DENVER (CBS4)– The residential rental market is red hot right now, with renters having a tough time finding a place and scammers trying to take advantage of them. Vacancy rates in the metro area are in the single digits and the average cost to rent has increased 10.9 percent since June of last year.

Darren Simpson is looking for a home that his family can rent. Andi DeRoco is also on the hunt for a rental. Both have been looking for a while and can’t find a suitable rental.

“It’s been proving to be pretty challenging,” DeRoco told CBS4.

“The rental market, it’s very… it’s tough. Tough to get past the scams and find out which ones are really for rent,” Simpson said.

Most rental searches start online. Craigslist.com is one way that property managers get the word out about their rentals, but it’s also a ripe ground for scammers. The con artist will list a house that’s for sale, occupied, or in foreclosure, then collect deposit money, and disappear. The potential renter is left without a home to move into and without their deposit money.

“Know who you’re doing business with and verify that that is the owner of the property,” said Jeff Bacheller, co-owner of Real Property Management Colorado.

Real Property Management Colorado manages about 1,500 residential homes in the Denver – Colorado Springs markets.

There are several good Web sites that list vacancy rentals for free:

rentals.com

rentalhomesplus.com

rentbits.com

“Paying a fee before you see a property is not customary in this business,” Bacheller advised.

CBS4 looked into one website, webrentz.net, that charges $69 for its listings. CBS4 signed up for the service. Of the 57 listings that CBS4 got, 2 were good, many of the phone numbers were disconnected. Some listings were on the website for up to 4 months, and some of the listings had been rented out for months sometimes years. The manager at Lakewood based, webrentz.net, said there was a computer glitch in April.

“I did have a few issues when I switched over to a larger server that had re-activated some inactive properties, and to the best of our ability we’re continuously cleaning these,” the manager told CBS4.

Doing your homework on the property and the landlord may end up saving you money and anguish in the end. Check the property on the county public trustees office Web site to make sure it’s not in foreclosure, and you can check tax records to see who owns the property and make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate property manager.

RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks

– Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith

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