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With so many foreclosures, rental scams and fraud, it's tough times for tenants who simply want to find a legitimate rental and ensure that they have a validrental or lease agreement with the true owner of the property.
I am not an attorney nor do I have a legal background play one on TV, so I recommend that you consult with an attorney in your state regarding any legal issues or questions you may have. These are simply some things I'd like to share based on my experience as a landlord, property manager and licensed California REALTOR since 1999.
Here are my Top Ten Tips for Tenants in Today's Tough Times:
Rent from a professional property management company, a licensed REALTOR or an apartment complex manager.
Avoid dealing with private individuals, who may not even be the true owners of the property and/or have the appropriate rental agreement that protects all parties and adheres to local and state laws.
If you simply can't follow Tip #1, at least do your due diligence and check public records to make sure the owner's name matches the person representing themself as the owner.
If the property was recently purchased at a trustee sale and the "Trustee's Deed Upon Sale" has not yet been recorded, ask for a copy of the "Declaration of Trustee's Sale" which is the receipt provided by the trustee to the purchaser when the sale took place.
Never pay anyone via Western Union or wire to a foreign bank account...especially in conjuction with a post you found on the internet with no phone number, just an e-mail address.
Be especially wary of people you never meet who tell you to visit the property alone and just look in the windows, wire them the money and deduct the cost of re-keying from the rent.
If there is a sign at the property with a different name than who you have been in contact with, call the person on the sign. You may find conflicting stories about whether the property is for rent, in the short sale or foreclosureprocess or has already been foreclosed.
Google the street address, then Google the owner's name, phone number, e-mail address just to see what you may find online.
Pay special attention to rental listings with different contact information...this may be a sign of rental fraud in which someone other than the true owner is looking for their next victim!
Check public records to see if a "Notice of Default" or "Notice of Trustee Sale" has been recorded on the property.
Otherwise, a real estate agent who subscribes to a foreclosure database should access this information for you as a part of earning their commission for securing a rental property for you.
Call the local utility provider (water, sewer, garbage, gas, electric) and ask them if the utilities have ever been in the owner's name.
They won't tell you any names of previous occupants, but if you give them a name, they will usually tell you if they have had service there or not. Remember, even if the owner never lived in the property, they likely would have transferred utilities in their name during any vacancy period.
Be sure the rental or lease agreement you sign is either written by a property management company or (in California) on a C.A.R. (California Association of REALTORS) form.
Please note that C.A.R. forms are NOT transferable, so don't ask a REALTOR for a blank form...they will provide the required documents if they represent you or the landlord.
I would NOT recommend the use of any pre-printed rental agreement (without review by a local real estate attorney) due to the fact that laws differ from state to state and these types of store-bought forms are typically not state-specific.
If you receive a "Notice of Default" or a "Notice of Trustee Sale" on your front door, this does NOT mean that you are no longer obligated to pay rent.
You MUST continue to pay rent to your current landlord until the property is sold to a 3rd party or taken back by the bank (see Tip #5 for how to access this information) or you risk being evicted from the property for non-payment of rent.
When the property is sold at a trustee sale or goes back to the bank, you must first be given a notice to vacate the premises before the eviction process begins.
If you have a valid lease agreement that was signed BEFORE the foreclosure proceedings began and you are paying market value rent, and no occupants are related to the previous owner of the property, the new owner or bank must honor your existing lease agreement. This means that you will be paying them the rent, like you did with the previous owner.
If you are on a month-to-month rental agreement or the new owner intends to occupy the property as their primary residence, they must give you a 90-day notice to vacate the premises.
Ask that your security deposit be held in a trust account instead of being held in the landlord's personal account.
This helps to ensure the safe return of your security deposit, which (in California) should be returned to you within 21 after you vacate the premises.
If the property is sold or foreclosed, the previous owner must either transfer your security deposit to the new owner (and give you written notice) or return your security deposit to you.
BOB & LEILANI SOUZA Real Estate Investment Specialists Southwest Placer County, CA
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.