We recently reported on a Craigslist rental scammer sting that was caught on camera, complete with a news crew and police officers, exposing a California woman allegedly using various aliases, posting Craigslist ads on properties she does not own or manage, accepting applications, fees and deposits, only to disappear after collecting the money.
This case is not unique, it happens every day, and although Craigslist is the epicenter, it is not the only place these scams occur. Some scams are set up as rings that are complex, others are simply people desperate enough to take the risk of stealing others’ money. It begs the question – how do consumers know when an internet ad is legitimate, or if the person saying they are the landlord is really connected to the property?
Recently launched startup, CheckYourLandlord.com seeks to avoid these scammers by offering a means of screening the person claiming to be a landlord and is working to educate renters of the potential pitfalls of rental scams.
The service allows renters to check the property to make sure there are no pre-foreclosure notices of default against the property for free, and users can check information about the property and landlord, which they suggest doing before signing a lease. Additionally, users can verify the property ownership status as well as the landlord’s civil and criminal background.
We would like to see the site include a check of the status of any professional license each state requires of property managers, property management companies or real estate professionals as an additional means of validation.
This is a huge win for legitimate property managers who work hard every day to serve renters, is a big win for property owners whose homes are showing up on Craigslist and across the web when it’s either not for lease or not managed by the person posting the ads and collecting fees. Mainly, the site is a win for consumers who are fearful of renting from individuals posting ads online, and gives the industry the balance of peace of mind.