Q: My daughter lives out of state, but owns a house she rents out to tenants in Minnesota. I manage the property for my daughter. I recently listed the house for rent on Craigslist because the current tenants are moving out next month. I found a good tenant and signed a lease with them, with a monthly rent of $1,475.
A couple of weeks ago I received a call from a man named Bob, who claims that he has also signed a lease for my daughter’s rental home, with a person named Richard. Bob stated that Richard listed this property, which is my daughter’s property, for rent on Craigslist for $600 a month, and that my daughter’s property was posted for rent by Richard on several websites over the past two months. Richard took Bob’s security deposit of $600.
Bob also reported to me that he had never met Richard, but was able to visit my daughter’s rental property since the current tenant was unaware that I had found a renter and agreed to let Bob’s family in to look at the place. I then contacted the current tenants, and they confirmed that they did let a few potential renters in to look at the house in order to help me rent it out. My daughter does not have any knowledge of either Bob or Richard and has never talked to them.
Bob has now told me that he wants his $600 back. I told him that I never had any contract with him or Richard, and did not receive any money from either party. I also told him I rented out my daughter’s property to another family. Bob then told me that he is going to put a lien on my daughter’s property. Can he do that? Any advice on how to deal with this problem?
A: Bob has no legal right to put a lien on your daughter’s property. You should immediately contact the police department in the city where your daughter’s property is located and report this incident. After reporting the fraud to the city police department, you should then contact Craigslist and report the incident. Craigslist needs to know about fraudulent occurrences such as this in order to prevent one or both of these parties from committing fraud again. At this point, you cannot be sure that Bob isn’t assisting Richard in this rental-fraud scheme of attempting to get you to pay him $600. Since you listed your daughter’s property for rent on Craigslist, you most likely are familiar with the site. You may have noticed, on the site, a column on the left titled “Avoid Scams and Fraud.” If you click on that link, you can complete a form and report your rental fraud incident.
Rental fraud can occur using a “hijacked ad” where someone hijacks a rental listing by changing the e-mail address on your Craigslist ad or other contact information, and then placing the ad on a different site. “Phantom rental” ads also exist where the scammers make up listings for rentals that don’t exist or aren’t for rent. The scammers are trying to get money before potential renters discover the fraud.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.