In the news again in 2022 is an old trick that keeps tripping people up: rental property scams.
“On the tenant side, police say the scam usually involves having to pay the deposit without seeing the property while the supposed owner says they’ll mail you the keys. Spoiler alert—the keys never come, and the tenant is out the money for property that often isn’t even for rent in the first place.”WTVQ, Georgetown, Kentucky
If you’re in the market for rental housing, here are some common scams to watch out for:
- Property is listed as extremely inexpensive compared to the local market – When you know the typical price for housing in a certain neighborhood or area of town and the rental you’re looking at is listed well below average, beware. A rental price that seems too good to be true is quite often exactly that.
- Details are incomplete or odd – You’re trying to find out all the specifics about the home you’re considering renting, but the details are fuzzy. You can’t seem to get a straight answer about where the house is, much less the exact number of bedrooms or bathrooms or anything really. Sketchy, incomplete details that just don’t seem to make sense often point to a shady deal.
- Multiple listings for the same property with different contact info listed – This is one of the oldest tricks of the scam trade. Apartment Guide says, “Many rental scammers will copy a legitimate listing and just change the contact information. Before letting those interested view the home, they request a deposit or first month’s rent. Look out for multiple listings on the same site that look identical.”
- Background checks are either non-existent or extremely expensive – Background checks may feel like a hassle, but if you run into a situation where the person claiming to have a rental property doesn’t care enough about your background to do a routine check, it’s possible that person isn’t a legitimate landlord. The same goes for outrageously priced background checks. If there’s anything fishy about the investigation into your background, be suspicious.
- Property isn’t available for a walk-through first – If you can’t go to the property and walk around in the house or apartment, don’t rent it. It’s that simple. There’s no reason a legitimate property owner wouldn’t let you see the place you’re planning to rent before you agree to the deal. If the person you’re talking to is making up all kinds of excuses for you not being able to see it, it’s likely a scam.
- Landlord isn’t available and sends someone else to meet with you – We could say something similar about landlords using a dozen excuses for not meeting with you. They’re out of town, out of the country, at another appointment. If you’re not able to meet with the landlord prior to renting a property, think twice about renting it.
- Property photos have MLS (Multiple Listing Service) watermarks – U.S. News & World Report explains this scammer’s trick: “If the rental listing’s photos sport a watermark – which is used to identify the owner of the photo – proceed with caution. Scammers sometimes illegally pull photos from the local multiple listing service, where properties are listed for sale by real estate professionals. When a photo appears with an MLS watermark, the person who posted the rental doesn’t have the original photo because he or she isn’t actually associated with the property.”
- There’s no lease agreement – “If there is no signed lease available to you, then you’re probably being scammed,” says Apartment Guide, and that’s advice worth paying attention to.
- You’re asked to wire money upfront – Another old trick of the scamming trade is the request for an upfront wire transfer. A good rule of thumb is never to wire a deposit, especially for a property you haven’t seen.
“Any request for you to wire the security deposit or first month’s rent is a clear sign of a scam. Once the money has been collected, there’s no way for you to get it back, and the person you thought you were in contact with can easily disappear.”US News & World Report
What You Can Do To Avoid Rental Property Scams
When you’re in the market for rental property, be sure to do your due diligence so you can avoid the rental scams mentioned above. You don’t have to fall prey to scammers if you’ll do the following:
- Get more info on the landlord. Find out all that you can about who owns and manages the property. Meet the landlord in person before you sign any rental agreement. Property Reporter has the right idea: “A genuine landlord or letting agent will also be happy to meet a prospective tenant as they’ll want to make sure you’re legitimate, just like you want to do with them. If they don’t wish to meet, you can presume they’re hiding something.”
- Go see the property and don’t sign unless you see it first. Seeing the apartment or house you’ll be renting gives you the chance to inspect it closely while meeting the landlord in person. You can verify it’s a legitimate rental, ask questions, check out the neighborhood and more when you show up on site.
- Search the address online to be sure it’s not listed for sale on another site. Since some scammers like to put fake rentals on classified ad sites, searching the address of the rental online is the best way to confirm it’s not a home someone else is trying to sell.
- Review the lease carefully before agreeing to rent. “Once you’ve viewed the property and your application is accepted, you’ll be asked to sign a lease. It’s important to look over all the components of the lease to ensure it includes everything that you’ve agreed on. If you have any concerns, be sure to bring these to the attention of your landlord before signing.”
- Refuse to wire upfront money for the deposit.
When you’re in the market to rent a home or apartment, reach out to the team at Gaskill Realty. We can help you find a home you’ll love without all the hassle of tricksters who have rental scams up their sleeves.