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Beware of rental fraud

There are many in Santa Cruz whose personal situations make it more advantageous to rent their homes than buy them. One of the factors that might sway one towards renting is not having the time to deal with the complexities that come with home ownership. Indeed, rental or lease agreements tend to be much simpler to understand and secure. Perhaps this is why the Pew Research Center reports that as of 2016, 36.6 percent of households in the U.S. were rental properties. Yet simply choosing to rent does not mean that one is immune from residency related problems, including issues such as fraud. 

Rental scams rank among the most common forms of real estate fraud. Rental fraud schemes typically occur as follows: 

  • A prospective renter sees an advertisement on social media for a high-end property being offered at a surprisingly low rate. 
  • The renter contacts the owner, who says the renter must act fast to secure the property. However, the owner is out of the country (or otherwise unavailable) to show it. 
  • The owner convinces the renter to send him or her a deposit as well as the first few months of rent in order to secure the property over other bidders. 
  • The renter complies, yet then shows up to move in to the property only to discover that it is occupied (and that the person advertising him or herself as the owner did not actually own it). 

In such cases, recovering what one paid (along with damages) may be difficult because rental schemers rarely deal contractually. Per the Federal Bureau of Investigation, rental fraud can be avoided by only working with local landlords and comparing an advertised rate with those of similar properties. One should also be leery of anyone who asks them to send rent money without first meeting them. 

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