Renters need Realtors®, too

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Realtors® aren’t just for homebuyers and sellers. The assistance of licensed real estate professional in your search for a rental home can prevent you from becoming a rental-scam victim.

Combine lots of empty foreclosures, lots of free online portals, and lots of people in need of rental housing, and you’ve got rich ground for con artists who fraudulently pose as real estate agents and property managers in order to ply their schemes on potential tenants.

Who better to recognize and uncover these frauds than a true real estate professional? Use a Realtor® to help you find your next rental home, and they may just help you from becoming the next victim of a rental scam.

But then how do you know a real estate professional is who they say they are? Some scammers go to enormous lengths to assume the appearance of an authentic real estate professional — from creating letterhead and websites to full-on identity theft — and uncovering these sophisticated criminals can require FBI-level detective skills.

However, there are a few ground-level steps you can take to validate the identity of someone who claims to be a real estate agent or a property manager.

In Florida, any individual who receives compensation to provide real estate services on behalf of another must be licensed. You can confirm that someone is a valid real estate licensee by going to the Florida Department of Business and Professional website at www.myfloridalicense.com then clicking on “Verify A License.”

Don’t forget that a true real estate professional will be happy to provide their license information and additional identification; resistance to your request to do so is a red flag.

Renters in the Orlando area can also confirm that a real estate licensee is a Realtor®, which means the licensee is a member in good standing of the National Association of Realtors®, Florida Realtors®, and the Orlando Regional Realtor® Association.

To confirm membership in the Orlando Regional Realtor® Association, visit www.orlandorealtors.org and click on the words “Find A Realtor®” located at the very top of the homepage. At the next screen, you can search by either the individual’s name or by their company’s name.

Finally, many property managers voluntarily belong to either the National Association of Residential Property Managers or their local chapter of that association (in our area, it’s the Orlando/Central Florida chapter). Their websites also have “Find A Member” search functions.

What’s the best way to avoid falling prey to a rental scam? Employ the services of a licensed Realtor® or property manager to assist you in your search for a rental home.

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