As a small landlord, you may be used to finding tenants for your residential property in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia through word of mouth or public advertising. Chances are, you've heard from at least one prospective tenant online.
As with everything in our digital world, looks can be deceiving. As landlord-tenant attorneys in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia, we have seen a concerning new trend of rental scams facilitated by social media platforms like TikTok. This new wave of fraud is costing property owners valuable time and money.
The Rise of Rental Application Fraud
Rental application fraud has evolved into a significant challenge for apartment owners. Scammers are using fake documents and online-only communication in order to secure leases with no intention of paying rent. Once a person takes possession of your residential property, it can take months and significant legal fees to secure an eviction - even if your tenant committed fraud to obtain the lease in the first place.
TikTok and Social Media: A Hotbed for Fraud
The influence of TikTok and other social media platforms has provided fraudsters with a playbook for document and identity fraud. This means that small landlords and property owners can be targeted by individual bad actors, even those without a criminal past. According to the FBI, internet-based real estate crimes surged from $213 million in 2020 to $397 million last year.
Protect Yourself: Tips for Landlords
As landlord-tenant attorneys in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia, we work with small landlords, property owners, and tenants every day. We highly recommend taking proactive steps to protect yourself by doing due diligence on all prospective tenants and contacting a licensed attorney to review all legal documents.
What can property owners do to avoid falling victim to real estate scams? A few tips to consider include:
Enhance Screening Processes: In response to this evolving threat, landlords are encouraged to fortify their screening processes, utilizing advanced verification services to detect fraudulent documents.
In-Person Verifications: Whenever possible, conduct in-person meetings with potential tenants to establish genuine connections and minimize the risk of falling victim to remote scams.
Secure Payment Methods: Encourage the use of secure payment methods to mitigate financial risks associated with rental scams. Even methods of payment that were once reliable, like certified checks, cannot be trusted. Scammers have perfected their techniques and their counterfeit certified checks can fool anyone. Call the bank issuing the certified check and ask them to confirm the check was issued by them.
- Remain Patient: Do not give any prospective tenant the keys to your property until agreed-upon deposits or payments appear in your account. That means waiting for checks to post, even certified ones. Once you give possession to the tenant, only a court can order their removal.
Stay Informed: Regularly update your knowledge on emerging fraud tactics and share insights within the landlord community to collectively combat these scams.
Navigating Legal Challenges
As landlord-tenant attorneys, we understand the challenges you face in pursuing legal action against elusive fraudsters. We're here to guide you through the complexities of the legal system and ensure you have the support you need to reclaim your property and income stream.
Together, we can stay informed, vigilant, and proactive in protecting your investments from the growing threat of rental scams.