Renting an apartment has always involved some level of risk. You are never quite sure if you are going to like a landlord and their property. That is part of the reality of being a renter. Lately, however, renters are dealing with a completely different kind of risk when looking for a rental home.
Many prospective renters have found themselves in the hurtful situation where they paid for a home, only to discover there was no apartment and the person they paid to had disappeared with their money. This scam is on the rise. In 2020, as many as 43% of people looking for a rental apartment encountered fraud, with up to 15% falling for it.
If you are searching for a rental, there is a big chance you are going to come across a fake rental listing. Apartment rental scammers rely on the average renter’s trusting attitude. They know people are not expecting to be scammed and will believe everything a supposed landlord tells them warns NC Property Group in San Diego. This post explains how you can avoid being a victim of an apartment rental scam.
Here are the telltale signs that the realtor or landlord you are dealing with is a scammer.
To draw as many potential victims as possible, scammers will make the juiciest offers. The property may be listed at a price below what that kind of apartment should cost to rent in the area. If the bid is too good to be true, it usually is a scam.
Ads for such apartments often contain details that give them away as scams. The images on the listing might have an MLS watermark, although the listing is not on an MLS site. It might be poorly written with typos or grammatical errors. The language structure may suggest that the scammers were not careful when writing the content.
Reliable platforms go out of their way to ensure the authenticity of the listings on their site. They verify the identities of renters and owners. If a forum does not have mechanisms for verifying the people who use its services, you should be extra careful when dealing with anyone you meet through the platform.
Scammers are often reluctant to meet. They constantly manufacture excuses why they cannot meet with you. They do not have a proper office address and will not meet you at the apartment. They might tell you they are out of town or have an emergency. They might not have access to the home and may ask you to drive by to see it from the outside.
The whole purpose of the scam is to defraud you out of your money, so it won’t be long into the conversation before the subject of money comes up. That will often take the form of the scammer asking for a wire transfer, probably to lock down the apartment. The goal of the scammer is to get money out of you before you have signed the lease.
Genuine landlords, as much as they want to find a tenant, also want to avoid bad tenants. That is why they subject prospective renters to screening. If a landlord is willing to waive tenant screening, that should have you worried. The reason might be that they don’t have an apartment to rent to you.
Apartment rental scammers will be reluctant to offer you a rental agreement, or if they do, the contract will lack vital information like the landlord’s details. The proper process for leasing an apartment is to make payments only after signing the contract. The scammer will try to circumvent this process.
How do you avoid being scammed? Above all else, never be in so much a hurry to rent that you are willing to take shortcuts. That is the reason 90% of victims get scammed. Follow the proper process:
Require that the landlord or realtor provide the homeownership documents. If the papers are not immediately available or they are incomplete, look elsewhere. Beyond being shown the documents, check that the details are correct.
Always leave a trail when you make payments by not paying cash. Decline and terminate your interest in the property when a landlord or realtor requests cash payment. Never pay cash, not even for tenant screening fees.
If something about a listing does not add up, do a reverse Google image search of the listing to see if you will find a similar listing on other sites. If you do find it on another site, check if the details of the different listings match up.
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