Money Matters

Don’t Fall For A Condo Rental Scam

Here’s how to protect yourself from this real estate modus operandi

Original Article: Maris Mortel Photography: (main photo)

There’s a new real estate scam in town: ads for condo unit rentals are posted online; renter pays the deposit or advance rent via bank transaction, and then the “broker” runs away with the deposit money. With the many condo-for-rent ads out there, it’s hard to tell which ones are legit or not. Here are some tips to protect yourself from this type of scam: 

1. Visit the neighborhood or building before you meet the broker or owner. Don’t waste anyone’s time if the neighborhood or building is not to your liking, or if it’s too far from your place of work, or it doesn’t meet the needs of your lifestyle.

2. Ask the building admin about the background of the property owner or landlord, and broker. Double-check with the building administration if the person in question has already brokered the unit before (or other units in the building), and if they had any associations with him or her. Ask the admin if there were any past complaints and comments about the broker, the unit, or the landlord. If the building admin has had no previous dealings with the said broker or cannot attest to his or her legitimacy, consider this a bad sign.

Other than this, “the only way to know if a broker is legit is to ask whether he or she is licensed, and then to verify it by asking to see their license,” says Carina Meneses, a licensed real estate agent and broker. It is also important (more important, in fact) to note this as well when making other real estate negotiations and purchases.

Many developers have their own leasing agencies and departments where condo owners in the building enrol their units for lease. Going through the building's own leasing agency is another safe way of looking for rental units. 

3. Find out the terms of the rental, and ask to see the contract. These are usually indicated in the contract and include the rent amount, late payment fee (if applicable), basic agreements, rules, and other things such as deposit, utility obligations, insurance, and limitations on sub-leasing. If you have questions about the contract of lease, consult with a reputable lawyer.

4. View the actual unit, and don’t depend on Internet photos. No matter how busy you are, visit the actual unit with the broker or landlord. Inspect the unit thoroughly, and if you have any concerns about it, point them out to the broker while he or she is present. Once the lease is signed, you could be responsible for all repairs or some of them, depending on the contract, and these can only be negated through litigation.


If you were victimized by a con artist or fake broker, contact the National Bureau of Investigation's Anti-fraud and Action Division at (02) 525-4093 or at 524-6395. 

 Read the original article ("Rent: Not The Musical") in the June 2006 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to for more details

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