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 perhaps you’ve heard stories from friends, family, and coworkers about their own experiences with scammers. We are all vulnerable to scam artists, even if we never think it would happen to us. Luckily, there are ways you can protect yourself from rental scams. Read on to find out the common rental scams to look out for, ways to prevent being scammed, and what to do if you’re a victim of a fraudulent listing.
Common rental scams to look out for
If a listing feels too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure to do your due diligence when contacting landlords and viewing properties.
Many rental scammers will copy a legitimate listing and just change the contact information. The scammer will tell you that they’ve had a high volume of interest in the unit and that, to reserve it, you need to pay a deposit immediately. The best way to avoid this scam is to ensure you’ve seen the property and refuse to pay any money before doing so.
The fake property
This type of rental scam can be difficult to spot. The scammer will have access to an empty property which they’ll show you around. Unfortunately, the building isn’t theirs to rent out. By the time you realise this, you’ve already parted with your money. It’s always important to be suspicious if the landlord is pressing for you to pay a security deposit/ first month’s rent immediately.
The property is too cheap
Everyone loves a good deal, but if a property is well below market value, there must be something wrong with it. Rental scammers will often list a property at a low price to get prospective renters interested. Then they will pressure the renters to pay a deposit and first months’ rent to secure the property. A property that is priced below the going market rate in your area should be an immediate red flag.
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 scam.
No personal interaction
It’s never a good sign if the person who posted a rental listing says that they are not able to or don’t want to meet you in person. A legitimate landlord will make sure that they can meet you either digitally or in person. Plus, a landlord should want to meet you in person to make sure you’re legitimate as well. On the flip side, scammers typically don’t want to meet you, since they don’t want you to be able to report them.
Expensive background check
It’s common for landlords to perform background checks on all tenants before move-in. Landlords must ensure that the people with whom they are entering into an agreement are exactly who they claim to be. The cost of the background check is frequently included in the rental application fee. It’s crucial to never pay for a background check with cash on the spot. Consult a reputable real estate agent or broker if something doesn’t feel right during the application process.
Dodgy landlords are big fans of adding illegal charges to the tenancy agreement. Be wary of anything you sign your name to. If the charge is in your tenancy agreement and you sign it, you’re agreeing to pay. If you’re unsure whether a charge is necessary, do your research before signing. It is always advisable to seek legal guidance before committing to any agreement.