For the last month, I’ve been recovering from the death of my partner doing the usual stuff that one does after someone dies. That includes sorting and getting rid of stuff and planning a celebration of his life. I’m still sorting but I’m also in full apartment-seeking mode and believe me, there are rental scams out there.
As many of you know I live in Los Angeles, which is #12 in a list for most expensive cities to live in according to Kiplinger. Manhattan, NY is #1 and Fairbanks, Alaska is #20. (who knew?)
Now that I can no longer depend on his pension to pay the rent, and haven’t gotten rich on my blog yet, I’m looking for a small studio apartment that allows dogs. So far what I’ve been looking at are more like dog houses. Still, I’d rather spend my money traveling or doing other things I love than plopping it all down in rent.
A minuscule apartment doesn’t bother me because I plan to get rid of most of my furniture anyway. I was never in love with my decor and am looking forward to starting anew.
Because I’ve freelanced most of my life, and am over 60, I applied for senior affordable housing but the waitlists are years long. Seniors can get steep rent discounts if they qualify and get lucky enough to snag one. The trouble is, the HUD site is the most confusing website I’ve ever encountered. You have to be a genius to figure it out and I’m sure the government made it that way on purpose.
A girlfriend of mine is building a unit that will accommodate 2 friends next to her home but it won’t be ready for several months. In the meantime, I have to get out of my current apartment even if it’s only temporary.
I’ve already been to see some places that were downright scary in neighborhoods that were pretty shady. YIKES! But there are a few other possibilities that are more in my comfort zone. One is cute but about as big as a closet. I’m crossing my fingers.
If you’re looking for an apartment be on the lookout for rental scams
These days, there are plenty of online sites to find rentals like Apartments.com, Rent.com, Hotpads.com and a slew of others. Then, there are sites that cater to older people like SeniorLiving.com or After55.com. Using apps like Facebook Marketplace or Next Door are also good for finding rentals from locals. The problem is, there are nasty people out there promoting rental scams.
How I almost got screwed
A man named Michael A emailed me with an offer for a “Chic $1,000 bachelor apartment in Studio City.” He said he owned it and the photos he attached made it look gorgeous. Studio City is an ideal location for me to live, so my interest was piqued.
Most small apartments in Studio City start at a minimum of $2000 but many are much more expensive. Michael claimed that he was being transferred to the UK and needed a responsible person to rent his place. He also said he had no problem with dogs. (I have 2 small pooches) If I wanted to, I could use his furniture or he would put his stuff in storage.
I replied that I’d love to see it because it’s only about 10 minutes from where I live. He wrote back to say that he wouldn’t be able to show it to me because he was already in the UK but wanted to be completely transparent about the process.
He was going to rent his place using FLIPKEY, which is a short-term rental service similar to Airbnb. They’re owned by TripAdvisor, which is a company I recommend and are known for doing short-term vacation rentals. He said they were getting into long-term rentals as well. Then he sent me detailed instructions on how to complete the transaction and even attached a copy of his passport.
The catch was, he needed my information and a rental contract (that I was supposed to write up myself) so that FLIPKEY could send me instructions on how to complete the transaction. Once that was sent, I had to deposit the first and last month’s deposit of $2,000 into an escrow account and send it to the FLIPKEY representative listed on the instructions before I could even take a look at the apartment. If I decided I didn’t like it, my money would be returned.
The precise way he worded his emails made it sound legitimate and I know FLIPKEY is a legitimate company, but alarm bells immediately started going off in my head.
I went online, and low and behold, I found a post on a site called ScamWarners.com with almost identical emails, except that instead of them being written by Michael A, they came from Michael J.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to say anything negative about FLIPKEY. Michael was just using their name to sound legitimate. He’s a fake and a conman and probably isn’t even named Michael.
Since then, I’ve seen more studio apartments listed on online rental sites that are renting for $1,000 with beautiful photos attached. Sadly, it’s too good to be true.
The purpose of this post is to warn others about rental scams like this one. Did he think I just got off the boat? Sorry, clown, I’m more street smart than that and because I have a blog, you are outed.
Have you ever experienced a rental scam? Please leave a comment below and share this with anyone you know who is planning to rent.