Top Ten Tips for Tenants in Today's Tough Times

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Souza Realty - Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, Loomis, Granite Bay, Penryn, Newcastle, Auburn, Meadow Vista (California) California DRE #01262541

KeysTop Ten Tips For Tenants In Today's Tough Times

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 valid rental 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 foreclosure process or has already been foreclosed.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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BOB & LEILANI SOUZA
Real Estate Investment Specialists
Southwest Placer County, CA

Souza Realty, Bob & Leilani Souza - Real Estate Investment Specialists in Southwest Placer County, CA

Bob Souza - 925.513.3400 - bob@souzarealty.com

Leilani Souza - 916.408.5500 - leilani@souzarealty.com

Souza Realty - Real Estate in Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, Loomis and Granite Bay, CA

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Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Wallace S. Gibson, CPM 10/15/2010 01:41 PM
  2. Michelle Cooks 03/31/2012 06:52 PM
Topic:
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Rainer
108,909
Joe Sosky
KW Commercial - Vancouver, WA
Commercial Real Estate Broker - (360) 816-9652

Great points and sad that a tenant should have to do this type ofinvestigation. 

Oct 07, 2010 12:22 AM #1
Rainer
51,467
Michael C. Price
Real Estate One - Ann Arbor, MI
Ann Arbor-Real Estate Strategist

This is very good information. I have done more leases in the last two years than I did in my first 14 years. With so many homes/sellers in distressed renters need to be careful and rely on the professionals. 

Oct 07, 2010 12:30 AM #2
Rainmaker
295,244
Ray Saenz
United Property Brokers, Inc - Aurora, CO
Homes for Sale in Aurora, Colorado - Aurora, CO

Leilani,
I'm glad that you have shared great tips for tenants, they shall appreciate it, keep the good work and we would like to keep reading more awesome blogs coming from you :)

Oct 07, 2010 12:36 AM #3
Rainmaker
952,564
Bob & Leilani Souza
Souza Realty - Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, Loomis, Granite Bay, Penryn, Newcastle, Auburn, Meadow Vista (California) - Roseville, CA
Placer County, CA: Foreclosures, Auctions, Rentals

Joe, you are right...but unfortunately when so many rental scammers are out there, doing a little extra work to make sure you don't find yourself in a situation where the "real" owner shows up at the property after you've paid 1st month's rent plus a deposit to someone else. Now that would be an uh-oh moment. :)

Leilani

Oct 07, 2010 12:44 AM #4
Rainmaker
952,564
Bob & Leilani Souza
Souza Realty - Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, Loomis, Granite Bay, Penryn, Newcastle, Auburn, Meadow Vista (California) - Roseville, CA
Placer County, CA: Foreclosures, Auctions, Rentals

Thanks, Michael...glad you found my information to be useful! Hopefully, tenants read (and follow) my tips in order to prevent future rental disasters from happening. I've been hearing so much about new scams involving rentals that I think this post really needed to be written! :)

Leilani

Oct 07, 2010 12:49 AM #5
Rainmaker
952,564
Bob & Leilani Souza
Souza Realty - Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, Loomis, Granite Bay, Penryn, Newcastle, Auburn, Meadow Vista (California) - Roseville, CA
Placer County, CA: Foreclosures, Auctions, Rentals

Ray, thank you for your compliments! I also hope that tenants can benefit from reading my Top Ten Tips! :)

Leilani

Oct 07, 2010 12:50 AM #6
Rainmaker
268,499
Nina Rogoff
RE/MAX Executive Realty - - Sharon, MA
Your Hometown Realtor in Sharon MA

This is great information, Leilani, for any tenant or future tenant. Tenants can use this as a great guideline and then check the specific tenant's rights information for their particular state. Thank you!

Oct 07, 2010 12:53 AM #7
Rainer
129,442
Maureen Fukumoto
Help-U-Sell Realty Pro - Mililani, HI
Maureen

A reminder to tenants who are victims of a landlord who was foreclosed upon.  They can often get "key money" from the foreclosing bank. The check is delivered when they turn over the keys to the bank's listing agent if the property is left in in broom-clean condition.

Oct 07, 2010 01:00 AM #8
Rainmaker
952,564
Bob & Leilani Souza
Souza Realty - Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, Loomis, Granite Bay, Penryn, Newcastle, Auburn, Meadow Vista (California) - Roseville, CA
Placer County, CA: Foreclosures, Auctions, Rentals

You're right, Nina...tenants should always check specific tenant right laws not only for their state, but also for their city. :)

Leilani

Oct 07, 2010 01:18 AM #9
Rainmaker
952,564
Bob & Leilani Souza
Souza Realty - Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, Loomis, Granite Bay, Penryn, Newcastle, Auburn, Meadow Vista (California) - Roseville, CA
Placer County, CA: Foreclosures, Auctions, Rentals

Maureen, we call that "cash for keys" in my area and C.A.R. even has a form for that purpose...and yes, the extra money does help the tenants cover their moving expenses. They should also keep in mind that they do need to honor the CFK Agreement (especially the move-out date) otherwise they risk either not getting any money or getting a reduced amount in accordance with how many days they stayed past the agreed-upon date.

Thanks for bringing up this subject! :)

Leilani

Oct 07, 2010 01:26 AM #10
Rainmaker
1,088,106
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA
LandlordWhisperer

Thank you for this EXCELLENT and TIMELY post with so many SCAMS on the web including those on Craigslist.  Sending money or wiring via Western Union is a GIVE AWAY that something is not RIGHT!!!

Oct 15, 2010 01:41 PM #11
Rainmaker
952,564
Bob & Leilani Souza
Souza Realty - Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, Loomis, Granite Bay, Penryn, Newcastle, Auburn, Meadow Vista (California) - Roseville, CA
Placer County, CA: Foreclosures, Auctions, Rentals

You're welcome, Wallace! I agree that sending money via Western Union is a definite red flag, but it's amazing that so many people don't realize it. I just hope my post and the many others out there that warn the public about scams reach everyone BEFORE they fall victim.

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Leilani

Oct 17, 2010 11:46 PM #12
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Rainmaker
952,564

Bob & Leilani Souza

Placer County, CA: Foreclosures, Auctions, Rentals
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