Let Joe Know: Do the research before putting a deposit down on rental property - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Let Joe Know: Do the research before putting a deposit down on rental property

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Posted: Monday, May 12, 2014 11:00 am

It’s a nice house, on a cul-de-sac, in a quiet Chandler neighborhood. And Julie Wilson wanted to rent it after finding it on the rental and sales website, Trulia.com.

It was the best deal she found.

Wilson said for $850, the house had new paint, tile, appliances, pets welcome and all utilities included. So, she answered the ad.

She got an email back saying that the owner “relocated to Little Rock.” They talked about doing God’s work and told Wilson to go by the house and take a look.

She did that, looked in the windows, and liked what she saw.

So, Wilson sent the $600 security as requested in the form of MoneyPak — it’s basically like sending cash.

After Wilson sent the money, she waited for the keys to arrive.

Instead of delivering the keys, the “owner” made excuses.

“He kept telling me over and over again he couldn’t do it that day because it snowed real hard or he couldn’t do it that day because he was in church all day,” she said.

Wilson had already sent him $600. Now, the “owner” wanted her to send the first month’s rent as well. She became suspicious.

Then Wilson found out the rental was actually a house for sale.

She’d been scammed.

“I was devastated. I lost $600. I don’t know who I can trust,” Wilson said.

Across the Valley in Phoenix, Tom Mathein had renters coming to his door. His house was listed as a rental on a website called hotpads.com.

He said “at $800 a month in this area, it would have been a really good deal.”

Mathein took a look at the rental ad and was shocked.

“There was my whole name, my whole address, everything about the house, pictures,” he said.

Shocked, because Mathein was selling his home, not renting it. Someone had copied his sales ad, and listed it as a rental.

“They just took it. Somebody is scamming somebody, trying to make $800 off someone who is unsuspecting,” Mathein said.

They used his name, their phone number and email address.

“Having someone impersonate you, that’s scary,” Mathein said.

So, protect yourself.

Be very wary of prices that are too low, out-of-town landlords who can’t meet, and having to pay with cash, wire money or send a MoneyPak.

Try paying with a check so you can cancel it.

If I’m renting a house, I’m going to visit the address and talk to the neighbors.

Also, I’m going to check the deed with the county Recorder’s Office to find out who is the real property owner.

Both Hotpads and Trulia removed the listings when they were made aware of the situations.

In a statement, Hotpads said: “In this case, the listing has been removed from HotPads and the user blocked from posting additional listings.”

And Trulia.com said they have an “entire team dedicated to reviewing rental properties and double-checking listing feeds.”

• Joe Ducey is helping people like you everyday on ABC15 News at 6 p.m. If you’ve got a consumer issue you can’t solve, “Let Joe Know.” Contact him at joe@abc15.com or (855) 323-1515.

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