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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Key West Vacation SCAM - Don't Be a Fool!

Each week I receive at least one phone call or an email from someone who has performed a Google Search on an address of a vacation rental in Key West.  The person normally found a blog I wrote about a particular place and decided to contact me to find out if the ad (usually found on Craigslist) is legitimate.  None of the calls or emails has ever been a legitimate rental.

The City of Key West has fairly simple rules with regard to nightly and weekly rentals of homes and condos.  If an owner has a transient rental license, the owner can legally rent the home on a daily basis - just like a hotel.  Most owners with a transient license require longer vacation stays so they can keep the "turnover" to a minimum.  A house or condo with a transient license must display a plaque at the front of the property so that neighbors and code enforcement know the rental is legal and who the property manager is in case of a problem.

There are only a limited number of homes or condos that have a transient rental license. 

The City permits owners to rent homes or condos on a monthly vacation rental basis. Stays of 28 days or longer are required.  And only one such rental is permitted for the property during that month.  For example, an owner may not rent three weeks to one renter and then rent the fourth week to another renter.

If you see an ad on Craigslist or any other place on the Internet that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Unsuspecting renters are being victimized all the time by scammers who have stolen photos of real properties and then pass then off as the property they proclaim to offer for rent.  One particular scammer speaks in 'broken-English' to peole who call to discuss property rentals in Key West. He previously required renters to make advance deposits by Pay-Pal. Now he is asking for payment by direct deposit to a bank account.

One couple paid a several thousand dollar advance deposit on a large house with a pool and parking with broken-English speaking man.  When they got to the house they called the number where they made the reservation. The man said he had forgotten they were coming or something to that affect. He said to look in the mailbox or under the floor mat for the key. Sure enough the front door key was in the mailbox. The vacationers went inside and spent three days enjoying the house until the man who is actually responsible for watching the house showed up.  He called the police and had the vacationers evicted because the house was not a rental.  He had left a key where anybody could find it.  Shame on him. And shame on the renters for being so careless with their money.
Key West is a wonderful place to visit for a week, a month, or season.  I suggest that you contact any of the Key West property management companies that have identifiable street addresses, land line phones that you can verify as belonging to the company you are calling, and an actual website apart from Craigslist, Homeaway, or VRBO.

1 comment:

Marie Louise said...

Gary - this is going on everywhere now. Just rented a place on Cape Cod only after encountering several scam rentals on Craigslist. Rule of thumb, if the price seems to good to be true, it usually is.


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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.