Rental Scams 2.0

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Property Managers across the country are reporting an uptick in rental scams. These scammers or “fake landlords” are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods, and are taking advantage of a robust rental market, and renters’ sense of urgency in the face of housing shortages in many markets.

 

In previous years, one of the more common scams involved pirating a rental ad (typically on Craigslist), copying the photos and basic text of the ad, changing the contact information, and pricing the property at well-below market rental value to generate leads. Then, when the unsuspecting renter called, the scammer would tell them the property could be shown in a few days, but to send money to secure the rental now. It worked. Many renters were taken advantage of in this manner. We property managers caught on to that rather quickly, and started watermarking our property photos. This simple step seemed to eliminate much of the fraud associated with “fake ads.”

 

That is, until recently…

Today, the scammers are increasingly savvy to the widespread use of electronic lockbox systems for showing vacant rental homes. The newer scams go something like this:

  • The scammer creates a fake listing on Craigslist, Trulia, HotPads, Zillow, or some other online rental site.
  • Unsuspecting renters contact the scammer in response to the listing.
  • Meanwhile, the scammer registers through your system to view the property as though he/she were an actual prospect, obtaining an access code to view the home.
  • The scammer talks to the victims using a VoIP number like Google Voice and tells the victims they are the owner of the property.
  • While a victim is at the door to the property and on the phone with the scammer, the scammer provides his fraudulently-obtained access code to the victim, and the victim is able to enter the property.
  • In some cases where a photo ID is required the scammer uses a fake ID. In others he gets the victim to text him their ID and then uploads that to satisfy the requirement.
  • After the victim has viewed the property, the scammer then requests the victim wire the deposit to the scammer to secure the rental.
  • The first the property manager learns of this is when the renter comes to your office to pick up keys to the home…

 

What can we do, as professional property managers, to protect the renting public, our companies that bear the burden of dealing with unauthorized tenancies, and our owner/clients who depend on us to reasonably secure their properties?

 

  • Check your vacant properties frequently! If it’s vacant, whether or not you’ve had showings on the home, you need to check the property at least weekly.
  • Conduct a periodic Google search using your vacant property’s address. Does it show up as listed for rent on any site/s other than the ones you’re using? Look at the ads.
  • Flag and report any unauthorized advertisements.

 

Get the word out!

  • Tell your prospective renters to be wary of rental scams.
    • Beware of owner/landlords who are “out of town.”
    • Beware of rental rates that seem ‘too good to be true.’ They probably are.
    • Beware of a “landlord’s” urgency to obtain money or personal information from you.
    • Don’t wire money to ANYONE, unless you’ve verified that they are actually the owner, or the owner’s authorized agent.

 

Wherever there are housing shortages and anxious consumers, there will be a criminal element. Criminals prey on the most vulnerable of us. As professional property managers, we have to take this seriously, and be proactive in our efforts to prevent rental scams.

 

What additional methods of rental scam prevention do you use?

 

 

 

 

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Summer Newsletter for Tenants

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Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border
Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border

Tenant Newsletters are a great way to keep your renters informed, and remind them of the routine maintenance tasks for which they’re responsible.

Yet, year after year, many of us either crank out well-worn repeats of earlier newsletters, or worse, ‘stock’ newsletters written by an outside organization. And, some of us simply postpone the task until it’s a moot point. In talking with property managers all over the country, I hear more and more frequently their frustration over tenants not reading the newsletter, when it finally does reach their in-box.

 

How can we better communicate these important messages?  

Continue reading “Summer Newsletter for Tenants”

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Judy’s Bill Watch List – Nevada 2013 Legislature

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NevadaThis is shaping up to be a very light year for bills impacting the property management industry in Nevada. Both landlords and tenants have little to watch, in terms of new legislation on the horizon. Property Managers may be interested in a few of the items on my watch list, however.

 

Unless something changes significantly in the next few weeks, this is the last of my posts on the Nevada 2013 Legislature. I’ll keep you informed, however, should circumstances warrant a “heads up” for Nevada Property Managers. For now, in no particular order, here’s what I’m watching. You’ll note that each bill number listed links to the bill information itself:

Continue reading “Judy’s Bill Watch List – Nevada 2013 Legislature”

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The Four Agreements of Property Management

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“Just Because _____, Doesn’t Mean _____.”

If you’ve sat in on any of my sessions any time in the last several years, you’ve probably heard me make that statement. It usually goes something like this,

 

Just because the owner didn’t return your call, doesn’t mean he is avoiding you. Call him again.”

 

Never Make Assumptions – Agreement #1 for the Successful Property Manager

 

We property managers are a pretty smart bunch. If we’re any good in the business, we’ve learned about (read: internalized) the typical events between landlords, tenants, and property managers that may come up on any given day. We have rules, and we stick to those rules, or we risk watching our businesses crumble. The property manager who survives for more than 5 years in the business knows what to expect, and how he’ll react to it, when it shows up. Continue reading “The Four Agreements of Property Management”

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Roommates

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Greetings, fellow property managers! Today’s blog is a guest post by one of our own, Robert Frenchu of Coldwell Banker Best Sellers in Carson City, Nevada. It’s a humorous take on the myriad issues surrounding roommates in rental properties. Enjoy!

Roommates

Roommates

The very word sends chills down the spine of property managers. The only other things we’d rather not hear are, “…water leaking since last Tuesday,” and “…when the garbage truck plowed through the living room….” Why do we develop nervous tics whenever roommates apply for a rental? Besides dealing with the competing priorities and motivations of two or more different people, roommates many times have trouble understanding some basic concepts.

A lease is a contract— a legal agreement between two- or more- parties. Any time you add another party to the mix, things can get more complex, and often do. Many leases have language that describes the obligation being between the owner and multiple tenants, and that language is “together and severally.” (Think of the word “severed” instead of “several.”) That means the agreement is • between the Owner and Tenants A & B, and • between the Owner and Tenant A, and the Owner and Tenant B.

Now that you understand the concept behind multiple signatories on contracts, let’s cruise through some examples of situations you need to think about before you sign on the dotted line. Continue reading “Roommates”

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Surety Bond in Lieu of Security Deposit

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Surety Bond in Lieu of Security Deposit

Joining states like California and Florida, who have responded to real estate market conditions, the Nevada Legislature amended NRS 118A.242 in 2009, allowing landlords and tenants to negotiate the acceptance of a surety bond in lieu of all or part of a security deposit on a residential dwelling. Now, instead of having to come up with a large sum of money in advance, tenants (if the landlord agrees) are able to purchase a surety bond to cover all or part of the security deposit.

Here’s how the Nevada law reads:

(emphasis added)

NRS 118A.242  Security: Limitation on amount or value; surety bond in lieu of security; duties and liability of landlord; damages; disputing itemized accounting of security; prohibited provisions.

1.  The landlord may not demand or receive security or a surety bond, or a combination thereof, including the last month’s rent, whose total amount or value exceeds 3 months’ periodic rent.

2.  In lieu of paying all or part of the security required by the landlord, a tenant may, if the landlord consents, purchase a surety bond to secure the tenant’s obligation to the landlord under the rental agreement to:

(a) Remedy any default of the tenant in the payment of rent.

(b) Repair damages to the premises other than normal wear and tear.

(c) Clean the dwelling unit.

3.  The landlord:

(a) Is not required to accept a surety bond purchased by the tenant in lieu of paying all or part of the security; and

(b) May not require a tenant to purchase a security bond in lieu of paying all or part of the security. Continue reading “Surety Bond in Lieu of Security Deposit”

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Consistency and Documentation – The Property Manager’s Mantra

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Your telephone interview with a prospect will make or break the rental transaction.

A question that arises frequently among property managers is, “How can I be sure I’m treating all rental prospects equally?”

The initial telephone interview with a prospective resident sets the stage for the landlord/tenant relationship. Your responses and behavior at this critical stage are the first indication the prospect has of your professionalism. And, for you, it’s your first opportunity to make a connection with the prospect. These moments will either make or break the rental transaction. Many fair housing complaints are filed in response to prospects’ perceptions of how they were treated at the very earliest stages of the relationship. Continue reading “Consistency and Documentation – The Property Manager’s Mantra”

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Manager’s Resources

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Below are links to a few forms and resources you may find useful.  Please be sure to check with your Broker and/or attorney before utilizing any new forms, contracts, or procedures.

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