If It Sounds Too Good

If something sounds too good to be true, we’ve all heard the corollary… “it probably is.” And so I’m writing about something that really sounds like the kind of story one usually reads about in the news, long after something good can come of it.

Yesterday, I heard about a property manager who put out an ad for an apartment for rent at a much reduced rate than the others in the area, but that, alone wasn’t the part that disturbed me. Call me a cynic but when a property manager asks for a $53 nonrefundable application fee, and then says that if you take the apartment, he’ll credit you with $25 of that fee, every alarm in my head went off.

I can’t even tell you in what order the alarms went off because there were so many of them crowding to get in there first. If the apartments in that area are all about the same price, why would this one be substantially less? If it’s a legitimate business, why would the application fee be nonrefundable? And if you take the apartment, why wouldn’t the full $53 application fee be applied toward the first month’s rent? There wasn’t even a mention about whether they had to pay that application fee by check or in cash, and to whom it was made out, personal name or corporate name?

Then there are the infinite stories about people who are given keys to a house or apartment so that they can water the plants or feed the dogs, or take care of a myriad number of things. And all I can see is this guy, sitting in an apartment that doesn’t belong to him, collecting a lot of $53 nonrefundable application fees with no proof that he is even the owner or the manager of the apartment.

A few years ago, there was such a scam, that it made all the newspapers. Houses were being foreclosed right and left. People had gone on a little vacation and when they came back, their house had been sold to someone else. Banks had messed up. Title insurance companies hadn’t investigated the title too thoroughly before money exchanged hands, and people who had been making regular payments on their mortgages were suddenly told that the house they had been paying for, didn’t belong to them.

So, there I sat, envisioning this man sitting in an apartment, for which he didn’t even have the key to the apartment for rent, to show it to a perspective renter (he said there was currently someone living in it but he could show one that was empty), collecting a lot of nonrefundable $53 application fees, and skipping town with all this money and no one could prove a thing.

And none of the applicants could even prove he was a legitimate property manager of the apartment. What if he was just someone who was occupying that apartment during certain times of the day or night when he knew the people wouldn’t be home and he had gotten the key by nefarious means? Go prove it. By the time you hire a private detective to establish whether this man was really the property manager, he would be long gone and so would your money.

The old caveat is still true… let the buyer beware.

Connie H. Deutsch is an internationally known business consultant and personal advisor who has a keen understanding of human nature and is a natural problem-solver.

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