, you're hosed. 

Originally posted by @Bryan T. : What do you mean? What if they don't own the place or the rights to the place and they just take my money and run (and the landlord comes and says that I can't live there because they never gave them permission to rent it out)?

If you're worried about it, don't do it.

@Cody L. it really doesn't matter if it's owned by an individual or LLC. Once he has the name of the owner, he can then contact the person claiming to be the owner and verify the ownership name and mailing address. If this guy says he owns the building personally but it's listed under an LLC, then he'll know it's a scam.

I'm in a conservative town of 9,000 and just read in the police blotter two days ago that someone was scammed out of a deposit after viewing the home in person. In-person showings don't happen as often as scams on Craigslist but I hear about them from other property managers and REALTORS around the country and it's increasing.