ALBANY, N.Y. – Governor Cuomo is urging New Yorkers to be aware of apartment rental scammers.
Real estate scammers have been targeting immigrants and first-time residents. The state government says these scammers are asking for fees, commissions and deposits for false promises of securing rental property.
Since January, 211 complaints have been filed with the Department of State.
The State Division of Consumer Protection is asking the public to report any illegal activity by contacting them at 1-800-697-1220.
The State has released the following tips to those looking to rent an apartment...
-Check if the real estate agent or apartment information vendor is licensed in the State of New York. Visit https://appext20.dos.ny.gov/nydos/selSearchType.do and enter the name of the person or business, or call (518) 474-4429. In New York State, all real estate professionals must be licensed by the Department of State, and must renew their license(s) every two years. Do not rely solely on a person's testimony, business cards or advertisement.
-Under no circumstances should you be required to pay an upfront payment or fee before securing an apartment. Do not be persuaded by anyone pressuring you to pay money upfront.
-Non-refundable commission deposits are not permissible. An agent earns a commission when he or she assists the landlord and tenant in reaching an agreement on all of the terms of the apartment rental.
-Commission fees are negotiable. You have the right to negotiate the amount of the commission to be paid to a broker or salesperson. There is no such a thing as a mandatory commission rate.
-Make sure the property you are interested in is legitimately for rent. Many scammers act as representatives of real estate that is not on the market or does not exist.
-Remember to obtain a receipt for any deposit or payment you make. If an agent collects fees that you owe to the landlord, such as a deposit or the first month's rent, the agent has an obligation to separate that money from his or her own. If the money is not immediately provided to the landlord, the agent must put the money into a separate escrow account until the transaction has been closed. If the transaction does not close, the agent cannot keep the money for him or herself and must return it to you.
-Avoid making payments or deposits with cash, it is always better to leave a paper trail by using a credit card or a personal check. Make sure to save a copy of the payment for your own records.
-Ask for copies of all documents: checks, money orders, the application, receipts, the lease and any other document related to your apartment rental and keep them in a secure location in case they are needed to dispute a charge.