You've been searching online for the perfect rental and you think you've found it! What's more, the rent is ridiculously low for the area. SCORE! Or is it?
If there's a little voice inside your eager-to-move head telling you to delve a little deeper into this scenario, pay attention. Your instincts are probably good. Rental scams are real.
There are all kinds of shady folks out there who take advantage of unwitting consumers just looking for a place to live. Before you conduct your next apartment or rental-home search, school yourself on the warning signs for these common rental scams.
We all want to think we've scored an amazing deal — and once in a while, we might — but landlords in desirable areas generally know their property's worth and price accordingly.
Be cautious if you come across an apartment with rent that's significantly lower than others in the neighborhood and make sure it's on the up-and-up before you hand over any money.
Beware of brokers or landlords who can't show you the place you want to rent within a reasonable time frame. It often means they don't have access to the place.
And if you're told the owner is out of town indefinitely, lives elsewhere or won't return until you secure the place with a deposit, it's time to look elsewhere.
While background checks are common practice for both large rental communities and small, one-off landlords, they're generally folded into application fees and should not cost more than $60.
Ask for itemization when it comes to rental applications. Never pay in cash. And if possible, work with a reputable agent as a liaison to the landlord. These professionals protect both sides of the business deal.
Conversely, if a landlord seems uninterested in your criminal or credit history — that's just weird. Vetting tenants is always in their best interest to ensure they're renting to an upstanding person and one who's likely to pay on time. If the agent or landlord doesn't care about your job or credit score, that's a big red flag.
Generally speaking, neither agents nor landlords need to be pushy when they have an available unit. They're well aware it will move, particularly if the place is cute and in a desirable area. Be wary of pushy tactics.
This is a no-brainer. If the landlord or agent tries to secure a deposit and insists you don't need a lease, think twice — even in a month-to-month situation. Both generally require some form of documentation to protect both landlord and tenant. Ask for a lease and if they won't provide one, it's likely there isn't one to be had.
Scammers sometimes lift property images from elsewhere, so be on the lookout for watermarked images from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), where licensed realtor post properties they represent.
If an independent landlord or “friend" of the landlord only posts pics with a logo, it's likely a bogus or copied listing.
Security deposits are common practice, of course, but they shouldn't be sky-high. If what you're being asked for is above the norm, dig deeper to make sure there's really a deal to be made.
When renting, deal face-to face. In fact, Craigslist cites this rule to avoid virtually all scam attempts. Note the above warning signs and you're likely to have a positive experience, free of rental scams, when moving into your next place.