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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Tenants– How to Protect Yourself

Recently Update had the story about a family who rented a house in Triangle from a person who, not only did not own house, but had no rental authority from owner to rent house. The brave crook took $5000 cash from unsuspecting couple with child and all went undiscovered until real owner showed up on property.

How does one protect one’s self, as a tenant, from such scams? Several local realtors from area were asked for comments and advice. Betsy Goldman of Abbot Kinney Realty, Denise Fast of ReMax, Tami Pardee of Pardee Properties, and Nancy Poertner of ReMax provided comments.

They all seemed to agree on one thing: Do not rent from Craigs list. Anyone can place an ad on Craigs List for free. There is nothing else required. Add runs for seven days and ad is dropped unless edited or deleted by originator.

All suggested run a title search; it is public record who owns property. Betsy Goldman mentioned scams usually happen around foreclosed property. That is when title is in questionable state. Am sure a real estate company would run the search for free. Update tried to do such on internet without paying and was unsuccessful. Even if one found a free source for the ownership, ownership could be an entity and have a representative. Back to square one.

One suggestion by two of the brokers was get to know the landlord a little before signing a lease.

“I have learned that a lessor/lessee relationship is like a marriage without living together. You never really know the other person until there is a contractual relationship,” said Betsy Goldman.

Denise Fast mentioned: “Never pay cash. If it is too good to be true, it is. Be careful who you give an application to.” On the other hand a landlord does not want to tie his property up with a check.

Most real estate brokers deal with sales, not rentals. They do lease properties and list them with a multiple listing service. Owners list the properties and pay a commission. Likelihood of a scam with a real estate broker listing rental with multiple listing service is slim to nothing.

Most brokers suggested one should seek a reputable source such as Westside Rentals. Westside charges the tenant, not the landlord. Update then contacted Westside Rentals, king of the rentalmarket in West Los Angeles.

Westside Rentals, when contacted, said they initially ask for personal address of owner and personal phone number (many times phone numbers are different), ask if caller is owner or agent. They mentioned that they call owners every three days for updates.

Patrick Verge of Westside Rentals handles the credit department for tenants/landlords. Patrick said he has Westside employees take photos of new rentals to verify the address and what is stated in ad is true about three days after listing property. But most rentals are returns and info is on file and then re-verified.

“If we suspect anything, such as rent is too low, just anything, we will take rental off market immediately and check it out,” he said. ‘We’ll put it back on if all check outs. This is our business.”

Now this is where one separates the chaff from the wheat.

Landlords in order to get a credit check now days have to comply with Federal Credit Reporting Act. Several places provide credit check service and of course they too have to be compliant for doing the service. Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles is one and Westside Rentals is another. In both cases landlords must provide verification to such an organization. If landlord wants a complete credit report, a hardcopy, landlord must first pay a $75 inspection fee. His house or place of business will be inspected to verify that he has a locking file cabinet and shredder. An inspector takes photos of the office and all the equipment and the locking file cabinet. Landlord must provide the following documents as proof he represents the property he is advertising and for which he wants a tenant’s credit checked.

Westside Rentals will give a go/no go report to a landlord but he can’t have a hard copy of report or full report unless he qualifies as shown above.

But a good landlord wants the full report, with a check bounce report, eviction report, and sometimes criminal report. He has more to lose than a tenant. It costs a lot of money to get a place ready for rent, time to rent it, cost of finding a good tenant. He is putting in many cases a tenant in a million dollar piece of property for less than $5000 per month.

In conclusion, one should go to a credible source for rentals. Be very careful to whom you give an application, and be careful to whom you hand money. Remember the landlord on the other hand has to be careful whom he hands the keys to. Rent and security deposit do not equate to the value of the property. That is why it is good to have a working relationship with your landlord, with your tenant.

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