How to spot and avoid rental scams
It’s September; the head-back-to-school month when students look frantically for a home. The process of navigating through the housing rental market can be frustrating and discouraging, even more so knowing that the risk of being scammed is pretty high. Trust your intuition when it tells you that the amazing spacious, low cost, centrally located apartment you found is too good to be true.
Here are a few tips to ensure your dream rental doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
Do your research of the area; see the average rates for comparable rentals in the neighborhood you’re interested in renting. If the one you’ve found comes in at a much lower rate, there’s reason to be suspicious.
One common scam is for fraudsters to post fake ads for accommodation online and then to request the students secure the room by sending them cash or money order, even before they see it. If a landlord asks of you to pay a large sum of money before you lease an apartment, there’s again reason to be suspicious. Promises and photos are not enough, you need to visit the apartment you’re considering renting—according to a warning on Craigslist, not following this one rule accounts for 99 percent of scam attempts.
Another red flag is the eagerness of the landlord to lease the apartment to you. Usually, landlords want to know your credit score, run a criminal background check, and employment verification. When a landlord doesn’t seem interested in any form of tenant screening or is too eager to negotiate the lease amount or any other lease terms, there’s good reason to be suspicious.
When the landlord tells you that you don’t need a lease, you should weight in carefully. It is true that you don’t need a lease to live in an apartment as the month-to-month rental agreement is fairly common. However, when the landlord tries to get money from you without considering that you might want a lease, it suspicious – maybe he has no lease to show you.
There’s also the convenient excuse the landlord gives you for not being able to meet you or show you the property—he could say he’s out of the country indefinitely or that he won’t return until after you have to agree to the rental and pay the amount. Suspicious? Yes!
Moreover, keep in mind that social security, bank account and credit card numbers are not required to rent a place.