Did you know rental scams happen everywhere, all the time and affect millions of people every year?
Yes, MILLIONS of Americans fall victim to rental scams and in fact approximately 50% of Americans will encounter or become a victim of a rental scam.
And get this; renters aged 18-29 are twice as likely to be victims of rental fraud.
This may be partly because young renters are often moving after graduation or to pursue a new job opportunity and they may be moving sight unseen.
Rental scams can happen in a variety of ways but most commonly scams are in the form of a nonexistent property at an unbelievably good price, or it’s a fake landlord that is “renting” a listing or property they don’t have the right to. This article describes what you can do to identify and avoid rental scams.
How to Avoid Rental Advertising Scams
First, you want to be able to identify common "Red Flags." The list below offers the tactics would be scammers use most often to lure in unsuspecting victims of their scheme. Red Flags include:
1. Too good to be true rent amount
Get familiar with the median rents in your city or prospective city. Scammers will often price a fake listing below the market rent, hoping to attract more attention to the property because it’s such a “deal”. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
2. No website / can’t verify with other sites
Most Professional Property Management companies will maintain an active rental property list, so this makes it easier to verify the information is correct. However, if the property is being advertised directly by the owner, they may not have a full website so you'll need to verify by ensuring the property is listed in multiple places, AND that the price and details match from one to the next. If you can’t find a listing on multiple rental listing platforms, or there is a drastic price difference, there’s a higher chance that it’s fake or at least fake on one of the platforms.
3. No screening / application
Avoid listings that advertise no screenings. Although it may be tempting if you have something in your background that you are worried may exclude you from many rental properties, scammers will often advertise no screenings to play into this concern. It’s always better to have a conversation with the property manager or landlord before you apply to learn if your application likely won’t be accepted or to see if there are any exceptions that can be made, such as a higher deposit for lower credit score.
4. Can’t meet in person
If the landlord or property manager is not available to meet in person either at the property or at a rental office, consider another rental. In a common scam, the landlord is conveniently “out of town” but tells you to send money and that there will be a key box available for you to move yourself in.
5. Asks you to send money before applying / seeing property
Sometimes people have to rent sight unseen and this presents some challenges due to the fact that you are usually required to send money or at least a deposit to reserve the property, and this is when scams most often occur. To avoid being scammed when you’re planning to rent sight unseen, research the property management company first. You should be able to search for the property management company and confirm that the company and people exist, either through the property management website, LinkedIn profiles or phone numbers and email addresses included on the listing so you can contact and speak with someone.
For privately owned rental properties, you should still be able to call or email and connect with someone, but be wary if they are unwilling to show you the property virtually or want you to send money before providing a virtual tour.
Never send or give cash to a landlord. All deposits and rent should be made with a cashiers check, money order or electronically.
Finally if you are having trouble or need to find a place to rent quickly, work with an agent you trust. A leasing agent or licensed real estate broker can help you confirm availability, avoid scams and in some cases negotiate lower rent or more flexible lease terms. Thanks for reading and stay safe!