Don’t Get Burned by Rental Listing Scammers

The real estate market in California is hot and some people searching for apartments and home rentals are getting burned by purchasing useless rental listings.

Crooks are ready to take advantage of the unwary by selling listings of rentals that either aren’t available, don’t exist or are in foreclosure.

The California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) warns consumers not to become a victim of such scams, which are most prevalent in areas where affordable rental housing is difficult to find.

A prepaid rental listing service is a business that supplies people with lists of residential properties for rent. The prospective tenants are required to pay a fee in advance or at the time the listing is provided. This business requires a prepaid rental listing service (PRLS) license from the Bureau of Real Estate or the person running the business must be licensed with the bureau as a real estate broker.

Wayne Bell, Real Estate Commissioner and CalBRE chief officer, says that consumers must be careful when using PRLS companies and offers this information to help you avoid problems.

Red Flags

  • The PRLS company only accepts cash (because credit cards allow for disputing charges).
  • The PRLS company guarantees the prospective tenant will get a rental in his or her price range, as well as a desired location, along with other positive options (such as allowing pets).
  • The list of rentals is handwritten and not computer generated.
  • The company does not provide property management or owner contact information for a prospective renter to schedule an appointment to visit the property.
  • The company asks the consumer to contact them instead of the property manager or owner if there is an interest. Typically, a PRLS company will provide you rental property addresses and property manager or owner information so that direct contact can be made by the client.
  • Company representatives use only first names. Note: Last names may be omitted and first names are often changed to avoid detection by law enforcement or to keep from being sued.
  • The company has only been in business for a brief period of time. Some PRLS companies open, quickly close, and move around a lot to avoid customers seeking refunds.

Avoid Being a Victim

  • Check the real estate and/or PRLS license HERE. And please note that there are very few PRLS licensees statewide. The list of such licensees can be viewed HERE.  Companies operating lawfully under a PRLS license must maintain a $10,000 bond or cash deposit.  Scammers will just take your money and there is no recourse.
  • If the PRLS company is not licensed, consumers should not use that company and should report the company to CalBRE.
  • If licensed, also check the PRLS with the local Better Business Bureau.
  • Do a Google, Yahoo or Yelp search on the Internet to see what others say about the company.

Read Your Contract with the PRLS Company

Protect yourself by reading your contract carefully. Before any PRLS company accepts a fee for rental listings it must provide a contract stating the amount of the fee and specify what services will be performed in exchange for the fee.

  • The contract must include a description of the kind of rental unit the consumer wants to find.
  • Even if the contract is signed electronically, consumers can and should still request a printed copy of the contract. This must be provided within five working days of a request.
  • Consumers need to be sure the contract states exactly what sort of rental listings will be provided. For instance, if a consumer is looking for a specific number of bedrooms, a maximum rent amount or listings in a specific area, this must be written into the contract.
  • The contract must state an expiration date of no more than 90 days from the date it is signed.
  • The PRLS company must also disclose small claims court remedies available to you should any issues arise.
  • If the PRLS company fails to provide the specified features, this is one of several conditions that would form a basis for the customer to receive a refund.
  • Prospective renters using a PRLS must carefully review the refund section of the contract. It is important to understand what rights you have should a refund be requested.

If you feel you have been the victim of a prepaid rental listing service licensee, please file a complaint HERE.  And if you have been victimized by an unlicensed scammer, CalBRE wants to know.  Contact them at 1-877-373-4542.

Sources:

Consumer Fraud Alert and Warning – Prepaid Rental Listing Services (PRLS)

Consumer Alert: Warning Regarding Online Rental Schemes

Get it While it’s Hot: Check out the Summer Issue of Consumer Connection

Summer’s not over yet. There’s still time to take a road trip to one of California’s manyConsumer connection summer 2016 state parks. From beaches and deserts to redwood forests and mountain summits, California parks offer a variety of amazing and beautiful sites to explore. The Consumer Connection article “Time for a Road Trip!” details 10 state parks—including Angel Island, Marshall Gold Discovery, Humboldt Redwoods, and Crystal Cove—to consider for your next destination, and ways to make sure your car is as ready for the trip as you are.

Also inside this issue is an article about the recently enacted California End of Life Option Act. The new law provides legal guidelines on how terminally ill adults can choose to die in a humane and dignified manner.

Readers will also find features about the recent trend of more Americans choosing to rent instead of buying a home, dealing with the repo man, the dangers of DIY braces, wills versus living trusts, the dangers of buying from a rogue online pharmacy, and more.

To download or read DCA’s award-winning Consumer Connection magazine, visit the DCA website. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have a copy mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!

 

The Philosophy of Real Estate

If you watch Modern Family, you’re familiar with Phil Dunphy, suburban Los Angeles real estate agent and self-proclaimed real estate guru. You may have even caught one of the Real Estate Phil’s-osophies commercials for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) starring Ty Burrell, the actor who plays Dunphy. It’s not part of the show: NAR hired Burell to star in-character in a series of commercials that advise consumers to seek out a REALTOR® when buying or selling property.

A real estate agent talking about the pros of hiring a REALTOR® —are you confused? Is there a difference between the two?

There is. And there isn’t. dunphey

When you enter the world of buying and selling real estate, you are confronted with several different titles: real estate agent (also known as real estate salesperson), REALTOR®, real estate broker.

Let’s start with Real Estate Agents, or Real Estate Salespersons. These professionals are licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE), which licenses and regulates the more than 400,000 Mortgage Loan Originators, Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons in California. In order to be licensed in California, you must qualify for and pass a written examination, then submit an application to CalBRE for approval. Anyone who conducts real estate activities in California must be licensed and must conduct business as stated in the California Real Estate Laws and Regulations.

A Real Estate Broker has continued his or her education past that required at the real estate agent or salesperson level and has passed the real estate broker licensing exam. Real estate brokers can work as independent real estate agents or they can have agents working for them. Brokers can work on their own, while agents or salespersons have to work under licensed brokers.

Last but not least, there’s REALTOR®. In order to join this one-million-member national association, you must be a licensed real estate agent in your state, and you must uphold the NAR’s strict code of ethics and standards.

It sounds like a Phil’s-osophy: Not all licensees are REALTORS®, but all REALTORS® must be licensees.

And there you have it—a little information to help you get through the maze of buying and selling—or at least know who’s who.

Don’t forget to check the license before you decide on a real estate agent! To check a license, visit the CalBRE website, www.calbre.ca.gov, or call (877) 373-4542. To verify that an agent belongs to the National Association of REALTORS®, go to www.realtor.com.

 

2015 Legislative Update for Real Estate Licensees

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The California Bureau of Real Estate has released its 2015 Legislative Update.  The legislative summaries provided are of recently signed bills that affect real estate licensees and subdividers.  Read it here.

The Bureau’s 2016 Real Estate Law book will be available online January 1.  The hard copy, along with accompanying CD, is expected to be available for purchase by early February for $25.  To order, download a Publications Request Form from their website at www.bre.ca.gov.

 

 

CalBRE: Sales Materials Can’t Imply Agent Is Independent of Broker

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The California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) issued an advisory informing licensees that sales materials cannot contain terms that imply the existence of a real estate entity independent of a licensed broker and that sales agents owning a fictitious business name or “team name” must include both a team member license number and broker license number on all sales materials. Sales materials include “for sale” signs and print and electronic media.

Click here to see the advisory.

Legislative News from the California Bureau of Real Estate

The 2013/2014 legiCalBRE_Logo_HiResslative season ended September 30, 2014, with the Governor signing 931 bills into law in 2014.  Summarized below are recently signed bills that affect California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) licensees and subdividers. All statutes are effective January 1, 2015, unless otherwise indicated.

Assembly Bill 2018 (Bocanegra) – This bill amended Section 10159.5 and added Sections 10159.6 and 10159.7 to the Business and Professions Code. It allows a real estate broker to delegate to a licensed salesperson, under specified conditions, the process of filing a fictitious business name. Moreover, this bill allows a real estate salesperson to contract with a broker allowing the real estate salesperson to retain ownership of a fictitious business even though the real estate broker may file the fictitious name with the county. This bill also allows a salesperson to use a “team name” without filing for a fictitious business name if certain conditions are met.

Assembly Bill 2540 (Dababneh) – This bill amended Sections 10150, 10151 and 10162, and added 10165.1 to the California Business and Professions Code. This bill requires real estate licensees to provide the Bureau of Real Estate with an up-to-date mailing address, telephone number, and email address used for licensed activity. The bill also requires applicants for licensure to disclose valid contact information in the application.

Senate Bill 1171 (Hueso) – This bill amended Section 2079.13 of the Civil Code as it pertains to real estate licensees. The bill extends to commercial transactions the duty of a real estate broker to disclose, in writing, that the broker is acting as a dual agent. Prior to this bill, disclosure of dual agency in commercial transactions involving real property did not have to be in writing.

Assembly Bill 1159 (Chau) – This bill amended Section 30 of the Business and Professions Code as it pertains to the Bureau of Real Estate. The bill eliminates the requirement that a license applicant show proof of legal presence before obtaining a real estate license. Real estate license applicants will still need to provide a social security number/individual tax identification number in order to obtain a real estate license. The provisions of this bill will be implemented on or before January 1, 2016.

New Regulations of the Real Estate Commissioner – CalBRE has adopted regulations (2907.1 – 2907.4) to implement, interpret, and clarify Business and Professions Code Section 10080.9, which established the Citation and Fine level of discipline for both licensees and unlicensed persons. The final regulation language can be found at here. The new regulations became effective July 1, 2014.

NEW PUBLICATION — 2015 Real Estate Law Book Each year, the Bureau’s Real Estate Law book is updated to reflect changes in laws and regulations, including those set forth above.

This important reference for licensees contains:

  • The Real Estate Law (from the Business and Professions Code);
  • The Real Estate Commissioner’s Regulations (from the California Code of Regulations);
  • The Administrative Procedure Act (from the Government Code); and
  • Pertinent excerpts from various California Codes.

The 2015 Real Estate Law book will be available online free of charge on January 1, 2015. The print version, which includes a CD copy, is expected to be available for purchase from the Bureau in mid to late January 2015. The cost for the book is $25 (plus tax) and can be ordered by completing the RE 350 – Publications Request form.

For more information about CalBRE, visit http://www.bre.ca.gov.