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Watch out for Phoenix rental home scams

single family rentalsIt’s sometimes hard to imagine the sorts of ways people are willing to take advantage of others. It’s not necessarily a matter of being naïve, unfortunately there are plenty of well informed, intelligent people conned out of their hard earned money everyday.

Times have changed and the majority of Americans believe it to be a wiser financial decision to rent their housing rather than commit to purchasing a home. Our economy is in the midst of a monumental transition and as a result the rental market is now flooded with competitive renters. There are scammers working to take advantage of others in plenty of sectors, but the hotter the market, the more scammers you’re likely to face. Your best line of defense is to be aware of all of the various underhanded things that are happening everyday. Here are a few of the most common scams going on in Phoenix right now:

If It’s Too Good To Be True… – Yes, it probably is. Apartment communities and landlords across the board are raising rents because the demand to rent a great place is so high right now. If you see a listing for a place well below the typical rent for a similar place in the same area, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to inquire for more information, but absolutely don’t share any personal information, pay any deposit, or get your hopes up. Research typical rental prices on our RentCafe apartment search site.

The most common scheme Phoenix Police is seeing around the Valley are when non-owners hold out a property for rent though they have absolutely no right to do so.  Con artists are listing vacant, bank owned, or for sale homes as if they were available to rent. These false owners will commonly accept multiple rental contracts and security deposits and leave the victims essentially homeless and broke on move-in day.

You’ve likely heard in the news about how many real estate investors are electing to foreclose on their rental properties, which is known as a strategic foreclosure. Typically this is done because the owners owe more on the home than it is worth re-sale, and as such, are allowing the bank to take back the home. Not only are some of these investors bilking the bank out of their agreement, but a few continue to collect rent payments from those living in the home without giving them any notice of the foreclosure proceedings. In cases such as these, renters aren’t even aware of the situation until the day the Sheriff knocks on the door with an Order to Vacate! Unbelievable!

5 Early Signs You’re Dealing With A Scammer

  1. The Landlord won’t meet you in person.
  2. Rent is abnormally cheap.
  3. They eagerly contact you and seem overanxious to have the place rented.
  4. They say the keys will be mailed to you after they receive your deposit.
  5. The prospective Landlord refuses to share basic contact information.

So What You Can Do?

Knowledge is power, and these days we can easily become more knowledgeable through the use of the internet.  It’s all right here at your fingertips; you just need to know where to look!

To Thoroughly Research A Prospective Rental & Landlord:

  • A great starting point is to Google search the name of the Landlord and the address. Does anything fishy pop up?
  • Check out official property and tax records at the website of the Maricopa County Assessor. Equipped with just the address of the property you are able to view the name of the owner and various fun facts about the property. Does the name of the owner match the name of the person or company you’ve been in contact with?
  • On this page you will find a direct link to the Maricopa County Treasurer’s Office. This will tell you if the owner is up to date on their property taxes. This is always a solid indicator of the financial standing of the owner. Almost always a property undergoing a foreclosure will have overdue property taxes owed to the County.
  • If everything so far has checked out, visit the website of the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office. Simply search the name of the owner and all legally recorded public information will pop up for you to view. You will want to look for documents such as judgments, lis pendens (lawsuit/foreclosure proceedings), tax liens, and other such vital documentation.
  • If you’re willing to shell out some cash, is a great resource to do even further, in-depth snooping including all of the steps above.

It is true that having a rental offer accepted on the perfect home is more difficult than it has been in over a decade, especially in Arizona, but don’t forget to hit the brakes before you sign that lease. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving to a new place, especially if it’s just the thing you’re looking for.  Following through with some solid due diligence is definitely in your own best interest and should take you less than an hour. Many renters end up eating their lost deposits and often these criminals are never caught. Don’t be a victim!
If you believe you’ve come across a rental scammer, don’t hesitate to contact Phoenix Police so someone else doesn’t fall prey to their rip-off scam.





Amalia Otet
Amalia Otet
Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé. She loves all things real estate and strives to live beautifully, one green step at a time.

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