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How can you tell if someone you meet in person is running a rental scam?

I recently applied for a home to rent with a landlord who refuses to show any identification, refuses to give me his real name, did not answer my phone calls from my phone after he received all my personal information on my application but did answer when I called from a number he didn't recognize. When I asked him to show some form of identification he said his house was his identification and he only deals in cash until after I've moved in and then I can pay directly to his account. The only hole in his story about the house is that he says the previous tenant rented from him for two years but my uncle researched the property and says he just purchased it in 2012 for 33K and it looks like there were many renovations made and its only March 2014 now. Plus when I finally did get him on the phone he claimed that even though he had my money and application on Tuesday, he still couldn't approve me until the following Monday since he didn't have time during the week and the cleaning crew wouldn't show up until Friday! Please HELP! Did I make a mistake in giving him my information without more from his end or is he just protecting himself as a landlord?
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March 29 - Norfolk
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Answers (8)

If you have a reasonable suspicion just walk away!
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21 hours ago
  It is suspicious for a landlord to only accept cash payments, so be careful.

 
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June 09
Profile picture for J M Management
His house is his identification - oh really?  Does he carry it in his wallet?  If you have trouble during the rental application process, even if this guy is legitimate, do you want to deal with someone who won't return your calls?    It should only take a couple of days to run a credit check but landlords need time to call your references.  Go with your gut.  I can tell you don't trust him already.  I don't see why he needs to "protect himself as a landlord" by not showing that he owns the property. 
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March 31
Profile picture for sunnyview
"The only hole in his story about the house is that he says the previous tenant rented from him for two years but my uncle researched the property and says he just purchased it in 2012 for 33K"

It sounds like a scam to me. I would not give him any more information or money and you might consider asking the local police department to help you.
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March 31
Sounds like you know the answer to this.
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March 30
Profile picture for wetdawgs
What you are describing sounds like someone who has something to hide, most likely they don't own the property but somehow got access.    Chances are good you will never see the person again, and if you move in will discover that the real owner comes by and kicks you out. 

The only money you should provide with an application is the application fee (perhaps about $50), not a deposit for first/last and security.  I hope this is what you did so it will be all the money you lose.   Otherwise, report the individual to the police.

Trust your instincts.


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March 30
It certainly sounds like suspicious behavior to me.

Have you met this "landlord" in person and seen the inside of the house?  If you are trying to rent something sight unseen a reasonable landlord would understand your need for assurance before or when sending money.  Beware that you think it's okay behavior for a landlord to "protect himself."  And trust your gut.

Yes, a bonafide property management offices with licensed real estate agents will require an application with application fee to apply, and frequently not only do they want the application fee but the security deposit amount as well.  In my experience, private owner landlords don't have "applications" per se, but they are rather relying on meeting you at the property, finding out about you, discussing all the terms of the lease, and looking you over, which absolutely their prerogative, being private owners and not any business holding itself to a higher bar.

Hope that helps and good luck.  Be careful!
KK German, Wainwright Real Estate
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March 30
Great question! First, it sounds like your intuition is already telling this isn't legit.

You only made a mistake if you gave him money. A landlord will typically ask you to provide a credit report, and an application to rent. Then, they will ask for 2 checks/money orders/cashiers checks - 1 for security deposit and 1 for rent. It is VERY unethical for a landlord to ask that you deposit cash directly into their bank account, for tax purposes...

Good luck! I'm sorry this happened to you.
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March 29
 
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How can you tell if someone you meet in person is running a rental scam?
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