Common Rental Scams and How to Avoid Them

Olivia Elsher

Aug 1, 2022

Common Rental Scams and How to Avoid Them

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Renting an apartment is both an exciting and stressful time. Living on your own creates a sense of independence. Yet, finding the right apartment can be tricky. With so much housing information out there, how can you tell what’s legitimate and worth pursuing? Here are some of the most common rental scams to look out for and how to avoid them.

1. The Listing Is Duplicated

Some scammers will copy an actual listing and just add in their contact information. They may even significantly lower the price. Most of the time, they will ask for a deposit before showing you the property. When you ask to visit the space, they may claim the landlord is out of town or has a family emergency.

So, to avoid this scam, make sure to see the property first, even though a virtual tour. Also, don’t give away any money until you have viewed it. To verify the listing is legit, look on other websites to see if you can find that listing somewhere else. Be sure to search in other cities as well.

Another way to prevent this type of scam is to read the listing carefully. If you notice there is no exact address or the listing asks for payment through a wire transfer, these are red flags.

2.  There Is No Lease Agreement

A lease is an essential part of the rental process and acts as a formal contract. Many apartments require at least a year-long lease. So, if you ask for the rental agreement, and the lister refuses to provide one, it could indicate a scam. Before renting any property, be sure to sign a lease agreement.

Then, read the document carefully. Keep in mind it should include key information, such as the residence’s address and the landlord’s name. It should also mention when the lease was signed and the dates of the rental period. Also, look to ensure any details about deposits are clearly defined.

3.  There Is an Expensive Background Check

Landlords will often conduct background checks to screen tenants. They want to ensure the people moving in are a good fit and aren’t hiding any personal information. Background checks usually look at your employment history and credit score.

However, if the fee seems too high, it can raise a red flag. A typical background check costs between $30-$50 and is often part of the rental application fee. To help avoid this scam, don’t give cash on-the-spot for the background check. Also, find a reputable real estate agent or broker. They can help point out if something is off during the rental process.

To find a real estate agent, start within your network and ask for referrals. Before hiring one, do some research and look into their social media and consumer ratings. You can also check out real estate brokerage companies and referral agents. Ensure your realtor has years of experience, relevant certifications, and marketing skills.

4.  The Property Is Priced Suspiciously Low

Finding a perfect deal is a huge factor when comparing listings. However, if the price seems too good to be true, it just might be. Any listing below the local market value is usually a warning sign.

Scammers may also ask for the security deposit and first month’s rent upfront. So, do your research and compare the apartments with other local listings. This will give you a better idea of the market trends in your area.

Also, consider the value of the amenities to determine whether the pricing is reasonable. Many scammers will lift key features from already posted listings to attract tenets.

5.  The Owner Isn’t the One Hosting the Property Tour

While there may be times when the owner cannot show the property, this is something to look out for. Pay attention to how much information the host can provide. If they can’t answer specific questions about the application process or lease terms, this is a bad sign. Another key indicator is if they don’t have access to certain parts of the property.

To avoid this scam, perform background research on the landlord. Check your local public ownership records. Search for the property’s address and verify the landlord listed matches your information. Another good source to consult is the neighbors of the residence.

Scams Every Renter Should Look Out For

When it comes to leasing an apartment, there are so many moving parts. First, you have to find a local listing and then sign all the paperwork. Along the way, you want to look out for potential phishers. As you search for your dream home, keep in mind these common rental scams and tips for avoiding them.


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