Choose‎ > ‎

Screening Prospective Landlords

Slum or Scam? Find out before it's too late

How can you find out more about your prospective
landlord and protect yourself from a slumlord...or worse, a scamlord?

Better Business Bureau
County Auditors or County Recorders ownership records
Ask for references
Housing Code enforcement
Ask the other tenants
On line ratings
Management Company websites

Check'm out...
1. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ohio Attorney General recommends: ask for identification before giving money.
2. Check the ownership and the financial status of the property at the county courthouse. See column left.
3 Ask how long the previous tenants were there? Why did they move?
4. Talk to the neighbors.
5. If it's a large complex, check online reviews at such sites as Apartment Ratings. RHINO says on line reviews are written by people who are very happy (sometimes compensated by the landlord) or very angry. Still, they can give you some clues about questions to ask or issues to investigate.
5. Drive by the landlord's other properties

Here's more ideas from RHINOs
PattiM from Project House Call in Lancaster says
Check local utility providers. Each utility company will probably have a different policy about providing account information, but it's easy to check. Callers will usually get a live person to talk to and besides verifying the landlord's identity. tenants may have the bonus of getting average gas/electric/water/trash bill info (which most tenants should be checking anyway!).

Kris K when she worked for Fair Housing Contact Service (Akron) wrote to say:: 
Our Health Dept. was encountering something like the referenced Squatter Scam, and our office has had one or two run-ins w/”landlords” pulling similar stunts.  Locally, we’ve seen folks who show vacant and condemned homes to tenants, lease up, and leave with the first month’s rent and deposit.  The tenant finds out they don’t have a real LL or lease agreement when the city sees that the property is occupied and notifies them that it is condemned.  We always conduct a property check to determine ownership.  I find the easiest search is typically with the County Auditor’s site (once you’re used to using it), but that the most up-to-date records are often the County Recorders’ and are both typically available online.

Freebirdgina says: 
Places to check out landlord records, are listed on your link, all of those will have good info. For those in HUD apt. buildings, look up the owners and managers, online. Our managing company has a great website, showing n telling all their great works in progress and all that they own. HA  But it also has all the contact info for the company, so use that to reach the higher ups.  

Emily VB says:
    Craigslist (a website where you can find almost anything), gets lots of bad reviews from people who’ve been burned in their housing search. But there are probably many more people who’ve found good places to live using Craigslist’s listing- including me. You can definitely find good deals when a unit’s been vacant for a little while. There are also other websites that list housing like Apartment Finder, the Ohio Housing Locator, and Zillow to name a few.
    Whatever website you use to look for housing, do your homework and don’t hand over any money until you have. Call landlords and ask questions about the housing and the rental agreement before you go check out the place. Ask for the address and then check it out on Google maps. See if there are any reviews that other tenants have written about a complex or a landlord. If your housing situation is desperate, see if you can get a friend to give you objective feedback on options before you make any rushed decisions. Just don't be the tenant who gives money to someone who isn't the real landlord (true story). And don't be the tenant who moves in without seeing a unit, only to find out later that there are horror stories plastered all over Google from residents past (also a true story).
    Time and money have always been deciding factors for how people tackle challenges.  Finding a place to live is no exception to those restraints. With busy schedules and little money for transportation, looking for housing on the internet can seem like an ideal option. If you use your smarts it definitely can be. But if you fall prey to tricks and scams, the worst case scenario is ending up devoting lots of time to unforeseen problems and losing more money than you bargained for.

What's News?

July 2, 2017
Attorney General DeWine warns of home rental scams
Dispatch reports: "DeWine said his office has received more than 40 complaints this year about rental scams. The most common form is someone posing as a landlord to falsely collect a deposit on the home. [ ] before seeing the apartment or home. Consumers should also be cautious of landlords who agree to rent out a home without collecting information such as credit scores or rental history from the tenant. Other clues that the listing may be a scam: a home listed for rent that appears on other websites for sale; and landlords who can’t meet in person because they have to leave the country.

Toronto to give letter grades to landlords?
CityLab reports on a proposal for the City of Toronto to rate landlords the way they rate restaurants. "Last week, a Toronto City Council committee voted unanimously to endorse a new licensing regime for landlords. The proposal would institute a system for grading landlords of buildings of a certain size for conditions such as mold, bedbugs, working elevators, water cleanliness, and working air conditioning. If the full council proceeds with the idea, landlords will be subject to licensing and, potentially, grades that they will be required to post in building lobbies—the same way restaurants do in some cities.
Couldn't happen in an Ohio city but...maybe some ambitious non profit advocacy organization could get a grant to gather up existing health and safety records for their communities?
posted May 26, 2016

Rent Scams: Reports from around Ohio

 Notes & Links

Realty Trac story
(January 2015)

Spencer Wells,
Oct 10, 2013, 9:09 AM