One of the fastest growing real estate scams on the internet is individuals claiming a property belongs to them, when it reality it belongs to a third-party who is not interested in renting or seller. In Georgia, a father and son team claimed ownership of several abandoned or distressed properties and rented them to unsuspecting families. In Virginia, a man claiming to own a home that really belonged to one of his family members entered into a rent to own agreement with a single mother. In both situations, the renters were asked to move by the real property owners once their presence in the property was discovered. Though the victims of both situations were able to find homes and get some of their money back, everything could have been avoid if the renters checked ownership records prior to signing the least.
Once you have met with a property owner in person, check the ownership records to make sure the name on the lease matches the name on the deed. Contact the county’s tax assessor’s office, or visit their website, and use the property address to verify the name of the owner(s). Also, get the lease notarized with the property owner to give you an opportunity to look at their driver’s license to make sure they are the person they are claiming to be.
Before investing time and money into a new home, make sure the lease that you are signing is an agreement between you and the actual property owner. Most landlords will understand your caution, and will note be offended by your efforts to protect yourself and your family.