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Brnovich warns against property rental scams

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is sounding the alarm about property rental scams as the number of Arizonans seeking rental properties increases.

Due to the booming housing market, many Arizona residents are being priced out of home ownership. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average price to purchase a 2-bedroom apartment in Maricopa County has gone from $908 a month in 2015 to $1,281 a month in 2021. The Attorney General’s Office said this change could incentivize scammers to target Arizonan renters. Two common scams include individuals advertising rental properties that they do not own or manage and individuals advertising rental properties to use the renter’s information for identity theft, according to the AGO.

“Arizonans must stay vigilant against shameless scammers aiming to steal your money and your identity with promises of a perfect rental,” Brnovich said in a press release. “Consumers can identify red flags in order to stay protected against rental scams.”

Brnovich also reminded landlords looking to lease their property to beware of renters who offer to pay deposits or rent with certified funds over the actual amount owed and subsequently request the landlord to wire the excess funds back to them. The AGO recommended that landlords return the check or wait until the certified funds have cleared their account before returning excess funds.

The press release listed several warnings to renters, advising a skeptical eye at rental prices suspiciously below market price, researching property addresses, avoiding poorly written rental descriptions, and staying away from companies listing rental properties that cannot be reached by phone during normal business hours.

The AGO additionally listed exercising caution of companies charging “upfront” fees, refraining from disclosing personal information, waiting to pay the security deposit until a signed lease is acquired, avoiding requests to send payments overseas or by wired funds, gift cards, or through peer-to-peer payment apps, and renting from reputable and licensed companies or agents.

The AGO recommended finding licensed real estate professionals through the Arizona Department of Real Estate and the Better Business Bureau. In addition, consumer complaints can be filed on the Attorney General’s website, the release said.

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