Rental scams happen more often than you might think. In many cases, people who are not even legally qualified to lease property are creating deals to “lease” to searching tenants and then taking off with the security deposit. Sometimes they’re able to take as much as the security deposit plus the first month’s rent. Clearly, when searching for a rental, you need to do everything you can to protect yourself from rental scams.
Here are a few red flags you can look out for in order to avoid rental scams:
The landlord wishes to remain anonymous
Watch out for this major redflag…if the landlord is trying to hide his identity, it’s likely a scam. You should be able to easily discover who the owner is of the property and who manages it. If you are having trouble finding out who the landlord is, don’t agree to the deal.
There is high pressure in closing the deal
You’ve probably heard this said about car salesmen…but if someone is putting on the pressure to sign the paperwork now and get the deal before it’s too late, it’s a pretty clear red flag. High-pressure situations like this do not leave you the time you need to do your research and ensure that it’s a safe situation. Move on. There are more rentals out there.
The rental is available immediately
Obviously, this does not always mean there are ill intentions. Sometimes rentals open up quickly when tenants leave before their lease is completed. Sometimes landlords have to do the hard job of evicting a tenant. However, a property ad that nearly screams AVAILABLE NOW is worthy of your suspicion. Scammers are trying to get their money as fast as they can. If you do find a property that is immediately available, make sure you do your research. Ask lots of questions and make sure you are able to view the property and meet with the landlord or property manager in person.
The landlord asks you to sign paperwork before you see the property
If you are asked to sign any kind of agreement before you even see the rental, there’s a high chance you’re dealing with a rental scam. With a trusted and experienced landlord or property management company, you should never be asked to sign anything until you have been able to do your research, ask questions, and view the property in person.
The landlord claims to be out of town
Landlords go on vacation, too. We get that. But when you are dealing with a landlord that claims to be out of town and there is no way to meet in person or to meet with a property manager, you’re probably better off continuing your search elsewhere.
Landlords sending your lease agreement in the mail
Be wary of any landlord that will not sign the lease in your presence. You may encounter someone who says they will send you the lease so that you can sign it and mail it back. Once they receive it, they will sign it and mail you a copy. Always, if at all possible, you should sign agreements at the same time at the same location. Even if you are not signing in the presence of the actual owner, you should be able to do so in the presence of the property managers.
Prices don’t line up with the current rental market rates
Scammers are catching on that significant differences in the prices are often a sure sign of illegitimacy. However, some are still using this tactic. If you find a property that is priced noticeably different than similar homes or apartments on the rental market, you should be very cautious. Do your research to find out the average rent price for the type of home you are looking for in that area. If something is priced at a rate that seems too good to be true, it more than likely is.
Landlord asks you to pay with cash or another hard-to-trace method
While there are certainly real landlords out there who ask for cash payments, be critical of this kind of request. Scammers are more than likely going to choose a payment method that will be hard to trace so that they are less likely to get caught. When asking for a security deposit or first month’s rent, they may ask for payments like giving cash, wiring money, using an escrow service, paying through Western Union, or Money Gran. In some cases, they may ask for bank info.
Landlord asks you to wire money and then they will mail keys
We cannot emphasize enough that personal contact with the landlord or property manager is important. Promises from a landlord to send you keys to the rental after you have wired them money should raise suspicion.
The rental ad has poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation
This isn’t always true, but often rental scams can be coming from people in different countries. If you find a rental ad with significant grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, be careful.
The landlord doesn’t request rental application, check your references, or do a tenant screening
Scammers are not concerned about getting the ideal tenants…they’re looking to get your money. When looking for a rental, you want to know that you are renting from a trusted owner or management company. Trustworthy companies and experienced landlords will do a thorough job of making sure you are a good tenant for their property. They won’t take the process lightly. If you notice that none of those requirements are in place, you may be dealing with a scam.
The landlord doesn’t allow you to view the property
Hopefully you would not agree to leasing an apartment or home without seeing it first (or having someone you trust see it for you). If you are given excuses for why you cannot see the property, you may want to think twice about agreeing to anything. Also be wary if you are told you can only view the outside. In most cases, landlords and property managers are able to give showings even with tenants still living there.
Landlord claims to own one apartment within a complex
Most commonly, apartment complexes are owned by one owner or company. A landlord who claims to own just one unit within a complex could be a sign of fraud.
The landlord tries to have you agree to a verbal agreement lease
As a tenant, even if you are looking to do month to month leasing, always demand a lease on paper. Never settle for an oral lease. Neglecting to ensure that everything is on paper could be to your hurt.
Our best advice in trying to avoid rental scams
There are a large number of red flags to look out for when you are searching for a rental. However, ultimately the best advice we can give is this:
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Never settle for something just because it looks like a good deal. Do a thorough search for clarity on property ownership. If ownership or management is unclear, don’t risk it. Don’t ignore any red flags and report rental ads that appear to be a scam.
If you have additional questions concerning possible rental scams or are looking for a trusted property management company to help you find your home, feel free to contact All Property Services.