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Apartment Rental Fraud and Other Internet Real Estate Crimes


Lack of transparency is the name of the game in most real estate transactions.  Case in point, the National Association of Realtors, an organization which lists more than 90 percent of the real estate properties that get sold in the United States, just agreed to pay a multimillion-dollar settlement in a lawsuit.  As part of the settlement, it agreed to discontinue the practice of refusing to list a property unless the seller agreed to the commission amount that the seller’s agent is requesting.  The commission amount is usually about six percent, which is twice as high as the commission that real estate agents get in other countries with a similar per capita income.  The seller’s agent would then agree to split the commission with the buyer’s agent.  If that is not a kickback scheme, then what is?  Worst of all, most people who have bought or sold a real estate property in Florida had no idea that this was how real estate sales work.  What are the news sites panicking about these days, though?  Tenants lying on their real estate applications, as if it were easy to get approved for housing by telling the truth.  Even though it seems like everyone is doing it, you can get into serious trouble for knowingly making false statements in an effort to buy, sell, or rent a real estate property or residential unit.  Here, our Miami white collar crime lawyer explains various kinds of real estate crimes and how you can avoid getting convicted of them.

You Can Get Criminal Charges for Lying on an Apartment Rental Application

According to the real estate news website The Real Deal, fraudulent applications for apartment rentals are very common, especially for units in large skyscrapers and multi-building apartment complexes where the rental office is in charge of hundreds of units.  The percentage of fraudulent applications received by the property management companies interviewed by The Real Deal ranged from 40 percent to more than 86.  Naturally, the landlords blame Tik Tok for disseminating information about how to falsify one’s rental application.

This is more apartment rental fraud than law enforcement can possibly catch or than the courts care to prosecute.  Despite this, if the rental office accuses you of apartment rental fraud, and if the jury believes the accusations, you can be convicted of a financial crime.  Which criminal charge you get depends on the details of the misrepresentation.  For example, if you use someone else’s name and financial information to apply to rent an apartment, without the person’s knowledge or consent, you can be charged with identity theft.  If you submit fake documents about your employment or income, you can be accused of forgery.

Real Estate Listing Fraud

Another kind of financial crime related to real estate is real estate listing fraud.  According to the Fort Myers News-Press website, Florida is second only to California in terms of the number of real estate listing fraud cases.  Real estate listing fraud occurs when someone who does not own a real estate property and is not a real estate agent representing the owner of the property lists the property for sale online.  In most cases, the fraudulent lister’s intention is not to sell the property, because it would be very difficult to finalize the sale.  Instead, the lister’s intention is to draw the legal owner into a dispute where the legal owner pays the lister to take the listing down, rather than having to go to court and prove that he or she is the legal owner, which would be even more expensive.  In some cases, real estate listing fraud occurs in the context of an organized conspiracy.

How Do the Authorities Decide That Your Fibs Are Worse Than Everyone Else’s?

Dishonesty is so common in real estate transactions and apartment rental applications that it is often just a matter of chance that yours is the application that the rental office reports to law enforcement.  If you are accused of an Internet real estate crime such as apartment rental fraud or real estate listing fraud, a possible defense is that you reasonably believed that the statements you made were true or that the documents you submitted were genuine.  You might also be able to argue that the fraudulent interpretation of your statements is not the only one and not the most plausible one.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you defend yourself against allegations of Internet real estate crimes.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.




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