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How to rent safely during the Depression

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By Bob Hoffman

Internet Archive of this article from April 14th, 2008
Wayback Machine link

( Please pass this article along. When I wrote it in April it was not much of an issue. Renters being thrown out of foreclosures are endemic now (Oct 2008). Please pass this on as the regular media is ignoring it )

Political Gateway -April 9 2008- Thinking of renting a home or are renting now? Facing foreclosure and want to rent? You may want to do a few things before you hand over your money first.

Historically, each major land bust comes with the ‘rental scam.’ It is the same one every time and for some reason no one warns you about it until it is too late.

Here is the deal. As a renter you are facing a few situations.

1- Everything is fine, good rental

2- The owner is in foreclosure and in the middle of your lease there may be a sheriff’s note on your door telling you to move.

3- The person you rented it from does not own it. That person just found an empty house in foreclosure and has run off with your money.

The first one above is good. The next two can break you. So, what do you do to protect yourself?

1- Go online and find your property appraiser’s office. Search for the property you want to rent or are renting. Is the person you are dealing with the actual owner? (beware of people claiming to be ‘rental agents’ or ‘management agencies’, demand to meet the owner)

2- Check for any ‘lis pendis’ or other legal action that may be listed on the deed. This does not mean there is an issue for sure, but it is a first step in finding out. Be wary.

3- If your county website allows it, do a public records search on the property and the owner listed on the deed. Do you see foreclosure recordings? Run away.

4- Do not do a deal with someone who will not give you their driver’s license. Write down the number and make sure it is them. Better yet, copy it.

5- Never do cash. Checks can be traced a lot better than cash.

6- State law forbids landlords from using the ‘last month and security’ deposit for any reason. It must be kept in an escrow account of some kind. Ask what the name of the escrow account is and make the ‘last month and security’ out to the escrow agent. The word ‘escrow’ or ‘trust’ should be in the name. Check your state laws on this and make sure the landlord follows it. You can win in small claims if they break this law, slam dunk.

7- Do not be afraid to say hi to the neighbors and possibly glean that the real owner left the house to the bank, or that the owner is in trouble, or ‘they have never seen that guy before.’

8 - A classified in the newspaper is not a good way to tell if someone is legit.

9 - If using a Real Estate Agent, ask them to get a credit report on the landlord! Or use a service to get one pulled for you. This will help you decide if you want to rent from them!

By doing a little research online or at the property appraiser’s office, you can save ending up homeless and possibly helping police find these crooks.

What about your rental now? Yuo have been in it for a bit. Go to the property appraisers and check out ownership. Then do the public records.

You may find out the house you are in is in foreclosure, the landlord has no insurance for renters, or the person you are paying is not the owner. Just because you have been in it for a while, even a few years, does not mean your landlord is not going belly up.

Renter beware, crooks want to take advantage of you and they know how to talk you into things. Report problems to the police immediately and walk away from the deal.

Super cool renter tip: Pay the day you move in. Pay with cashier’s checks. If you find out you got scammed, you can cancel the checks within 7-14 days (depends on company) and get your money back. Be very wary of someone who does not take cashier’s checks.

Bonus Cashier's Checks are also good to protect yourself from the crooks in the moving industry. Give them their extra cash, in a cashiers check, that they forced you to pay while holding your stuff as leverage, and then cancel the check.

Good luck.

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