I have been seeing a lot of notes on message boards that say “I am being kicked out of my rental house and I have paid my rent on time.” Many of these tenants have even reported having paid their rent several months in advance only to find out that the Landlord is losing the house.
If you are a tenant looking to rent a home in this volatile market, you need to be very careful who you rent from. In the same way that a landlord would check your references before renting to you, you should also investigate the landlord to make sure everything he or she tells you is truthful.
To make sure you are renting from a trustworthy landlord you should:
Call the county clerk’s office and make sure your prospective landlord’s name is listed as an owner. If they are not listed as an owner, find out why. If they are just a property manager, and do not allow you any access to the owner, you should be a little weary. You should at least be able to have a cursory introductory conversation for your peace of mind.
Find out if the home is in foreclosure. Check foreclosure listings in the newspaper and at the county clerks office. You should easily be able to find out if the taxes are paid on the home and if the mortgage is in arrears.
Ask the prospective landlord for references. Ask to speak to the previous tenant, or someone else who that rent from to make sure they good and trustworthy property owners and managers. If these people have a problem with the landlord, they will generally not hesitate to let you know. If the landlord does not give you any references, you need to look elsewhere for a home to rent.
Once you find a good landlord who you feel is being honest and fair, you still need to be careful. Do not make the mistake of paying rent several months in advance, and if the landlord requests it, this should signal a possible problem. If you have enough money saved up for several months rent and don’t want to spend it, put it in your savings account and some of it in three to six-month CD’s that you can get your hands on over time.