Property Management Blog

Renters Beware! Avoid Scams and Fraud by Dealing Locally!

System - Friday, March 29, 2013

With the rise in people, nationwide, losing their homes to foreclosure, renting a home is the next step for housing their family.  This is a great decision because rent prices have dropped several hundred dollars per month in the past 2-3 years.  So, it can be a much cheaper alternative than owning, and the lower rent price will allow folks with financial hardships to live a little easier until they can get on their feet again.

Well, unfortunately, scammers are waiting for you, and will take advantage of you.  If you are using Craigslist or some other “publicly available” website for searching for rental property, you have more than likely run across a scam ad for a rental property.  And, you may not even have known it.  Being that I post my rental listings on Craigslist, I get calls all the time from tenant prospects asking about them.  A few times, I’ve met them at the house and we discuss the terms.  Then, they say something along the lines of, “So, is the rent really only $600 per month?”  I quickly respond with, “Uh, no sir, it is actually $995.  Where did you see the $600 price?”  Long story short, they saw an ad on Craigslist with my property’s picture and a description matching the house, but for a price NOT at what I advertised it.  I confirmed this.

What the scammers are doing is taking a legitimate ad, “borrowing” the photos, copying the description nearly verbatim, and making their own ad at a price that’s a couple hundred dollars lower than my market price rental.  Sometimes, they’ll even go as far as cross-referencing the property address with the tax rolls, in order to obtain the owner’s name.  They will use that information to create a fake email address, usually containing the owner’s name, and publicly post that in the ad, to create the illusion of legitimacy.  It’s pretty convincing.

In my title, I borrowed a phrase from the Craigslist warning: “Avoid scams and fraud by dealing locally”.  That warning goes further to say that rental prospects should take caution to only work with landlords or property management companies who are able to meet you at the property and, of course, give you access to the property.  You should also take the time to drive by the property prior to making any contact with the “owner”, to see if there is a sign in the yard or a lockbox on the front door.  If the contact information in the ad is in conflict with what’s on the property, then you may be facing a scam.  If the “owner” can only communicate through email and/or phone, and they insist on you paying them via Money Gram, Western Union, wire transfer, or other electronic means, then you are more than likely being setup for a scam.  There is no way to get your money back, if you fall for this.

The "owner" will have a pretty good story, too.  It may be that they are a missionary family and they are in West Africa.  They'll have photos of their family, kids included, and their story will be very touching.  It could be that they took a job transfer to England, but didn't have the time to get it rented prior to leaving.  Then, it's been vacant for several months, so they just need to get it rented and that's why the price is so low.  To the unsuspecting renter, these are all really good and convincing stories.  But, it's a SCAM!!

In my opinion, it’s best for you, as a rental customer, to ONLY work with a local Property Management Company.  We are licensed professionals, and we are able to confirm the legitimacy of the properties we are renting.  We keep track of the rental ads we place, so we know what’s accurate and what market rent prices are.  Personally, I check on my Craigslist ads, to make sure they aren’t being scraped and used for scams.  Unfortunately, it’s up to the Craigslist staff to remove these ads, once we “flag” them, and they are less than prompt at doing this.  I flagged a scam ad over a week ago, and it’s still there.  But, now that I know it’s there, I always ask callers about which ad they saw, so they know which ad is accurate.

The old adage is in full effect with this affair:  If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  Renters, don’t let yourself be scammed.  Make it a point to work only with licensed real estate agents and property managers when searching for rental property.  Not doing so could cost you hundreds of dollars, which could be used for more important things, like, RENT.

Thanks for reading...

Eric M. Boyd, Realtor, e-PRO
Step One Realty...A Jacksonville Property Management Company
Jacksonville, Florida
cell: 904-813-5010 fax: 888-345-5054

Eviction...Sometimes, it's the better decision.

System - Saturday, September 8, 2012
I just had a great conversation with a Landlord about their investment rental property.  It was a timely discussion, since we've been having recent issues with their slow-paying, delinquent tenant, who is also not upholding their obligation to maintain the property in a clean and sanitary manner.  The Landlord was formerly managing this property on their own, but hired us to take over the management and handle things for them, since they are located out of the area.  The Landlord had come back to the property to handle some maintenance and repairs, in order to keep the property in good working condition, and also to get a look at the way the tenant has been keeping up with the property, as well.  We've recently inspected the interior and found that the property is in dire need of some serious upkeep.  We performed a reinspection after giving the tenant almost a month to improve things.  Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough to show that they have the desire to make it right.  Compound that with the rent payments that are now running a few weeks late, it's time to make some tough decisions.

I've seen this situation, time and time again.  Tenants start out doing great, but over time, rent payments get slower and slower.  Their excuses and reasoning get more convincing, and they start pulling on the heart strings, so you make exceptions to what was established in the lease agreement.  Things get a little better, but then they drop off again.  Then, you discover things aren't going well with their housekeeping habits.  So, you have a talk with them, and the tenant agrees to make it better.  Well, that never happens, and it just piles on and piles on.  This is not the way it should go, and it does NOT need to continue.

While it may make a Landlord, or even a Property Manager, feel good by offering some grace to a non-compliant, delinquent tenant, this often is not the best move for anyone.  Tenants will learn, over time, to take advantage of your niceness.  They will use this to their benefit, as long as you let them get away with it.  The better decision is to keep the "grace" limited to what's afforded the Landlord in the Lease Agreement and within the Law. 

If a tenant is late on rent, immediately post a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Deliver Possession.  If the tenant doesn't pay the total of rent owed and they remain in the property after the 3 day period, then send the eviction request to your attorney to get the eviction complaint filed.  Timely actions on this process are very important, as it can affect how quickly the tenant will be evicted, or if they decide to actually pay rent.  Don't allow the tenant to sell you on any further excuses, which will only prolong the eviction process.

If a tenant is non-compliant on cleaning or other issues with regard to property upkeep, or is in violation of community rules and regulations, then immediately post a 7-Day Notice with Opportunity to Cure.  If the tenant does not correct the issue within the allotted time, then promptly notify your eviction attorney and get them started on the eviction complaint.

It's important to understand that any unnecessary delay can be costly to the Landlord, not only in lost rent, but also in how much money will be required to put into getting the property made ready for a new tenant.  If a delinquent tenant is allowed to remain on the property, the likelihood that they're going to purposely damage the property and leave it even more unclean/unkept is very high.  Act quickly and show that you mean business.  You're completely within your rights as a Landlord to expect a Tenant to hold up their end of the lease contract.


Eric M. Boyd, Owner/Broker
Step One Realty LLC
Jacksonville Property Management
(904) 469-6335

Time is of the Essence, even in Rentals!

System - Thursday, July 5, 2012
In most real estate sales contracts, at least around here, there's language to the effect of "time is of the essence in this agreement."  Not only is this true in sales, but it's especially true in today's rental market.  If you're in search of your next home to rent, then you need to be prepared to act quickly when you find it.

Just today, I received a phone call from an angry almost-applicant.  They felt as though they were cheated out of renting a house for which they submitted applications.  I call them an "almost-appliant", because they hadn't submitted a complete rental application package and paid the application fees, prior to another set of applicants being approved for renting the property.  These unhappy folks had first viewed the property a full week prior to today.  They took the weekend to probably look at some other properties and think it over.  Well, since the day they looked at the property, I'd shown it to 4 or 5 other prospective tenants, and 3 or 4 others before they looked at it.  Just last night, one of those prospective tenants became an applicant, by submitting a complete application package and paid their application fees.  So, first thing this morning, I screened them and sent their approval.  After sending the approval, the almost-applicants faxed in their final paperwork, then called me to confirm I received everything.  I acknowledged what I had received, but then told them I had just approved another applicant, so they may want to consider whether to pay their application fee.  I offered to call them to let them know if the other person backed out, then the phone call ended.  A few minutes later, they called back to hopefully speak with a manager and complain, but I'm the manager and owner of the company, so they commenced to explain they would tell everyone possible to never rent from my company.  OK, thanks.  :-)

On the first page of my rental application, it states, "Application must be completely filled-out, with all documents, and application fee paid, prior to screening."  Can it get more clear than that?  If an almost-applicant wants to take a full week to think about it, compile the necessary documents, then finally pull it all together, then there's a big chance they're not going to be the first one to submit an application and get approved.  As much as I hate to use this phrase, since it's adapted from something I saw in a car salesman's office the other day, I'll say it anyway..."The rental you looked at today and want to think about until next week, may be the same rental someone else looked at yesterday and will sign a lease today."

Time is of the essence, renters.  Don't wait around.  If you want to rent a property, then take the required steps as quickly as possible.  And, if someone else beats you to it, don't be a sore loser and make threats about bad publicity.  Take it as a lesson learned, and don't make the mistake again of being slower than the one who beat you there.

Good luck to you all!!

Eric M. Boyd, Broker/Owner
Step One Realty LLC
Jacksonville Property Management Company

NAR publishing bad data? Say it ain't so!!

System - Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Realtors: We Overcounted Home Sales for Five Years


Being that I'm primarily handing property management, I can't help but easily ignore all this sales stuff, but as a broker/owner, I will eventually grow into handling much more sales.  Since starting my business last year, I have contemplated quitting my membership with my local MLS and, by default, NAR, since don't get too much rental/management from either.  But, I just hang in there with it, more out of duty to support my industry than anything else.  But, if our primary industry representative is going to mislead folks, no matter how minor it may be, I can't see the reason to have that support.

Someone, please help me make sense of this and tell me why I should or shouldn't continue my support.

Eric M. Boyd, Broker/Owner
Step One Realty, LLC
Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville Property Management