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Rental Scammers Don’t Take The Holiday Season Off

I know ’tis the season of heartwarming stories, but I have to interrupt the status quo for this one.

(Our team wrote on this subject back in 2014. Check out the article here.)

One of our professional leasing agents just got off the phone with a nice lady (we’ll call her Susan) who finds herself in a terrible position today. We have a lovely little home listed for rent in Solano County, and it’s listed for around $1,500 per month. Susan finds herself looking for an affordable place to live, and finds our home on Craigslist for around $500 a month. She calls the number on the ad, and the persuasive gentleman on the other end convinces her to deposit around $3,000 into his bank account in order to reserve the property. She never saw the home, and she never signed a lease.

A few steps forward, and Susan is on the phone sharing this tragic story with our leasing agent. This is a hard position for our RPM Select Team members, because we’d love nothing more than to guarantee Susan we have a solution to get all of her money back and make her whole. Unfortunately, the only realistic solution at this point is to file a police report immediately, and hope our Men in Blue are able to catch the bad guy. We hate to see people in this situation, especially right before Christmas.

With that said, here are a 6 rules you can follow to avoid getting duped by a rental scammer

1. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

I love a good deal as much as the next guy. But most landlords and property managers know what their property is worth. If a rental listing says the place is available for rent for much lower than you think it would be, that’s a red flag.

2. Don’t give any money until you sign a lease

If you don’t have a fully executed lease or holding agreement, don’t hand over any money. California law allows landlords to rent to tenants on a verbal month-to-month lease, but I highly suggest against it. Aside from a rental application fee, you should only pay the landlord money after you have a contract in place signed by both parties.

3. Hand over the money in person, and meet them

Avoid giving money to a faceless name. If it’s a property owner, ask to meet at the property to deliver him the security deposit and/or rent. If it’s a property management company, go into their office and make sure it’s not a fly-by-night shoebox operation.

4. Rent from a reputable organization (or landlord).

Even if you do meet the owner, and they seem like they’re a little nuts, I would suggest looking elsewhere. This is the person you have to rely on to provide you and your family with a well maintained home to live in. Or you can rent from a reputable property management team. I happen to know of one.

5. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a scam, call the police

As I stated above, your best bet is to get on the horn immediately, and call 911. This is a crime, and the criminal needs to be caught. With any luck, the police will be able to recover your stolen dollars and return them to you.

If you’re looking for a rental in Northern California, and you don’t want to get ripped off, give us a call at (707) 317-9570. You can also see all of our available rental properties at www.NorCalPM.com. From everyone here at RPM Select, we wish you Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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