More people are renting single-family homes—and this means it is more important than ever for consumers to be savvy and protect themselves. Compass offers the following tips for prospective renters to avoid scams.
Before renting a house from an individual, ask for proof that they own the property. Check public records at the County Assessor’s office to be sure and to verify that no Notice of Default (NOD) or notice of a trustee sale has been issued.
Beware of anyone who asks you to pay cash or wire money. If you pay cash by choice, make sure to get a receipt. Wiring money sounds more official than cash but it’s not; there’s no way to trace it.
Be suspicious of a price that seems too good to be true. Try typing the street address into a search engine and see what comes up. Legitimate landlords often list properties on multiple sites, so if you find several listings for a property that sounds identical, but have a different rental amount, you've probably found a scam.
Be aware of their "priorities." A legitimate landlord will want to know about your goals in finding a home, and about you and your family’s rental needs. A scammer will want to get your money. If money seems like a higher priority than anything else, that might be a sign of fraud.
Ask a lot of questions: Where will I send my rent? How can I reach someone if you are on vacation? What do I do if I need a plumber? An experienced landlord will have already thought through the answers.
Red Flags for Renters:
The “owner” is traveling or working outside of the U.S. and will send you the keys
The “owner” will only interact with you online, not in person
The advertising or email response to you contains multiple misspellings and grammatical errors
The email addresses you as Dear Sir/Madam
The “owner” uses the title Reverend, Dr., or claims to be a missionary
The “owner” uses a free email service such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail
Payment is the first priority—cashier’s check, FedEx, Western Union, etc.
Payment of deposit or first month’s rent is requested BEFORE you see the property or sign a lease
The “owner” can’t show you the property or make arrangements for you to tour it
Price seems surprisingly low for the home offered and the area.
If you do encounter fraud involving an ad for a Compass home, please let us know at (404) 445-7770. Fraud can also be reported to your local law enforcement authority, to the Federal Trade Commission, and to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.