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Apartment hunting is an exciting process. Sometimes it gets so exciting that you can hardly differentiate between a real and fictitious rental. And that's the moment you can easily fall victim to a rental scam. The target audience of rental scammers are prospective renters who have been desperately searching for an affordable home for a long time without success.
Are you savvy enough to recognize a rental scam? If you're not sure, pay attention to these common red flags when applying for a rental:
1. The Rental Price Is Suspiciously Low
The rental cost depends upon several factors, including the size, neighborhood, and condition of a house. The appliances and furniture are also included in the overall rental price. Rentals in a safe neighborhood with developed infrastructure are much more expensive than single-family units located in a suburban area.
A spacious apartment with Victorian-era furniture for under $300 per month is a potential scam. It's obviously too good to be true! You're lucky if you realize it before paying a scam landlord that 300 bucks. But if data analysis isn't your outstanding skill, don't get upset. Listing websites are usually very serious about any type of fraudulent activities. You just need to stay attentive in order to identify whether you're dealing with a verified listing or a fraud.
2. The "Potential Landlord" Is Asking For Up-front Payment Without Previewing the Property
It's pretty suspicious when a landlord insistently asks you to provide a rent payment prior to seeing a rental. Never send money to an unknown person, even if the rental looks perfect! You never know whether the pictures are real or the rental is actually vacant.
Scammers sometimes try to rent the same property to multiple tenants or to list properties that don't even exist. Once they collect all the pre-payments, you're unlikely to hear from them again, especially if the payments have been sent in cash with no receipts.
3. The Security Deposit Is Too High
A typical security deposit is usually the same amount as the first month's rent. It might also be double the monthly rent amount. If your monthly rent is $1,000, for instance, the maximum security deposit a landlord can charge is $2,000. No matter how appealing the offer is, paying more than two months in advance should alert you.
4. The Landlord Doesn't Want You to Sign a Lease Agreement or Even Create One
"You don't need any leases. I completely trust you." That's a typical statement from a fake landlord or property manager. Run away as fast as you can from this scammer. Real landlords will never disregard a lease agreement, because it protects their rights and responsibilities as well. Scam landlords don't care about these details. They're interested in getting the full rent amount as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that scam landlords don't like the idea of running background or credit checks. Tenant screening is something that contradicts their scam attempts. Once you've noticed any suspicious behavior on the part of your prospective landlord, double check if the person is a REAL landlord owning REAL properties.
5. The Landlord Insists on Renting Their Property
If a landlord is too eager to rent out a property, they either like you a lot or are trying to twist you around their little finger. Make sure they use trustworthy property management software. Any fraudulent activities performed through a third party create additional legal trouble.
Have you ever become a victim of a rental scam? Share your stories by leaving comments below.