Property management experts at The Lightner Property Group write:
Currently, there are a number of bills which have passed both the Senate and the Assembly which are of interest to landlords and tenants in California. The first of our three bills, AB 1800 (Hagman-Ma), is a response to the numerous scams that have arisen out of the on-line rental market and the increasing number of owners renting their own units through on-line listing services.
The scam is a simple one. A scam artist advertises a housing rental on the Internet, often on Craig’s List. Often they have lifted the information from another site on the Internet, replacing only one important piece of information – the contact telephone number or email address. The deal is often too good to be true and generates a significant amount of interest and often a sense of urgency to act on the part of unsuspecting prospective renter, so as to not miss out on the “great deal”.
The scam works for regular long-terms rentals, as well as shorter vacation rentals; and it works for regular long-terms leases, as well as sub-leases. In the end, it appears to be most successful in the case of vacation rentals, which means that the San Francisco market is particularly vulnerable. The scammer convinces the interested party to place a deposit or to pre-pay rent on the unit and obtains the money up front from the prospective renter. Sadly the scammer has nothing to do with the rental and is accepting the money under false pretenses. In the end, the unsuspecting tenant loses their money and has no rights to the rental, if there was a rental. AB1800 (Hagman and Ma) is intended to enhance protections for the unsuspecting tenant from scams such as this by increasing the penalty.