The Consumer Protection Unit of the Delaware Department of Justice warned Delawareans to be careful when looking for a vacation rental.
Scammers operating rental schemes find legitimate rental postings and capture the information and photos of the property and list it on Craigslist or other online advertising platforms. Unsuspecting consumers looking for a deal on a vacation rental find the posting, send a deposit and receive confirmation of their rental only to arrive to find other people in the home, unable to gain access or otherwise turned away from the property they believed they had rented.
Scams also can occur with regards to long term leases for homes or apartments where scammers may have changed the locks illegally and allow someone to move in, even though they are not the true owner.
Consumers should be diligent before entering into any type of lease for a rental property or providing any deposit or rental payment by:
— Considering to work with a licensed realtor or property management company when possible.
— Researching whether the property appears on other websites or listing platforms and make contact with the listing agents to determine which is the legitimate advertisement.
— Researching who the true owner of the property is by doing a parcel search online. In Delaware, one can search New Castle County properties at nccde.org/parcel/search; Kent County properties, kent400.co.kent.de.us/PropInfo/PIName.HTM; and Sussex County properties, https://sussexcountyde.gov/zoning-and-sales-information.
— Carefully reviewing the posting, advertisement or lease for misspellings and grammatical errors.
— Becoming familiar with the website's policies for detecting and dealing with potentially fraudulent listings.
— Never paying any security deposit or rental payment in cash — use a check, money order or credit card — and demand a receipt.
For long-term leases:
— Demand a written lease in advance, that includes the identification and contact information of the landlord, as well as identification of the bank where the security deposit (if applicable) will be held.
— Request a walk-through before agreeing to rent or paying any deposit.
— Talk to neighbors to learn more about the property and the owners — be cautious of properties with a recently deceased owner or foreclosure.
— Request to see the landlord’s credentials, such as a business card or realtor’s license, and identification; make note of the make and model of their car and the license plate number.
Consumers who believe they may have been scammed should contact their local police department and file a report. They can also call the attorney general’s toll-free Consumer Hotline at 800-220-5424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.