If you have been affected by a scam, or have been contacted in relation to tax services, please follow the steps the US government outlines and report it. Refer to our safeguarding tips below for more information:
Renting a new apartment is an exciting time, but navigating all of the logistics can feel overwhelming at times, especially if you’re a first-time renter. While finding the perfect floorplan and location are important, there are several other parts of the process that need your full attention. Ensuring that you’re dealing with a legitimate and reputable property owner should be at the top of that priority list.
Unfortunately, many renters still fall prey to apartment rental scams. Dishonest landlords and phony listings often entrap potential renters in a web of financial headache they never anticipated. These tips will help you spot potential rental fraud and safeguard you against it.
What is a Rental Scam, and How Common Are They?
Rental scams occur in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most common fraud is when someone claims to be a property manager or landlord for an apartment they don’t own or one that doesn’t even exist. When the fraudster does actually own the property, they’ll frequently alter the listing to make the apartment seem much more appealing than it is. Some scammers require you make a deposit before signing the lease to try and lock you in financially.
A survey from 2018 shows that an estimated 43.1% of renters have come across a suspicious listing, and 5.2 million renters in the U.S have lost money from rental scams. The primary targets for apartment scams are renters ages 19 to 29, of which 42% are more likely to take a hefty hit. Despite being very tech-savvy, most young renters may not immediately recognize a scam when they see one. They’re a generation who routinely move to new cities, so they’re often on the hunt for a low-budget deal, making them more susceptible to a fraudulent listing.
How Do I Safeguard Myself Against Rental Scams?
A rental scam is a scheme where someone pressures you to sign a lease or give a deposit for a rental that doesn't exist or isn't available. If you're asked to rent sight unseen, or the rate for a place looks too good to be true, these are signs that you could be getting scammed.
1. Beware of fake listings
It’s essential to be vigilant against scams before it becomes too late. If a listing or deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Check the listing thoroughly for any apparent errors or vague information – poor grammar or spelling could be a sign that the supposed landlord is not credible.
2. Always do your research
Make sure the property you’re considering is legitimate. Always ask to meet with the owner and see the property in person. If the landlord refuses to let you see it or demands a deposit first, that’s a red flag. Verify the apartment’s ownership by looking up city records or speaking with a building manager.
3. Never deal in cash
Cash-only operations are untraceable and, thus, very easy for a scammer to leave with your money. A lot of scam artists insist on dealing in cash only or using wire-transfers. Be especially cautious if the person asks for a security deposit upfront before signing a lease agreement.
4. Protect yourself by signing a written lease
Verbal agreements are unreliable and can cause trouble later down the line. A written contract has all the variables of a lease laid out in case something goes wrong. Report any suspected rental fraud to your local law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission.
5. Rent from a reputable management company
Take the worry out of getting scammed by renting through a credible source, like American Paradise Properties Inc. Trusted property management companies have experienced leasing agents that follow set procedures to help ease your concerns and make the process simpler.
Follow this advice, and it will help you find a new, secure place you’ll love without added, unnecessary stress. Educating yourself on the various types of rental scams is the first step to staying safe.