This Could Be The Summer Of The Vacation Rental Scam, MySmartRenter.com CEO Warns


The summer travel planning season has begun and it could be the busiest for vacation rentals in years. George Genel, CEO of Rental Verification Service MySmartRenter.com, expects a record number of rental scams as people try to take advantage of the growing demand for post-pandemic travel. He says Americans are far too confident when it comes to renting a house or apartment. Here is our interview.

What don’t people know about renting that they should?

A little. As demand grows, rental scams are on the rise.

The scammers are smart, they know that tenants feel they have to pull the trigger quickly lest they miss out, and they play on that emotion.

A wrong rental decision will ruin your vacation, cost you a lot of money, and could leave you stranded in a strange place.

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How to avoid a negative experience as a tenant?

Finding a vacation rental takes time. You have to read the reviews. Read the negative reviews because they tell you more. Read reviews on other listing sites, as most people list their properties on multiple sites.

Google the property or do an image search to verify it exists. You don’t want to find out that you’ve actually rented a vacant teardown or empty lot. It happens. Use street view and look around for your safety and peace of mind.

I always thought that was a little unfair on the one hand – the vacation rental does all the security checks, but you never know who you’re renting from. You are trying to tip the balance in favor of the consumer.

Landlords are assumed to bear all risk because a tenant may not pay rent or cause property damage. So the emphasis is on the selection of tenants.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the tenant who takes the most risk.

How?

Think about it. We are constantly warned not to disclose personal information to guard against identity theft. Yet when it comes to rentals, poof, everything goes out the window.

It goes like this: The tenant meets the landlord or the real estate agent for about 30 minutes to see the rental or everything is done online. Without a second thought, a renter will disclose all of their personal information – social security number, bank accounts, driver’s license, date of birth, employment, income – upon request and may give a deposit to a stranger.

On a vacation rental, they disclose information to the SEO service. This is the main reason everyone has had or knows someone who has had a rental horror story.

Why should tenants screen their landlords?

The same reason landlords screen renters: to guard against rental scams and nefarious landlords. They want to know that the owner is the owner, not a scam. They want to know that the landlord has no legal issues that could affect their safety and peace of mind because the landlord has the key. Wouldn’t you like to know who you can hire from before disclosing your personal information? When it comes to safety, prevention is the best protection.

So what does MySmartRenter.com know that you can’t find with a simple internet search?

MySmartRenter.com lets you instantly and confidentially screen and see the landlord’s background in a detailed, easy-to-read report.

Wouldn’t you like to know who you can rent from to avoid rental scams, a landlord with a criminal history or who is a sex offender? Or someone whose properties are in foreclosure, or who has bankruptcy, liens, judgments?

Renters deserve to really know who they can rent to first for the safety of their families. Tenants hurt themselves.

Who uses the site now?

Anyone who rents. It can be a holiday or long term rental. We have off-campus students and parents, housing advocates who help find safe housing for victims of abuse and seniors. Schools offer us to their off-campus students, real estate agents use us to screen new clients before meeting them as a security measure.

What types of scams have you been able to prevent?

A client used SmartRenter when her goddaughter moved to San Francisco. Once she started using SmartRenter, she was able to spot scams immediately. In the end, she found her goddaughter a great place.

Another client whose husband transferred to Los Angeles used MySmartRenter.com to identify questionable landlords. In one case, someone was trying to rent someone else’s house.

How does it work for vacation rentals like Vrbo and Airbnb?

It works the same way as for long-term rentals. You just need an address.

But not all vacation rentals will give you an address. Is there a work around?

There are. However, this is a huge red flag. I would be very skeptical if an address is not provided. My first thought is, what are they hiding? Most people are proud of their rental and want to show it. Why would someone rent a place without knowing where it is? It’s a recipe for disaster. The best solution would be to Google the name and city of the person who should provide the address, then use MySmartRenter.com to run the report for security.

If you could give one piece of advice to summer travellers, other than to use your service, what would it be?

Try to leave your emotions out of selecting a rental and use logic and common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Read the history of reviews, they are subjective and some might be fake. Research the neighborhood.

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