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Research, read, review before you rent

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So, what do you do if you're looking for a place and you don't want to get taken advantage of? You have to do your due diligence -- research, read and review -- before signing anything.

One common ploy you need to know about is when a homeowner knows he losing his home to foreclosure, but rent its out anyway and pockets all the rent money.

That's just one tactic, so keep these tips in mind before you sign a rental agreement.

The rental market is hot right now here in Arizona, which means if a rental comes open, it may not last long.

"Houses or apartments are being rented easily by landlords and the results of that it puts tenants at a disadvantage at negotiating their lease," David Arenberg, the director of a nonprofit agency called  Arizona Tenants Union, explained. His organization helps advocate for renters.

He says before rushing into a rental agreement or handing over a security deposit, you have to keep a cool head and realize what you're getting into.

"There's been a spate of fraudulent landlords collecting security deposits and rent for properties they have nothing to do with so you need to protect yourself against that," he said. 
First and foremost, Arenberg said, don't rent any property or put down any money sight unseen. While those Internet pictures of a home for rent may look nice, you should not rely on them. See the place for yourself.
In many cases, scammers cut, copy, and paste pictures from a house that's for sale and then post those pictures somewhere else as a rental. Because the rent is exceptionally low, many victims send in money to secure a place that's really not even for rent.

Next, ask to see the property -- inside and out -- from the property management or owner.

Arenberg says this is important.

"They have to look at the property,' he said. "You wouldn't believe how many calls we get from tenants who see an apartment or a house on Craigslist or somewhere and they don't look at the property; they sign a lease first.”

If you're still interested after seeing the property, carefully review the lease or rental agreement before you sign anything. If you don't understand something, ask. 

Make sure your lease contains specific information

  • Your name, the specific address, including apartment number of the property
  • Length of the lease
  • Rent payment procedures, including late penalty fees and rent increases
  • Amount of the security deposit

Arenberg says some landlords take advantage of renters by demanding too much of a deposit.

"It's a market that favors landlords and landlords are in a negotiating position with the tenant to present a lease that has three times the rent," he said.

Landlords and property management companies should not ask for more than 1.5 times your monthly rent. That means if your rent is $1,000, your security deposit shouldn't be more than $1,500.

Be aware that you can be required to pay additional fees like pet deposits and cleaning deposits.

Once everything is signed you'll want to ask for the keys in person before handing over any cash.  

"By tenants not being aware of their rights, it can cost them big in their pocketbooks," Arenberg said.

Resources for you as a renter

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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