Houston renters being ripped off

July 2, 2008 4:35:49 PM PDT
A scam targeting renters is going around right now and it's already cost victims thousands of dollars.The problem starts when you answer an online ad about a home for rent.

I found a couple of victims who in the last few days lost hundreds of dollars each after renting a home from what turned out to be a fake management company.

One southwest Houston home has been for sale for six months, but the person who recently moved in was not supposed to be there.

"Unfortunately he was a victim of some sort of fraud here," said realtor Charlie Zaid.

According to Zaid, the tenant leased this home from someone who was not authorized to rent it. In fact Zaid believes somebody broke in, changed the locks then listed the property on line. The person who moved in never knew about the fraud until he was asked to leave by the real listing company.

"This innocent victim leased this house from a fraudulent suspect who placed an ad on Craig's List," Zaid said.

The victim paid nearly $2,000 dollars in deposits and rent to a phony management company, but the home has never been for lease. And I found out the home was fraudulently leased to more than one person.

"We had another incident Monday, the following day, June 30th with a lady who came out the house," Zaid said.

Zaid says that second person to fall for the fake lease paid the same fake management company several hundred dollars and had more money in hand.

"There is a scam going on, the house is not for lease," Zaid said.

The Internet ad is no longer on Craig's List and no one can find any trace of the man who took the victim's cash. So how can you keep from being a victim? First take a close look at the paper work.

"The legal requirements and the statutory requirements that are part of lease make it mandatory that it's not going to be a one or two page lease," said Mike Mengden who leases homes.

A typical lease agreement used in the Houston area is 14 pages long. Anything less may be a fake. Another point, if a person claims to be a realtor, check them out first.

"You can check on anybody that claims to be a realtor in the Houston area," Mengden said.

There are two ways to check out a realtor. The Houston Association of Realtors has a listing for those in our area and the state of Texas has a listing as well. We have links to both of those web sites on the Consumer Blog.

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