Sunday, March 16, 2008

Las Vegas Renters, Beware of Deadbeat Landlords!

It is happening all over the country - unsuspecting tenants are returning home from work to find an eviction notice on the front door. The bank has aquired the property through foreclosure and the tenant has to get out of their current home within 30 days. The tenant almost never is able to recoup any of the rent money paid or get the security deposit back.

And in a market rife with vacant homes for sale, Las Vegas has more than its fair share of deadbeat landlords and unscrupulous property managers. Almost half of the 19,000 homes currently listed are Las Vegas foreclosures and many of them are Las Vegas new homes that were purchased by investors and have never been lived in. One recent incident came to our attention:

A real estate agent who was renting a luxury 4500 square foot Las Vegas homes, came back to find the eviction notice on the front door. Immediately he called the property manager whose phone was all of a sudden disconnected. Doing some detective work he was able to track down the home's owner who lived in South America and contact him by phone. Turns out that the "property manager" was an unlicensed friend of the owner. The owner had had half a dozen properties his "friend" was "managing," and the "friend" was supposed to be paying the mortgages on them from the rental proceeds. (In Nevada, by law you must have a property management license to manage rentals that belong to someone other than yourself.)

Unfortunately, the "friend" never made a mortgage payment and absconded with the hefty security deposits and monthly rental fees being paid by the tenants. It also turned out that the owner had never even signed the rental agreement on this particular property. His signature had been forged and the "friend" had told him that this property had remained unrented.

The real estate agent's chances of recouping his $4500 security deposit is almost nil. He has to find another home to rent and move his wife, three kids and brother plus assorted pets in a very short time. The owner's home is already foreclosed upon and he lost all his equity to the bank. How can tenants protect themselves from this happening to them?

In Las Vegas, Noble Title Company is offering a $200 service for tenants called a "Request for Notice." The service identifies the legal owner of the property and whether or not the property is currently in foreclosure. If the landlord is not in foreclosure, the Request for Notice requires the bank to notify the renter should the home go into foreclosure, which would give the tenant at least four months to pack up and move before the bank repossesses the home.

At least with this service, if the tenant receives a notice that the property is in foreclosure, they could opt NOT to pay rent to recoup some of their expenses and their potentially lost security deposit. And they wouldn't be quite so jammed for time to find a new place to live. (The real estate agent mentioned above had a real problem. He already had his kids in specific Las Vegas schools, and there were no other large properties in that area for rent. He was not only forced to move his family to a different home, his kids had to move schools as well.)

So tenants beware! Even though you are only renting a home, you still need to do your due diligence to make sure you aren't unexpectedly out on the street and out of pocket as well.

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