How To Spot a Rental Scams
When you live out of state and you are trying to move to Arkansas from a distance, you cannot always see your rental properties in person before putting down your deposit. It’s normal to be afraid of falling victim to a rental scam. According to the Federal Trade Commission “some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, scammers have hijacked the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.” These scammers also “make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out.” We at Apartment Hunters want to help make sure you know what to look for to avoid being scammed.
How Do I Know If I’m Being Scammed
We have come up with a few signs that you should be on the lookout for to know if a rental listing is legitimate or if it is a scam.
1. They Will Not Meet in Person
One thing we see often with rental scams is that the landlord will claim that they live out of the country or out of town. They will have excuses like they are in the military, or on a business trip.
If a landlord has a legitimate listing, they will meet up with you ih person to show you the property. They will want to know if their future tenant is a good, reliable person who they would want to lease to.
2. They Ask For Money Early
If your landlord is wanting you to hand over money before you have signed your lease, this is a big red flag that you may be in a rental scam. Always remember that if you are going to rent a property, you and your landlord should have your lease signed before making any large payments. The only payment you may be asked for that is legitimate would be an application fee or a background check fee.
If your landlord says they live out of town and they need you to wire transfer your money, you should report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.
3. Too Good to be True Pricing
As with all things, if you feel suspicious about something being too good to be true, your gut is probably right. You can always compare pricing of similar properties on Zillow or other cost comparison sites. Rentals of a similar size and location should be around the same price. Cheap rent is not always a sign of a scam, but it is definitely something to be weary of. You’ll want to do your research and find out just why it is so inexpensive.
4. Rushed Move In
If you see the property and the landlord is dead set on you moving in very quickly and you feel rushed to sign your lease and move in, take a step back. Ask yourself why they are in such a hurry for you to get moved in. It is most likely because they are hiding something from you and want you locked into your lease before you have a chance to figure out what the problem is.
5.Typos and Grammatical Errors
Be on the lookout for grammatical errors whenever you are reading property listings. If your landlord did not take the time to spell check or write a serious listing, there is a greater probability that the listing was written out by a rental scammer.
6. Signing an Unfinished Lease
I know they can be long and confusing, but you always want to read your lease in its entirety and make sure it is a full, complete lease. An unfinished lease leaves room for the landlord to make changes on pricing or guidelines. Read the full lease and make sure it is complete to save yourself trouble down the road.
7. There is Not a Screening Process
Background checks can be scary and overwhelming, but they are necessary when going through the rental process. Your landlord should want a great tenant, just like you would want a good landlord. If your landlord does not ask for any previous references, or doesn’t do a credit check, this is another big red flag.
What Do I Do Now?
If you feel like you are falling victim to a rental scam, what can you do? For starters, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. Get ahead of the scammers by doing a few things during the renting process
- Meet your landlord in person, or have Apartment Hunters meet them for you
- See your rental property for yourself, or have Apartment Hunters see it for you
- Read over your lease in its entirety before signing
Apartment Hunters of Arkansas has almost 30 years of experience in the real estate business. If you do not have the time to search for a rental property or you are searching from out of town, contact us to do the hard work for you. We will eliminate your fear of being the victim of a rental scam.