Scam artists are everywhere, and the real estate rental market is no exception. Recently here at Herbert & Lux, we have seen a huge increase in the type of scam where a home is listed for rent on Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin, etc., and when the prospective renter contacts the property owner through the website, they are asked to pay the first month’s rent and security deposit electronically without seeing the property or meeting the owner in person. The property owner will usually claim that quick payment is necessary if the renter wants to secure the property due to multiple renters being interested. The property owner will then give the renter the name of a law firm that he claims to work with in order to prove the owner, and thus, the transaction, is legitimate. A quick internet search will confirm that the law firm is indeed a prominent real estate firm. A savvy renter might even know how to look up the name of the current property owner by the address of the rental, which seems to match the name of the person they spoke to. The renter then sends the property owner, or should we say, scammer, the money and they are never heard from again, making off with your hard-earned cash.

In this type of scam, the scammer usually doesn’t own the property at all, is certainly not represented by the law firm he claims to be working with, and also knows how to look up the name of a property owner in public records. Unfortunately, some of the popular real estate websites let anyone “claim” they are the owner of a property by simply clicking a button and filling out a profile with their site. The scammer then puts their “new” property up for rent and the emails come flooding in for people wanting to rent the property.

Herbert & Lux seems to be a popular choice by these scammers in claiming we represent them due to our high visibility in the Nashville, TN area for real estate law and we have received countless calls from savvy renters doing their due diligence, as they should, in investigating this type of situation. Most of the calls we receive are related to properties outside the state of Tennessee and we can confirm that we do not, at this time, represent any clients in the business of renting residential properties outside of Tennessee. If any person should make such a claim of being represented by our firm and the residential property in question is not located in Tennessee, you should assume it is a scam.

Stay safe!