Last updated on April 13th, 2023 at 09:21 am
With the FBI warning of a spike in rental scams, it’s now more important than ever to know how to protect yourself from becoming a victim. So you’re searching for a rental property, and maybe you’ve engaged a realtor to help you find a rental. There is no greater feeling of dread than the prospect of falling victim to a rental scam. Every year, thousands of people are caught out by dodgy landlords and devious agents who are only after your cash – and they don’t care if they have to bend the truth to get it.
But don’t worry – there is a way to protect yourself against rental scammers. Here are some of the best pieces of advice you’ll ever read on catching a rental scammer before they catch you.
- Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable landlord or agent. It’s important to do your research and read up on any potential landlord or agent before you sign any agreement. Check out reviews online and ask around to ensure that the person you’re dealing with is legitimate.
- Be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals. If a rental property seems too good to be true – it probably is. Be skeptical of any landlord or agent who requires a large sum of money upfront and refuses to show you the property before you sign a contract.
- Make sure you’re fully informed. Read through all the terms and conditions of your agreement in full before signing. If anything is unclear or seems too vague, don’t sign up until you’re sure you understand it.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it. Walk away if necessary and make sure you’re comfortable with everything before you sign.
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- Don’t pay anything until you see the apartment first and then sign a contract (that you can have checked by friends, and specialists), get the keys, and move in.
- Pay for the apartment from your bank account to the bank account from the contract.
- Always film and photograph everything in the rental you’re interested in, do the same at the end of your lease, and preferably, have the landlord sign a document in which they state they are happy with the state the property is in and they have no claims to make. This way the landlord cannot scam you out of your deposit, which is very common.
- If the photos of the apartment are super grainy or poor quality. This is usually a clear sign it is a SCAM listing. Someone probably stole the photos from the actual lister.
- One of the biggest warning signs of a rental scam is when the “owner” is overseas or in another country. You hear of a place. It seems like a great deal. You just have to send the security deposit (and maybe the first month’s rent) to the owner and he’ll send you the keys to the place.
- Check if the person you’re dealing with is listed on the deed as the owner (check through your County Assessor’s office), if not it’s probably a scam.
- Ask to speak to current tenants: Current tenants can help you confirm the information provided by the landlord.
- Do not pay via wire transfer or cash: Scammers generally ask for payments in cash or via wire transfer because this form of payment is impossible to track. When possible, use a credit card, or if that’s not possible a check.
How Do I Report a Rental Scammer?
Start by contacting the relevant authorities: Depending on the nature of the scam, you may need to contact different authorities. If you’ve been a victim of fraud, you should contact your local police department or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). If you suspect that a rental listing is fake or that a landlord is engaging in illegal practices, you should contact your state’s attorney general or consumer protection office.
Your next step is to contact the rental platform: If you found the rental listing on a platform such as Zillow or Craigslist, you should report the scam to the platform. They may be able to remove the listing and prevent the scammer from targeting others.
Landlord Scammed Me, What Should I Do?
As a tenant, the last thing you want is to be scammed by your landlord. Unfortunately, it does happen, and it can be a stressful and frustrating experience. If you find yourself in this situation, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and get the justice you deserve.
- Gather Evidence
- Contact the Authorities
- Get Legal Advice
- Contact your local housing authority
- Consider mediation
How to Verify Owner of Rental Property
One of the easiest ways to verify the owner of a rental property is to check public records. Many cities and counties have online databases that allow you to search for property ownership information. You can search by the property address or the owner’s name to see if they are listed as the owner of the property. This information can also give you an idea of how long the owner has owned the property and if there are any liens or other issues associated with the property.
How to Check Your Landlord for Free
In most cases, state or local housing authorities maintain databases of licensed landlords, and you can easily check if your landlord is on the list. You can also check if your landlord has been involved in any legal or regulatory issues related to renting properties. You can usually find this information on the housing authority’s website or by calling their office.
You can also do a quick online search of your landlord’s name and see what comes up. Check for any reviews or complaints on websites such as Yelp, Google, or Facebook. You can also search the landlord’s name in the local newspaper to see if they’ve been involved in any disputes or lawsuits related to renting properties.
How to Spot a Fake Lease Agreement
A fake lease agreement can lead to many problems, such as losing your money and even getting evicted from the apartment. Here are some tips on how to spot a fake lease agreement:
- Check the landlord’s information
- Look for typos and grammatical errors
- Check the lease agreement’s duration and terms
- Check for the landlord’s signature
- Check for hidden fees
How to Spot a Rental Scammer on Craigslist
Craigslist has made it easier than ever to find a place to live. Unfortunately, this also means that scammers have found new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting renters. If you’re in the market for a rental property, it’s important to know how to spot a scammer on Craigslist to avoid falling victim to their schemes.
- The deal seems too good to be true
- The landlord is out of town and can’t show you the property
- The landlord asks for payment upfront
- Pressure to Sign a Lease
- The landlord is difficult to reach
How to Check If a Rental Property Is Legit
- Do your research
- Check the property’s ownership
- Check for proper licensing
- View the property before signing the lease
- Ask for references
- Check online reviews
Apartment Rental Frauds: How to Avoid Them
With more and more people searching for apartments online, scammers have found new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting renters. These scams can be devastating, leaving renters without a place to live and out of a significant amount of money. So how can you avoid getting scammed?
Always do your research. Use reputable rental websites and verify that the apartment you are interested in is listed by a legitimate landlord or property management company. If possible, view the apartment in person before making any payments.
Always verify the availability of the apartment before scheduling a viewing. If the landlord or property management company tries to switch you to a more expensive apartment, be wary and do your research before making any decisions.
Avoid identity theft by never providing personal information to someone you do not know. Always verify that the person you are speaking with is a legitimate landlord or property management company before providing any information.