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...Mesa, who has a security business, finds tenants and takes care of his properties himself. Many owners, though, turn to professional property managers.
"I would say that our business is booming,'' says Kris Knutson, business development director of Rent It Network in Tampa. "We put a home on the market and usually in the first seven to 10 days we have multiple applications. We bring on about 20 or 30 new properties a month and I have not seen a slowdown in the past three years."
Among those leasing out their homes are many who bought at the peak of the boom and couldn't sell for the amount they owe. Others include members of the military who have been transferred from MacDill Air Force Base but plan to return to the bay area. Knutson finds that South Tampa is a particularly hot market for rentals. Her company recently leased a home on Davis Islands for $2,795 a month to a doctor who is doing his residency at Tampa General Hospital but is new to the area and not yet ready to buy. The owner bought the property as a future retirement home but is still living up north.
Rent it Network handles homes throughout the bay area, but "obviously the ones closest to infrastructure, jobs and schools are the ones leasing quickly," Knutston says.
Property management companies typically charge a "tenant location" fee equal to 75 to 100 percent of the monthly rent, plus a 10 percent monthly fee thereafter. Owners also are billed for repairs and replacement of appliances as needed."
...The problem has spread to Pinellas County as well. Kris Knutson, a business development manager with Rent It Network, said a client who listed his home in Clearwater, but is currently living in the home, had "applicants" show up to the house last week.
"He had three persons come to his front door giving him actual applications for the property and saying that they've been approved, with moving trucks, wanting to move into their property," said Knutson.
Knutson said typically if a listing price seems too good to be true, it like is not real. She gave advice on red flags all potential renters should look for while exploring online listings.
"If you don't have an opportunity to walk through the home prior to placing an application or being requested for a security deposit, it's a big red flag," said Knutson.
Many professionals, like the Rent It Network, take security deposits at the end of the application process through a secure website, but if renters must pay via mail, Knutson said a cashier's check or money order is safer.
"If you're asked to give a security deposit by Western Union, MoneyGram, or a Prepaid Visa card, that's definitely a red flag."
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of the phony Craigslist rental ad should contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.