Friday, July 19, 2013

How to not get scammed this spring break by a rent by owner type of website

There are several reasons why renting a house or condo via an online "rent by owner" type of website in a popular spring break destination like South Padre Island, Texas; Panama City Beach, Florida; Destin, Florida; Gulf Shores, Alabama; or many other popular college spring break destinations and why we suggest using a spring break tour operator.

  • You have unknowingly entered into an auction on a rental property

In this scenario, the Owner lists the property on the rent by owner website for an inflated price  of $4500 for the week for example with verbiage in the description "spring break discounts may apply please call." You call as this grabs your eye and are delighted to get the property for $3500. You book it with a $700 deposit (typically 1 nights' rent up front non refundable.)

This unscrupulous Owner does not remove the property from the site, nor block out the listing as being booked already by you. Then, they field other calls. Next call goes to $4000. They take that person's deposit, but fail to call you as hey...what's the rush to cancel you? This other person might back out. They might take a 3rd or a 4th deposited group as well for ever increasing amounts of money.

Finally, a week before you are to leave, this Owner calls you  and the other lessor bidders and says they have a maintenance issue, and cannot possibly check you in. "my apologies, I have refunded your deposit in full I am SO sorry!" YOU NOW HAVE ZERO RECOURSE and...good LUCK finding another place to stay this late when these destinations sell out tight.


  • The Owner of the Property can have very tight terms & conditions that guarantees you will be evicted without refund
"John," our rich property Owner has a lush $1.4 mil beachfront home that he won't rent to spring breakers. But wait...why not? He devises this spring break scam. He asks a fair price of $5500 for the week, sends you pics of the property or has them listed, it's awesome - 6 bedrooms sleeps 14. What a steal!

You put your $1500 deposit down, of course non refundable. He will send you his Nazi - esq rental agreement for spring break rentals stating something you don't catch something along these lines:

"If police are called to the property for ANY REASON for a noise complaint, whether real or not, you will be immediately evicted WITHOUT REFUND - NO EXCEPTIONS."

Generally, these types of people will say "hey we will take a credit card but when you arrive, we will refund your money, and need the cash for the entire amount." "If you don't show up, well it will stay on your credit card." Why? Well, if you have scammed someone, cash is your very best friend and the hardest way to get a refund with no recourse.

You sign his "rental agreement"  and send in the balance of the money. Now you are in $5500. Non refundable. Do we have to complete the story? Ok we will.

You arrive. John again takes everyone's ID and makes a copy. He also makes each person sign the rental agreement. Likely, he will again verbalize look guys, you can have fun, but if the cops come, well I have to evict you and you won't get your money back, ok?" What would you say other thank ok?

John's rich buddy Hank is also in on the scam, he has done this many times because he too has a Million dollar property and he is greedy wants the spring break money but not the students. So, provided the group drinks a little and makes a little noise...BAM! - Hank calls the cops on your for "noise." They come, say "well look we got a complaint settle down." Your group is bewildered.
Not an hour later the cops are back..this time with John the Owner. He's very apologetic but says look, you violated the rental agreement and I have to evict you, I'm sorry. My "partners" on the property just informed me that the police came on a noise complaint, therefore according to the rental agreement you already signed, I must evict you without refund."

John returns the deal for Hank.  The next day or a couple days later, guess what? They can either let property sit empty, OR even re rent it!!! You think..well, this is great but I used a credit card I'm going to dispute the charge! Good luck. You already agreed to everything in writing you dunce.

How do we know this occurs? Easy. We have been at this for 20 years and have an office onsite on South Padre Island and see crying students at our office homeless the next day asking if we can please help them, describing this situation to a T.

You can say "I will sue him!" On what grounds exactly? Have you ever sued anyone? You live in Missouri, they live in Texas. You have to sue them in Texas, for one. And are very likely to lose once this character produces a police report, your signed agreements, and even a copy of your IDs. You're screwed.

Remember, the rich don't always get rich playing fair.

  • The property is listed by a property management firm or manager or even an owner of several properties that does a clear bait and switch on you
 This is easily the most common spring break scam. You reserve a condo that is fabulous at say Summit Condos. Completely decked out to the "9s." Then, you arrive and the property manager or management company says "Oh, sorry, the unit you booked has a temporary maintenance issue so we have to move you to another unit." You can complain - but it is STILL the same property. The other one we love is "we lost that property as the Owner lost it to foreclosure last minute! So sorry but we have unit 101 instead!" "if you don't want 101 we can give you a refund!"

Of course you are NOT taking a refund. You are already  at a sold out destination. You settle. Likely this jerk has only his best 1 or  2 condos listed and has 10 to 20 at a complex...using the primo pictures to rent the duds.

Most common scam on rent to own websites or by property management companies. Be very aware of this.

  • The Owner double books the property and cancels you last minute to insure that if one of the 2 reservations cancels they are still 100% booked
We already covered this, but understand that most Owners offer a 30 day advance cancellation you may lose no money. So, to cover themselves, they re rent the same property 2, 3 even 4 times.
Then, see who pays in full first. Whomever does, they refund all the others money.

You might say.."well I got my money back." Great. Now 25 days before spring break at a sold out destination what rat hole are you supposed to book? You were just scammed.

How do I avoid this?

It's easy. Book with a tour company that specializes in college spring break like Inertia Tours. We are very upfront that we don't rent specific units, but rather specific complexes or even categories of complexes that just guarantee certain complexes within that category.

This matters - why? Easy. We think that you should be honest with young adults up front about the reasons why you don't want to book a specific unit. 

Sure, people get lucky. But with Inertia, as we have literally hundreds of condos, a complex could burn to the ground and you'd still be accommodated. You still get a trip, and people's dreams of a great spring break are NOT crushed.

Also..the fact that we have an onsite office matters.
You have someone to go to if there is a problem, not some cell phone to call some owner in Indiana that hates students anyway. We have a legacy in this business and doing things right to students matters to us.

Please call us 800 821 2176 we would love to earn your business!