Big Island

Know Your Landlord

First things first, if you weren’t able to attend our last Real Estate Wine’d Down, check out the recap or ask for the recording link. Mahalo Ryan Kadota for starting us off with a beautiful German Pinot Noir, and David Kurohara from Hawaiian Electric for sharing Hawai`i’s renewable energy plans. Now on to landlords.

Renters Beware

With COVID came a new group of vacant homes. Most vacation rentals have been sitting idle joining long-term rentals and listed properties as a potential source for scammers. Legit long-term rentals are often listed on our MLS. Many are still listed in the newspaper, but it seems Craigslist is where most people begin their search for new digs these days.

While most postings are legitimate, Craigslist unfortunately is often the conduit for someone’s profit center. It’s fairly common for REALTORS® to receive calls from prospective tenants inquiring if our for-sale listings are really for rent. With just a few clicks, imposter landlords can pull information and photos from our listings and repost them as rentals.

While I thought everyone was up-to-speed on this potential problem, my friends on the ocean in HPP wrote to inform me about the issue when they recently saw their home for rent on Craigslist with my 10-year-old professional photos! Besides the use of professional photos, here are a few other red flags that might help weed out real from scam.

Too Good to be True?

Below-market rent offers the first hint that the ad is probably bogus. As negotiations progress, a request for wired funds is, of course, most telling. It’s good to know that Hawai`i State law requires every landlord to have an on-island representative, so logically there should be someone locally who can collect rent or vouch for owner authenticity. If there are real doubts, check ownership with a REALTOR® or the tax office.

Then ask for a positive ID. Unfortunately, Craigslist is not the only place tenants run into trouble.


We fully expect an eventual uptick in foreclosures if the COVID slow-down continues. An unexpected consequence of foreclosures is the potential impact on tenants. While there are rules in place to protect tenants with a valid lease, there is no protection for a tenant who moves in as a result of a scam. Or, for a tenant who takes occupancy from an owner, who may still be listed as the legal owner, but has no right to rent the property because of an on-going foreclosure. Tenants have no way to know the owner is being foreclosed.

Property Managers

Of course, homeownership is the best way to avoid tenant-related issues, but for those who must continue renting, it’s best to seek out local owners with a long history of ownership. Working with a reputable, licensed property manager is a great way for tenants to avoid problems with bogus owners or foreclosure evictions.

So, if you are in the market for new digs, take time to dig deeper. Learn as much about your landlord or rental agent as they know about you!

Zoom With Us!

P.S. Remember to join us on our Zoom meeting on August 3, 2020 at 3 p.m. for our next Real Estate Wine’d Down. We’ll re-visit home inspections from a fresh new perspective. Just email me for details.

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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