Look out for rental scams!
Look out for rental scams!
The housing market has been going crazy around here with the demand to buy houses in Grays Harbor outstripping the supply! Add unusually high prices for lumber and other building materials and that removes the possibility of building a new house from many people’s list of options! Then, that in turn, puts more pressure on the already existing houses available for purchase or for rent.
Today, we don’t actually want to talk about buying houses, but talk about scams related to renting apartments and houses. The reason that we bring up the current sellers’ housing market is that it also greatly impacts the rental market.
With a hungry bunch of buyers looking to snatch up a Grays Harbor home, many landlords who have rented for years are now considering putting their properties on the market. Issues with COVID, untimely or unpaid back rents and eviction moratoriums, are all part of a chain of events leading to fewer rental options and potentially higher prices for the ones that come available.
Whatever the issue or situation, desperate people in desperate times attract scammers!
Watch out for rental scams
Rental scams are a little harder to pull off in smaller communities like ours when many of us know each other, however it is still important to stay vigilant!
As more and more absentee owners market local properties by internet from afar, the chances increase for scammers to intercede.
Info on avoiding scams is available
The Federal Trade Commission has solid information on how to avoid scams in general as well as some current scams to watch out for. Check out their website at www.consumer.ftc.gov. In addition, you can check out the Washington State’s Attorney General Office’s website to see which scams are currently popular in our state.
With any scam, there are often signs that something isn’t quite right. However, our electronic world and lack of face-to-face contact, has made things easier for the scammers.
For instance, it’s now easy for one person to “kidnap” or copy online ads of legitimate properties available by simply changing the contact information so they can receive the money, in essence “renting” the same property they don’t own over and over again.
The Federal Trade Commission’s website lists three signs of a rental scam:
They tell you to wire money.
They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease.
They say they‘re out of the country (but have a way to get you the key.)
“There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. That’s true even if they send you a contract first,” according to the FTC’s website.
As the commission points out, “wiring money is the same as sending cash – once you send it, you have no way to get it back.”
In addition, before you sign a lease or rental agreement, get the terms of everything in writing. This includes fees, rent and the maintenance plan. (That is, what do you do if something breaks and who is responsible to mow the lawn, etc.)
We suggest working only with a reputable local property management company or directly with the owner of record of the property. This information is available through the county assessor website if you have an address.
Free, unbiased advice available
Here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, we have our very own HUD-certified housing counselor who is knowledgeable and up-to-date on both purchasing and renting.
Julie Galligan can be reached at (360) 533-7828 with any questions you may have regarding any housing issues from fraud and scams to landlord and tenant rights. Her housing counseling services are free of charge!
NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor is a nonprofit organization that works to provide safe, affordable housing opportunities to residents of our county.