Common Rental Scams and How to Avoid Them

April 12, 2022

Sidestep Those Sketchy Online Ads with These Rentals Tips

Finding a new home in today’s digital marketplace can come with a certain set of complications. From planning a move to the oversaturated volume of listings to dealing with agents and realtors, the entire process can be stressful– if not overwhelming, compiled with the challenges of everyday life.

And as with every complex market, there are people out there determined to exploit these financial and social anxieties for selfish gains– especially in major markets where the processes of looking and applying for a place to live can be strenuous and exhausting. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to identify and avoid some of the most common rental scams in the market.

Lack of Information

You may have heard the term “it’s a buyers market” before. That’s a polite way to say there are many more places available in the marketplace than people looking to buy or rent. Why is this important in avoiding moving scams? It should be easier to spot misleading or fake ads by the way they are advertised.

A lack of clear information about a potential listing should be your first red flag when assessing the legitimacy of a unit or rental home. A legitimate listing should have pictures and descriptions of the entire space, not just the room or rooms you have access to, and contact info about the landlord or other tenants occupying the space (if applicable). 

Remember, every listing is an advertisement. The lister should be trying to SELL you on the size and amenities of the rental unit or home. If the information is vague (only has a price and room picture), it is likely a fake ad.

Asks for Money Upfront 

Another common scam that preys on naive, underprivileged, or out-of-state renters is a lister that asks for money upfront or wants you to sign for a rental sight unseen. This scam can come in multiple forms, such as showing you pictures of a similar unit or home and saying they all look the same on the inside or declining to meet you in person before signing. Anyone who wants you to sign for a property before viewing typically has a nefarious motive for not wanting to give you a tour.

In the same vein, if the agent or lister asks for money via an unsecured payment method, such as a non-payment-protected digital transfer or wire transfer is likely a scam. Any legitimate lister will ask for a formal payment method like a cashier or bank check.

They Don’t Require a Background Check

Extensive background checks have become a staple of the modern rental market. And for a good reason– renters have a lot to lose leasing their property to someone they don’t know. If someone is offering you an expedited or no pre-approval in order to rent, they are likely trying to scam you for a deposit.

Before You Move

To avoid some of these common scams, here are a few pre-move precautions you can take:

Research the Property Beforehand

 If you’re feeling skeptical about a listing, try to find out as much information about it as possible. Research the agent or number on the listing. Search the building on Google and social media for reviews and first-hand insight. Look at the property via Google’s street view and make sure it looks the same as it does on the listing. If you have the proximity, visit the property beforehand. Do whatever you feel is necessary to make an informed decision.

Ask Questions

Signing a lease is a big commitment. Anyone who asks you to do so without proper consideration of time or tries to rush you through the process likely has an ulterior motive.

Always ask the right questions. Be curious about everything from the neighborhood safety and schooling rating, any problems the home or building has had in the past (mold, water leaks, etc), utility prices, and the previous tenants (if applicable). A legitimate lister should have nothing to hide and be happy to answer any questions you may have about your new potential home. 

Use Your Best Logic

In any situation regarding looking for and moving to a new home, use your best logic. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always take your time and make an informed decision. 


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