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Beware of These Tenant Scams

You do your best to find quality tenants for your rental property through proper screening, but there will always be scammers who try to “work the system”. Though larger multi-unit properties are not immune, rental scammers tend to target individual landlords.

Scammers know many DIY landlords have loose requirements & screenings, and feel confident they can talk landlords into their scams. Implementing strict procedures and being aware of common scams will help you avoid frustration, court costs, and loss of rental income.

Be Aware Of These Common Tenant Scams

Watch out for signs of tenant scams

The Wire Scam

This one is an oldie but a goodie, its use is not limited to landlords. After the application is approved, the renter “mistakenly” sends a check for more than the required amount and asks for the excess to be wired back to them. Of course, the original check is bogus but will take time to bounce. By that time, the bank notifies the landlord, the money has been wired, the recipient has received his “refund,” and the landlord is out the cash.

Fake Pay Stubs

You can buy anything online. Nowadays, the internet is an incredible source for counterfeit documents. Also, with today’s technology, it can be difficult to recognize falsified documentation. Always make sure to verify employment as part of your screening process. Lookup the employer online and call the number you find for them. An applicant may not make enough money to qualify or doesn’t have a job at all. Either way, you’ll have problems collecting the rent through the lease term. 

Fake Verification

This one is as old as the telephone. The prospective tenant provides bogus contact information, so when you call to verify, you’re actually talking to an accomplice in on the scam. If you’re calling to check employment, don’t assume the information is correct, cross-reference the number with a quick internet search. If the applicant has provided a cell phone, call the business directly and ask to speak to someone in human resources. Same goes for verifying rent payments with current &previous landlords.

Falsified Credit Reports

Similar to faking pay stubs, an applicant may attempt to provide you with a faked copy of their credit report. Often these are cut & paste hack jobs that are relatively easy to spot if you’ve seen actual credit reports in the past. It’s always better to obtain an applicant’s credit report via your own resources, than accept one they provide.

The Illegal Sublet

This bit of deceit is unique in the fact that it not only affects the landlord, but an innocent third party as well. The original renter sublets to another person, without telling the landlord. They collect rent from this sublettee, often for months in advance, and pocket it instead of paying the landlord. The landlord is then stuck having to evict the scammed sublettee, who often takes their frustrations out on the innocent landlord.

Delaying Eviction 

There are a couple of ways to execute this one. First, the tenant makes partial payments for past rent due after the eviction process has been initiated. By accepting money from the tenant, you may need to restart the eviction process anew giving the scammer more time in your unit. Second, on the day of eviction, the tenant will ask for a little more time to get their things out. By allowing a “little bit of time” after a legal move out time was set, a landlord may be inadvertently resetting the clock on the eviction process.

The Tenant Swap

This list of tenant scams is by no means complete, as shysters are always coming up with ways to hoodwink an unsuspecting landlord. The best way to avoid falling victim to tenant scams is to implement a comprehensive screening process. If you sense that something is amiss, double-check information and don’t allow the applicant to sign a lease until you’ve been able to eliminate any doubt. Even when it’s not a matter of trust, it’s just good business.

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Is Real Estate Wholesaling Illegal? Not If You Follow These Strategies

What is a wholesaler? Someone who buys and sells houses quickly, making minimal if any repairs. The goal of the wholesaler is to acquire a property far below market price and then quickly sell it off to another investor, usually a flipper or landlord.

The Down and Dirty

A wholesaler finds a motivated seller and gets the property under contract. Once under contract, the wholesaler finds another investor to buy the property for a higher price — ideally, without ever taking ownership. The wholesaler makes money on the spread for In effect, “brokering” the deal.

Then Why Do People Think It’s Illegal?

Rumors of this business practice being illegal spread because: 1) People don’t understand the process, and 2) Many wholesalers actually do it unethically and some illegally.

Making It Legal

To make the transaction legal, the wholesaler needs to get the property under contract BEFORE finding a buyer. Otherwise, they are acting as real estate broker — which they can usually only do if properly licensed (please check your state laws). By the way, it is legal to have a prospective buyer or a pool of investors in mind when negotiating with a seller, as long as you don’t contact anyone about a specific property before signing an agreement with the seller.

It’s often illegal to use a “simultaneous closing” to close both your purchase transaction and the sale transaction at the same time. Years ago simultaneous closings were commonly used by wholesalers to use their buyer’s funds to close on their purchase with the seller — using the two separate transactions to hide how much they making from the wholesale deal. The transaction with the seller hid the sales price to the buyer, and the transaction with the buyer hid the purchase price with the seller. Laws have since changed making simultaneous closings very difficult to do legally. So, many wholesalers now use transactional funding to hide their profits from buyer and seller.

What’s the Attraction?

Wholesaling is attractive to beginning investors because wholesaling doesn’t take a lot of money. All you need to do is get a property under contract, which may not even require an earnest money deposit. Then you just need to find a buyer. It’s essential to put some study time in to understand the process and avoid any legal mistakes, but it’s not that hard. Many greenhorns start out working with a mentor, sharing part of their profits In exchange for expertise.

Finding properties can be as simple as driving through neighborhoods with plenty of distressed homes and contacting owners, using bandit signs or staying in the front of your contacts via Facebook. The internet connects buyers and sellers through real estate forums, Craigslist ads, etc. More experienced wholesalers often are members of real estate investing groups and employ professional services to help them find their deals.  

How To Find Buyers

Quickly selling the property to someone else is key. Wholesalers keep a buyer’s list which will include flippers, other wholesalers, or other investors willing to make the needed repairs. Much like finding houses to purchase, real estate groups, Craigslist, emails, and Facebook help build a buyer’s list.

It’s Still Sounds Kinda Sketchy

Wholesaling is a sector of the real estate industry that people have strong opinions on. Okay, it’s legal, but is it ethical? Opponents claim that wholesalers prey on uneducated sellers.  Many sellers are unclear on the value of their homes and are desperate for quick cash. Meanwhile, the wholesaler knows they are paying much less than the property is worth. So, what’s stopping the seller from calling a real estate agent to get the actual market value for their home? Actually, nothing. What’s stopping the seller from selling to someone else at true market value? Again, nothing. It’s really no different than someone going to a pawnshop for fast cash Instead of waiting days/weeks/months trying to get the best price.

Final Answer: No, wholesaling houses is not illegal. It is a quick way to make a good return on your money.  It can be a juggling act of sorts, but by having several houses or blocks of houses under contract simultaneously, wholesaling can be very profitable with little or nothing at stake.