Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Use cau­tion with short-term rentals

- Gary Singer

Board­cer­ti­fied real es­tate lawyer Gary M. Singer writes about the hous­ing mar­ket at SunSen­tinel.com/ busi­ness/ realestate each Fri­day. To ask him a ques­tion, go to SunSen­tinel.com/askpro

Q: I booked a week­long rental of a beach­front condo through a popular travel web­site. Af­ter hear­ing a hor­ror story from a friend, I’m wor­ried now that I’ll get there and the place won’t be avail­able. How can I pro­tect my­self? — Mar­lene

A: Short-term rentals can be a won­der­ful al­ter­na­tive to the typ­i­cal chain ho­tels. But you are right to be con­cerned. Even when book­ing through well-known web­sites, take steps to pro­tect your­self from fraud.

In sev­eral cases, my clients have booked bed-and-break­fasts or pri­vate res­i­dences, only to find out — too late — that the prop­er­ties had been fore­closed or had been booked by fraud­sters. The own­ers found out about the scams only af­ter peo­ple showed up at their front doors with lug­gage.

Some travel web­sites do min­i­mal check­ing and can be slow to re­act even when put on no­tice to a prob­lem like this. And get­ting your money back is dif­fi­cult, at best.

I rec­om­mend you dou­blecheck to make sure the peo­ple do­ing the rent­ing are the ac­tual own­ers — or at least have the right to be book­ing and that the prop­erty is not in fore­clo­sure. You can find this out by do­ing a sim­ple Web search for the lo­cal county prop­erty ap­praiser web­site. It’s also a good idea to check a few other travel web­sites to find re­cent re­views of stays that went well. Be­cause there is no fool­proof way to check, pre­pare a list of lo­cal ho­tels, just in case you need to find an­other place to stay in a hurry.

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