The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is warning consumers to be on alert against property rental scams. As the Arizona housing market continues to price many out of purchasing a home, a growing number of residents are seeking rental properties.
According to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO), scammers are seizing the opportunity to prey on unsuspecting consumers. Two of the most prevalent scams involve individuals advertising rental properties that they do not own or manage, and individuals advertising rental properties as a way to obtain personal and banking information to steal identities.
Landlords looking to lease their property are also advised to be aware of individuals offering to pay deposits or rent with certified funds in excess of the actual amount owed, and requesting the excess funds be wired back to the renter. Return the check or wait until the certified funds have cleared your account before returning any excess funds.
The AGO offers the following tips to consumers seeking to rent homes and apartments:
- Be skeptical of rental prices “well below” market price for similar properties.
- Look up the property address on a search engine to verify that the property is not “for sale” elsewhere, or physically drive by the property to verify that it actually exists.
- Be wary of poorly written rental descriptions that include misspellings or bad grammar.
- Avoid companies or individuals listing rental properties who are not reachable by phone during normal business hours; who tell you that they are out of state or out of the country; or who request communication via text only.
- Be skeptical of companies or individuals charging “up front” fees in addition to the normal application and credit check fees.
- Always be wary of companies or individuals requesting personal information such as your social security number and bank account information up front.
- Don’t pay the security deposit until you have a signed lease.
- Avoid companies or individuals requesting payments be sent overseas or by wired funds, gift cards or through peer-to-peer payment apps (such as Cash App).
- Deal with reputable companies or agents who have appropriate licenses.
There are several online resources available for consumers to check appropriate licenses and review information regarding a company’s reputation. The Arizona Department of Real Estate contains information regarding licensed Real Estate Professionals. The Better Business Bureau is also a good source of information regarding a business’ reputation.