Evolving technology has made it easy for people to advertise their properties online and find potential tenants through websites, social media and email. In most cases, this is a great benefit. However, it has also given dishonest people a new way to scam both landlords and tenants out of their money and time.
It’s important to protect yourself. Don’t share any personal information or make any promises to people you have never met. If someone expresses an interest in the property you have advertised on a rental site, but they’re not able to meet you in person to see the house and they can’t give you verifiable information on a rental application, you don’t want to waste any more time talking to them.
You also need to be careful with your own advertising. There are lots of fraudulent advertisements on otherwise reputable rental sites. For example, a popular scam involves someone stealing your online ad. They will take your photos and your description and then change the contact information and dramatically lower the price. Then, a tenant who thinks they’ve found an outstanding deal will send that person a deposit and never hear from them again. You need to check the online ads regularly to make sure no one has stolen yours.
If you get a potential tenant who wants to pay for a full year’s rent up front, that’s great and it does happen, however make sure they pass the same screening you have the same as others, maybe with the exception of the 3 times income rule . A full years rent up front doesn’t guarantee you’re getting a good tenant. It can be a way for that person to convince you that a background check isn’t necessary. Check and document everything in writing.
The best way to avoid online scams is to list your property with a professional Grand Rapids management company. They will have relationships with pools of potential tenants and secure websites. This can cut down on your risk and liability.
If you have any questions about rental scams, or you’d like additional information on how to avoid them, please contact us at United Properties of West Michigan.