How to avoid a rental property scam

How to avoid a rental property scam

It’s so exciting to come across an incredible deal during your apartment search. So much so, in fact, that you can accidentally walk into a rental scam. While a majority of rental listings are legitimate, rental scams are out there—and not always easy to spot. Here’s what to look for when renting an apartment .

5 common rental scam red flags (and how to avoid them)

1. Fake real estate agent services

If you come across a service offering to generate a list of pre-foreclosure or rent-to-own rental properties for you, it’s probably a rental scam. The idea is appealing because of the low price points of these properties. These services request either a sign-up fee or a monthly fee of up to $200. The list is usually full of sham real estate listings, either fake or expired, and it’s impossible to get a refund on the sign-up fee.

Avoid this one by searching rental listings on Trulia. When landlords are ready to rent, they post their listings so they’re easy to find—it’s as simple as that.

2. Asking for money before seeing the apartment

No online listing is so in-demand that a landlord will request money before you see it in person—even if you’re in a competitive market. These write-ups can seem completely above board otherwise, so they can be tough to spot. Just remember that there should never be a cost for admission to simply view a rental, so if the listing asks for cash up front, walk away.

These rental scams also commonly ask for the funds through a money transfer, which is another red flag: it’s basically impossible to stop payment on a wire transfer, unlike a check or credit card payment.

3. A copy-and-pasted ad

When a legitimate landlord writes up a compelling description of a real vacant apartment and posts the listing online, a scammer can very easily copy and paste the listing—but significantly lower the price. This is intended to generate furious interest, getting people to hand over security deposit asap.

This is known the “clone scam.” This maneuver is especially aimed at someone who’s busy or renting from out of town and is willing to put down money before seeing the rental unit. Another clue will be a request for an unusually high security deposit, since the scammer is seeking to take off with as much money as possible, and as fast as possible.

If you are renting from out of town and can’t view a property in person before renting, do your research. Search the address online to see if other listings exist. You can even contact city hall to verify the owner of the property matches the contact info you have for the supposed landlord.

4. An MIA landlord

If a landlord says they’re out of the country, sick, or otherwise detained, but still want first, last, and a security deposit, it’s likely a rental scam. Typically, the property in question is either bank-owned, a vacant vacation home, or is empty for another reason. Regardless of where they live, a legitimate landlord or property manager will be willing to arrange for someone to meet you and show you inside the unit.

5. A withheld security deposit

Unfortunately, even landlords who otherwise seem to follow landlord tenant law can try to pull a scam at the end of your lease. If the property owner gets cagey about your security deposit when the time comes for you to move out, take the issue seriously. They may say they’ll mail you a check and it never arrives, or they’ll claim they need to keep the deposit to cover damages, even though you left the place in great shape.

This isn’t legal. It’s a good idea to take photos of your apartment when you move in and before you leave to prove the apartment was left in good condition. If the deposit still hasn’t materialized, send a certified-mail request for its return. If that doesn’t work, you can take the issue to small claims court.

Now that you know how to avoid the wrong listings, make sure you find the best ones in the right neighborhood. Check out our guide to finding a neighborhood for you, next.

How to avoid a rental property scam

How To Avoid A Rental Scam

14 October 2020

Renting for the first time might be very exciting. Having your own space will give you a sense of independence and you’ll have the sweet taste of freedom. As exciting as it is, you need to be aware that there are some risks to be aware of, like rental scams.

Here are some red flags and advice on how to address them:

RED FLAG #1 – The landlord does not want to meet you in person

Scammers don’t want to be identified, so they will try to manage the situation remotely. They may tell you that they are out of town, in hospital or otherwise engaged to avoid meeting you. This is suspicious because a property is a big asset and one would expect a real landlord to take care when choosing the person who will live there.

Insist on meeting the landlord for the benefit of both parties. As much as he needs to vet you, you need to be comfortable that this is someone you can trust and rely on to maintain the place you call home.

RED FLAG #2 – The landlord wants you to commit before you physically view the property

Scammers want to get your money as quickly as possible and will prey on your fear of missing out to get you to pay to secure the property before viewing it.

If the landlord is hesitant to allow you to see the property, be wary. Insist on viewing the property. This way you can see if it is the same as the listing and if it meets your expectations.

RED FLAG #3 – The price seems too good to be true

We’d all like to have a cheap rental, but if something is priced too low it could be too good to be true.

Have a look at the surrounding properties and check the prices of those to compare. If there is a significant difference, ask the landlord why this is. A valid reason may be that he is managing the property himself and isn’t paying an agent (this may account for 8-12% variances).

RED FLAG #4 – The listing is vague

The listing needs to have detailed information about features, availability, special conditions (e.g. no pets). It should include enough photographs for you to see all aspects of the property. There should also be contact information of the landlord or agent.

Ask for details and check that they are consistent e.g. photographs should match the description and features of the property.

RED FLAG #5 – The landlord wants to seal the deal quickly

If the landlord is too eager to get you to sign a contract and does not suggest any tenant vetting (e.g. credit and reference checks) be careful.

Placing tenants who will pay rent on time and who will look after the property are priorities for landlords. Don’t trust a landlord who is negligent about this.

RED FLAG #6 – There is no lease agreement in play

You’re at risk if there is no clear and comprehensive lease agreement governing your rental and, specifically, how your deposit will be handled, when your rent is due, what maintenance obligations will be yours vs. what the landlord must take responsibility for and what notice you need to give before vacating the property.

While verbal commitments can be legally binding, it can be difficult if not impossible to prove them in court or in front of the Rental Housing Tribunal. Don’t take a chance; rather insist on a signed lease agreement consisting of terms you fully understand and are prepared to commit to.

Finding a rental property that suits your needs and simultaneously trying to avoid rental scams can be overwhelming. This is why we suggest using Just Property and our trusted agents to help you. We have thousands of rental listings available across the country and 20+ years’ of experience in property rentals and management.

Rental peace of mind. Delivered.

For more information on Just Property please visit www.just.property or call (087) 550 2258.

Follow Just Property on Facebook and Twitter

How to avoid a rental property scam

Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

If you’re looking for an apartment, the last thing you want is to fall victim to a rental scam. Scam artists like to take advantage of prospective tenants because emotions involved in the apartment-hunting process can make people more vulnerable.

For instance, if you’re feeling excitement and enthusiasm about finding a new home, your eagerness might make you become more trusting. Scam artists also prey on apartment hunters who are in a time crunch (because of a job relocation or personal issue, for example) and are desperate to find a new place as soon as possible.

Fortunately, there are ways apartment hunters can lower the likelihood of getting caught up in a rental scam. Here’s what you should keep in mind when you’re looking for the perfect rental:

What Is a Rental Scam?

Rental scams are a variation on a theme. The scammer tries to get money from a prospective tenant for an apartment that the scammer is in no legal position to rent.

The apartment might be real (in which case, the scammer doesn’t have the authority to lease it) or fictitious. The scammer could be a real landlord or, more likely, an impostor.

Scammers typically try to get money from unsuspecting apartment hunters, then disappear. For example, a tenant who’s vacating his apartment might decide to show it, pretending to be the landlord. He might lead all prospects to believe they’re getting that apartment and collect fees and security deposits upfront. Once the prospects realize they’ve been scammed, the scammer has usually vanished with their money.

Follow the General Rule

Don’t let your guard down when looking for an apartment. Just because you use a reputable apartment search web site doesn’t mean you can’t get scammed by unscrupulous landlords or people posing as landlords who manage to get their listings onto these sites.

If something feels wrong with a listing, the application process feels rushed, or the whole experience just seems too good to be true, it may be wise not to pursue it.

Here are some common red flags to help you spot and avoid rental scams while looking for an apartment:

You’re Asked to Send Money Without Having Met Anyone or Seen the Apartment

It’s not common to pay a lot of money for something sight-unseen. So, if a landlord expects you to pay a lot before you lease an apartment, it’s a reason to be concerned. Don’t rely on promises or photos. Actually, visit any apartment you’re considering renting. According to a warning on Craigslist, not following this one rule accounts for 99 percent of scam attempts.

Landlord Seems Too Eager to Lease the Apartment

Many landlords want to know your credit score, and they may also want more information about you, such as a criminal background check and employment verification. If a landlord doesn’t seem interested in any form of tenant screening or appears too eager to negotiate the rent and other lease terms with you, it’s suspicious.

Unusually High Security Deposit or Too Many Upfront Fees

If the landlord wants a higher security deposit than what’s required by law, or if upfront fees seem excessive to you, it could be a sign that the landlord wants to take your money and run.

Unwarranted Sales Pressure

If a landlord acts too pushy, it can be a red flag.

You’re Told You Don’t Need a Lawyer

It’s true you don’t need a lawyer to review your lease, and generally speaking, it’s in a landlord’s best interest for you to skip lawyer review and just take the rental. But when a landlord makes a point of saying that you don’t need a lawyer, it could be a sign that the landlord is trying to rush you into signing the lease and handing over money, perhaps because he doesn’t really own the building or already leased the apartment to someone else.

You’re Told You Don’t Need a Lease

It’s true you don’t need a lease to live in an apartment. Although renting an apartment under a lease is the most typical situation, a month-to-month rental agreement is fairly common. But only you know what you need. If a landlord tries to get money from you without considering that you might want a lease, think twice. It could be that the “landlord” doesn’t have any lease to show you.

The Landlord Not Being Able to Meet You or Show the Property

The person behind a listing might say he’s out of the country indefinitely or that he won’t return until after you would need to agree to the rental and pay money.

What If You Get Scammed?

If you become the victim of an apartment scam in the United States, you might feel there’s not much you can do. But there are steps you can take to help catch who’s behind the scam, get your money back, and put this unfortunate experience in the past.

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Internet-originating scams are not uncommon. From work-at-home scams to phishing scams to email lottery scams, some are more obvious while others, such as apartment rental scams, are less obvious but can still rob you of your hard-earned money.

Whether you are a tenant looking for apartments for rent or a landlord looking for a new tenant, here are five tips to help you avoid getting scammed:

1. Remember the mantra, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

If the going rate for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath home in your preferred neighborhood is $1,000 per month, be very cautious of listings for the same size/amenities priced significantly lower. It may be that the home is a dump, it may be the home is in a bad location, but it’s most likely a scammer is trying to bait you with a super-low price to a property they don’t own. Their goal is to make contact with you in hopes of getting a credit card number, Social Security number or any other personally identifying property to “hold the property.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Keep that mantra in the back of your head.

2. Carefully analyze email correspondence for red flags.

If you’re a renter or a landlord, watch out for these red flags:

  • Overseas emails, especially those originating in well-known scamming countries like Nigeria that show interest in renting your home. Oftentimes there will be a far-fetched story to go along with the email. For landlords, be aware of the renter email that explains they are coming to the U.S. to work for a large, reputable company, or are going to school in the U.S. There are many variations to this scam, but one example is the renter will send a cashier’s check for an amount larger than required. You then go to the bank, deposit the check and send the excess funds either back to the tenant or to another party only to find out days later that the original cashier’s check is fake and that your bank wants you to pay them back. Another scam is when people pose as landlords and ask that you wire them rent money in exchange for the keys. You wire the money, but the keys are not sent; or, the keys arrive, but they are a fake set.
  • Over-the-top emails. Whether it is a promise to pay more than the agreed upon rent or one referring to you as their dearest friend after just one email exchange, be cautious of odd, inappropriate or over-the-top emails.
  • Claiming to be someone they are not. For the most part, kings, queens, princesses and sons of diplomats will not contact you about your $1,000 per month home. People of that stature do not do the work for themselves and typically have no desire to move to Your Home, USA. Scammers also may use other, less obvious aliases such as titles of U.S. overseas military personnel or clergy with the intent of making you feel safer when communicating with them.
  • Bad English. Poorly written property advertisements or email communication with major grammar or capitalization errors should trigger a red flag on both the landlord and tenant side. This may be a sign that the landlord or tenant is not as ‘local’ as they say they are.

3. Make sure that the property you are interested in is legitimately for rent. With the number of vacant homes and displaced homeowners on the rise due to foreclosure, there is a large market for scammers. Nowadays it is not uncommon to hear stories about scammers renting out homes that do not belong to them. Typically, scammers will find bank-owned homes that have sat vacant for awhile, break in, change the locks and rent them out as their own. Homes may be rented for weeks or even months until the bank or real estate agent assigned to sell the property discovers what has happened. Eventually the tenant will be served with a trespassing notice and be forced to leave the premises with 72 hours. Before you rent out a home and hand over your money, do an address and landlord search on the Internet to look for irregularities. Check to see if the owner’s name matches the name for the home at the county assessor’s office. Lastly, be bold and ask the neighbors if they know who lives there.

4. Use a reputable source in your search for rental listings. Online rental listing sources such as Zillow.com require that landlords pay a monthly premium to post homes for rent. This not only prevents stale listings, but is also serves as a deterrent to potential scammers who may be looking to make money without having to spend it first.

5. Finally, if someone asks you pay rent without seeing the property and signing a lease, don’t do it. As a renter, under no circumstances should you be required to pay a rental fee to the landlord before being allowed to view the property. Doing so may result in the loss of your money even if you are using a reputable payment source; even PayPal will not reimburse you when real estate-related transactions go bad. In addition, as a landlord you should never help a future tenant relay money to yourself or other parties via money transfers, cashiers checks or wires. As a note of caution, the most-trafficked avenues for scammers dealing with the exchange of funds are money transfers, cashiers checks or wires. This is because they are hard to track, can be collected anywhere in the world and can be easy to forge.

As a rule of thumb it is always best to refrain from giving out any personally identifiable information or credit card/bank information over the Internet or phone, especially if the situation doesn’t feel quite right. If you have fallen victim to Internet fraud or have been preyed upon by an Internet scammer you can file a complaint at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Finding a nice affordable apartment in a great location is not the easiest of tasks. It requires a lot of time and effort and can be pretty overwhelming. There are always people out there ready to take advantage of you when you are confused and, therefore, vulnerable. When looking for their next apartments, renters share sensitive information and pay a lot of money upfront, which can be tempting for scammers. According to a recent report published by our research team, an estimated 43.1% of renters have encountered a listing they suspected was fraudulent, and a whopping 5.2 million U.S. renters have lost money from rental fraud. To help you avoid becoming another victim of rental scammers, we put together this guide with tips on spotting and avoiding rental scams.

What are rental scams
Types of rental scams
[Red flags to help you identify a rental scam] (#Red flags to help you identify a rental scam)[
] (#Red flags to help you identify a rental scam)Things to do to avoid rental scams

What are rental scams

A rental scam is a fraudulent activity by a person who claims to rent a property that isn’t their rental, doesn’t exist, or is their rental but is different from what’s advertised. The main goal of rental scam-artists is to collect money in the form of application fees, pet fees, security deposits and rent from a prospective tenant without providing the advertised rental property. To avoid rental scams, you have to know red flags to watch out for when looking for an apartment.

How to avoid a rental property scam

When searching for a new apartment to rent, you’ll probably run into a few listings that make you wonder if it’s too good to be true. So how do you avoid the possibility of falling for a rental scam?

This post covers the basics about how to recognize and avoid apartment rental scams. By the end of this, you’ll have better clues about listings that are not legitimate and how you can avoid them.

(Sidenote: If you’re looking for listings on Rentler, they have a full-time fraud team looking for fake listings and a process in place that helps stop fraudulent listings before they go up. But occassionally you’ll still run into someone who was able to scam the system- that’s when these tips will come in handy!)

First things first, what is a rental scam?

Generally, rental scams revolve around cash exchanging hands for the wrong reasons. There are so many kinds of scams out there.

In simple terms, a rental scam is when a scammer tries to solicit cash in exchange for an apartment that he/she isn’t legally allowed to rent out.

When you find your dream place and take the next step, look at who listed the property.

Are they part of a professional property management company? Do they have a professional website you can trust? Good reviews? That’s a good indicator it’s legit.

For listings posted by a DIY landlord, you’ll need to do your due diligence. So, what can you do to ensure you don’t find yourself in a rental scam? Here’s everything you need to know:

How to Recognize an Apartment Rental Scam

How to avoid a rental property scam

Before you can learn how to avoid getting into a scam, you must first know how to spot one from a mile away. That means looking out for red flags and indicators that don’t seem legitimate.

1. When the landlord seems too eager to lease the apartment.

Nowadays, landlords are often very thorough when it comes to tenant screening. They’ll do a background and credit check just to make sure that you are an ideal candidate

However, if you come across a landlord who doesn’t care about knowing who you are first before leasing the apartment, be very cautious. It could be a scam.

2. When the landlord requires you to send money even before you meet with them or view the apartment.

How to avoid a rental property scam

This one’s a classic red flag. And don’t get it wrong, at some point landlords may ask you for money upfront (application fees and so on). However, that’s always after you have met, talked, viewed the apartment and agreed to fill out an application form.

Obviously, you shouldn’t let anyone coerce you into paying for something you haven’t seen. Sweet words and charming photos don’t count. You need to make sure you see the property and confirm that you are dealing with the legal owner or manager.

3. When there’s no lease agreement to sign.

When moving into a new apartment, a lease agreement is always very important. It dictates what the landlord requires of you and what you should do in case something happens.

In fact, a lease agreement is more important to the landlord than it is to the tenant. Therefore, when the landlord doesn’t require you to sign a lease agreement, you should rethink the offer. It’s a major red flag.

4. When the landlord is “too far” to show you the property.

How to avoid a rental property scam

There are a few instances where you’ll come across rental vacancy listing by people who are “too far to come to show you the apartment.”

The listing poster may tell you that they are living abroad, or they won’t be coming back any time soon. In fact, some will try to ask you to pay them so that they can show up.

For example, they might say, “The only way to be certain that you are serious about renting my apartment is if you send me some money. After you do, I’ll come so that we can finalize the lease.”

If you come across this type of rental, walk away because it’s a scam.

5. When the landlord exerts a lot of unwarranted pressure to close the deal.

Yes! If you notice that the landlord is a bit pushy or in a hurry to get your money, it could be a red flag. If this happens to you, don’t rush. Take your time to learn as much as you can about the property and its owner.

If everything checks out, then you can proceed to sign the lease. However, if you find yourself in doubt or having suspicions that the landlord is shady, it’s best to walk away from the deal.

These are just a few of the many red flags you can use to tell whether or not you’re walking into a rental scam. In order to be certain about a potential apartment, below are a few things you can do.

How to Avoid Apartment Rental Scams

Now that you know how to recognize scams, you need to learn how to scam-proof your search for an apartment rental. Here are ten tips you can use to achieve this:

  1. Make sure you meet the landlord or manager first before sending them money.
  2. Always insist on viewing the property first.
  3. Do your due diligence to make sure that the landlord/manager is really who they say they are.
  4. Always insist on signing a lease agreement.
  5. Make sure the rent amount, application fees, and security deposits are within local legal requirements.
  6. Be wary of landlords who insist on getting paid in cash. Because it is not easy to trace when the landlord disappears.
  7. Make sure the lease agreement identifies the owner of the property.
  8. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. Walk away.
  9. Talk to previous and current tenants. They’ll have more valuable information you can use to arrive at a sensible decision.
  10. Make sure that the lease agreement is as per the rental listing. The details, terms, and price have to be the same. Otherwise, you may become a hostage of your lease agreement.

In conclusion, there are so many apartment rental scams out there and doing due diligence could save you thousands of dollars. Happy house hunting!

How to avoid a rental property scam

How To Avoid A Rental Scam

14 October 2020

Renting for the first time might be very exciting. Having your own space will give you a sense of independence and you’ll have the sweet taste of freedom. As exciting as it is, you need to be aware that there are some risks to be aware of, like rental scams.

Here are some red flags and advice on how to address them:

RED FLAG #1 – The landlord does not want to meet you in person

Scammers don’t want to be identified, so they will try to manage the situation remotely. They may tell you that they are out of town, in hospital or otherwise engaged to avoid meeting you. This is suspicious because a property is a big asset and one would expect a real landlord to take care when choosing the person who will live there.

Insist on meeting the landlord for the benefit of both parties. As much as he needs to vet you, you need to be comfortable that this is someone you can trust and rely on to maintain the place you call home.

RED FLAG #2 – The landlord wants you to commit before you physically view the property

Scammers want to get your money as quickly as possible and will prey on your fear of missing out to get you to pay to secure the property before viewing it.

If the landlord is hesitant to allow you to see the property, be wary. Insist on viewing the property. This way you can see if it is the same as the listing and if it meets your expectations.

RED FLAG #3 – The price seems too good to be true

We’d all like to have a cheap rental, but if something is priced too low it could be too good to be true.

Have a look at the surrounding properties and check the prices of those to compare. If there is a significant difference, ask the landlord why this is. A valid reason may be that he is managing the property himself and isn’t paying an agent (this may account for 8-12% variances).

RED FLAG #4 – The listing is vague

The listing needs to have detailed information about features, availability, special conditions (e.g. no pets). It should include enough photographs for you to see all aspects of the property. There should also be contact information of the landlord or agent.

Ask for details and check that they are consistent e.g. photographs should match the description and features of the property.

RED FLAG #5 – The landlord wants to seal the deal quickly

If the landlord is too eager to get you to sign a contract and does not suggest any tenant vetting (e.g. credit and reference checks) be careful.

Placing tenants who will pay rent on time and who will look after the property are priorities for landlords. Don’t trust a landlord who is negligent about this.

RED FLAG #6 – There is no lease agreement in play

You’re at risk if there is no clear and comprehensive lease agreement governing your rental and, specifically, how your deposit will be handled, when your rent is due, what maintenance obligations will be yours vs. what the landlord must take responsibility for and what notice you need to give before vacating the property.

While verbal commitments can be legally binding, it can be difficult if not impossible to prove them in court or in front of the Rental Housing Tribunal. Don’t take a chance; rather insist on a signed lease agreement consisting of terms you fully understand and are prepared to commit to.

Finding a rental property that suits your needs and simultaneously trying to avoid rental scams can be overwhelming. This is why we suggest using Just Property and our trusted agents to help you. We have thousands of rental listings available across the country and 20+ years’ of experience in property rentals and management.

Rental peace of mind. Delivered.

For more information on Just Property please visit www.just.property or call (087) 550 2258.

Follow Just Property on Facebook and Twitter

Before you sign a lease or make a payment, read up on these common scams and make sure you’re not falling prey to one.

How to avoid a rental property scam

Let’s face it, the rental world is not immune to scammers. In fact, you might have had your own experience with a rental scam or heard stories from friends, family, and coworkers about theirs. Although we never think it could happen to us, we are all vulnerable to scam artists. Luckily, there are ways we can protect ourselves from the most simplistic to the quite sophisticated scammer, even during these COVID-19 times where things are all happening virtually. Read on to find out how to avoid the most common rental scams.

The Rental Scam: Copied Listings

How to avoid a rental property scam

Have you ever been on a rental site and seen a listing that sounds perfect, maybe even too perfect to be true? Well, it probably is. Behind that posting, there’s likely a scammer waiting to take advantage of your excitement. Scam artists often copy listing details from an actual listing and create their own posting for the apartment. They might take the details from this dream apartment and lower the listing price by hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to make it seem like it’s available at an unbeatable price.

Red Flag: The scammer will tell you that they’ve had a high volume of interest in the unit and that, in order to reserve it, you need to pay a deposit immediately to claim it before someone else does. They might also refuse to virtually tour you through the unit without payment first.

How to Avoid It: The best way to avoid this scam is to ensure you’ve seen the apartment— through a virtual tour—and refuse to pay any money before doing so. Common excuses for not being able to show the apartment include the landlord saying they’re out of town, living overseas temporarily, or dealing with a family emergency. Although these may sound believable at first, it’s always best to avoid situations where you’re asked to pay money without meeting the landlord or at least having them show you the apartment first.

The Rental Scam: Expensive Background Checks

How to avoid a rental property scam

It’s typical (and quite common) for landlords to perform background checks on all tenants before move-in. Landlords need to be sure that the people they’re signing an agreement with are exactly who they say they are. Often, the rental application fee will include the price of the background check. Some scammers, though, will ask for an exorbitant amount of money, saying that’s how much they need from you in order to cover the cost of a background check.

Red Flag: If a landlord, or scam artist, asks for more than $30-$60 to pay for your background check, beware! This is a rental scam.

How to Avoid it: It’s important to never hand over cash on the spot for the background check. Work with a reliable real estate agent or broker so that you have someone to consult if something doesn’t feel right during the application process.

The Rental Scam: No Lease

How to avoid a rental property scam

Some scam artists will ask you to rent an apartment or unit without signing any documentation. Don’t do it! Verbal agreements are uncommon and should cause suspicion. Month-to-month leases are common, but they usually include some form of agreement to sign beforehand. An agreement without a lease has the potential to be a rental fraud.

Due to COVID-19, this rental scam risks becoming more common, as many renters are moving toward virtually touring an apartment, remote lease signing, and limiting interactions with landlords and property managers.

Red Flag: When you ask for the rental agreement, the landlord will make an excuse as to why they can’t or don’t want to use one, in which case you’ll know it is a scam.

How to Avoid it: Do not rent without seeing a lease or rental agreement first. Be upfront and ask to see a lease; you’ll thank yourself later. If a landlord does produce a lease, make sure to read it carefully and ask questions before making any decisions.

Pro Tips For Renting Safely

If possible, try speaking with the current tenants. If someone lives in the unit now, they are usually the best source of information about the apartment and landlord.

  • You can ask about the cost of utilities, rent increases, and anything else that the landlord might be less inclined to tell you.
  • It may be worth asking about the security deposit set-up and the terms of the lease (if the current tenants are comfortable talking about it) so you know what you may be getting into.

Never wire money or provide sensitive, personal information (like your social security number or bank account routing numbers), to someone who has posted an unverified listing. Above all, if something feels fishy, trust your instincts. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your money. Contact an expert to take the appropriate steps if you think you’re being scammed.

Although it can happen to anyone, keep in mind that most landlords are not trying to scam you. It’s important to be aware of many things when renting an apartment, rental scams included. The safest and most reliable way to rent is to work with a licensed real estate agent.

At Zumper, we have plenty of apartments for rent that are listed by certified brokers, so you can rent worry-free.