Man Accused In Rental Scam

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A scam alert out of Chesterfield county, where a man is accused of trying to rent a house he didn't own.

One local realtor says rental scams are not uncommon and believes with a sluggish housing market, more of these crimes may crop up.

The suspect in this case is behind bars.

Neighbors say the house on Lost Forest drive has been on the market for years and only about a month ago the for sale sign was removed.

Police say 37 year old Michael Bowles claimed he bought it online and on March 7th was trying to rent it to a family.

His plan unraveled when police say someone working for the real owner stopped by.

When we contacted the property owner he said he was handling the situation with police and didn't want to comment further.

"I don't think it's bizarre I don't know how prevalent it is but it does happen," said David Gould with Century 21 Signature Realty.

Gould says the crooks will sometimes use web sites like Craigslist to lure people to housing deals too good to be true.

Other times, he says, they'll try to pull a fast one on property owners.

"Typically what they'll do is look for a house that is vacant and has been on the market for a while so they know they have a motivated seller and may not ask as many questions as they should," said Gould.

He says the scammer will sign a purchasing contract and delay the closing date for three months to rent the house back and then makes off with thousands of dollars from unsuspecting renters.

"We've heard of some instances where they've actually had people move in," said Gould.

Gould says property owners can eliminate the problem by working with a property management company because the company knows who the owner is.

As for renters, before writing out a check, Gould says they should contact the courthouse where the property is located to find out exactly who the registered owner is.

Bowles is charged with breaking and entering, obtaining money by false pretenses and grand larceny.

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