I recently filed an eviction against a real estate agent who had rented my client’s furnished condominium in South Beach. The scam was that the realtor was subleasing the apartment as a vacation rental. My client saw ads for his apartment for rent daily or weekly online, and even confronted a foreign occupant who had rented it for a week. The realtor consented to the eviction. Now we are in the process of settling the claim on the security deposit for the damage done by the vacationers.
Today a client called, surprised to find people living in their vacant property. Apparently someone had come and changed the locks and rented their house out! The occupants refuse to leave as they have paid rent and signed a lease. The police won’t do anything because it is a “civil matter.” Now I will have to file an unlawful detainer action against them.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued a bulletin on rental listing scams
ScamBusters.org lists 12 Signs of a Rental Scam
Often, your instinct will let you know there’s something not quite right about a proposed rental deal, but here are 12 tell-tale signs that suggest something’s amiss:
General (typical of a Nigerian scam):
1. Communication is exclusively by email or cell phone.
2. The “owner” or “renter” claims to be out of the country.
3. Communication is urgent — the person seems in a hurry to close the deal immediately.
4. Messages use poor spelling and grammar and, frequently, religious terms like “God Bless.”
5. The house has a “For Sale” but not a “For Rent” sign.
6. The lock box is broken or the “agent” appears to have his own, different key to let you in.
7. The “owner” or “managing agent” is based out of town.
8. The home appears to contain someone else’s personal belongings.
9. The rental sum is lower than the going rate for the locality.
10. The inquirer asks questions that are already answered in your flyer or ad (like when the place is available or what the rent will be).
11. The “renter” claims he’s prepared to take the deal sight-unseen (usually a prelude to an advance fee scam).
12. The “renter” requests that you buy things or hire a contractor to do some work on the place first (usually the scammer is the “contractor”).