Is it normal for an out-of-town landlord to ask for a  security deposit before mailing keys? Each week veteran landlord and property manager Hank Rossi answers questions from other landlords and property managers around the country about their rentals.

Dear Landlord Hank:

I have a question regarding a property for rent in San Jose, California but the landlord or owner says he lives in New Jersey. He wants to rent the home to me, but is asking for security deposit of $1,300 cash to put in his bank account then he will mail me the keys to property. Is this normal? He is using your forms as the rental agreement.

Dear Landlord Hank: Landlord wants cash security deposit then will mail keys - is this normal?

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Dear Potential Tenant John,

I don’t have all the information but this smells like a scam to me.

You can get rental forms anywhere.

Would you give house keys for a security deposit alone?

If you were an owner would you give someone the keys to your house for a security deposit alone?


Have you done a rental application, signed a lease, do you know where to pay rent, have you been inside the property, have you had utilities transferred into your name?

Lots of important questions I don’t have answers to.

I’d look elsewhere for a rental.

Best of luck. Glad you were smart and didn’t send a deposit as you’d likely be out that money with no recourse.

You might want to see Hank’s post here on a related topic: Tenant Wants To Know Why Keys Have Not Been Sent after sending in deposit.

About the author Landlord Hank:

“I started in real estate as a child watching my father take care of our family rentals- maintenance, tenant relations, etc , in small town Ohio. As I grew, I was occasionally Dad’s assistant. In the mid-90s I decided to get into the rental business on my own, as a sideline. In 2001, I retired from my profession and only managed my own investments, for the next 10 years. Six years ago, my sister, working as a rental agent/property manager in Sarasota, Florida convinced me to try the Florida lifestyle. I gave it a try and never looked back. A few years ago we started our own real estate brokerage. We focus on property management and leasing. I continue to manage my real estate portfolio here in Florida and Atlanta. “ Visit Hank’s website here.

Renovating your rental properties on a shoe-string budget by Landlord Hank.

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