The Palm Beach Post reported yesterday that a Boyton Beach man, who had his home listed for sale and for lease with licensed real estate agents, “was surprised to see it listed on Craigslist by an alleged scammer for half that price.” The property owner contacted police, who began investigating by repling to the Craigslist ad.
The incident report said the Craigslist poster told the officer that he and his family moved out of the house because he was transferred from his job. The poster said he was in London for an international Christian follower’s crusade and that he needed “to get a very well-behaved person to take occupancy of my house and take good care of it for me.”
The poster added that he brought the keys and documents for the house with him when he left for London, because he had not found a tenant. But he said the house was available for $800 rent and a $700 security deposit.
This is one of the most common forms of this type of fraud. I first wrote about the issue over a year ago in “When the Rental Home is Too Good to be True”, giving tips for property owners and prospective tenants on how to avoid being scammed, and I continue to hear the horror stories from all over the country.
My single best advice continues to be: whether you are the landlord or the tenant, hire a reputable Realtor to assist you with all of your real estate needs. In the story reported by the Palm Beach Post, even if the property owner had not spotted the Craigslist ad, his Realtor would be conducting regular inspections of his vacant property to prevent an unauthorized tenant from moving in. For the prospective tenant, a reputable Realtor will verify ownership (and foreclosure status) of the home before you deliver your hard-earned money to a landlord.
If you have a rental fraud story to share, add it to the remarks. The better informed all of us are about this problem, the better precautions we can all take.