There’s nothing worse than finding your dream home, getting invested in it, and then realizing that you fell for an apartment rental scam. You don’t just lose your money. You also lose the security of a home.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to fall for rental scams than you think.
Here are 8 ways to avoid apartment rental scams. Protect yourself, protect your money, and keep renting safely.
What Are Apartment Rental Scams?
There are many types of scams in the world. Nigerian princes, catfish dating profiles, and bank account phishing schemes are some of the most famous ones to note.
Yet, there are a lot simpler and a lot more malicious scams out there that affect millions of Americans.
One of these is apartment rental scams. So, what is it?
In short, a scammer convinces you that they have a property they can rent out to you. You pay a security deposit. And suddenly, your would-be landlord is nowhere to be found.
5.2 million people in the US stumble upon these rental scams every year. Sadly, one-third of these people lose over $1,000.
Luckily, if you know the warning signs, you can avoid them.
The Warning Signs of a Rental Scam
43% of renters have encountered listings that they suspect to be rental scams.
Here are the most common signs that a listing may be part of a rental scam:
- The deal is too good to be true.
- They tell you to wire a security deposit before signing a contract.
- The landlord refuses to meet with you.
- You can’t view the apartment in person.
How to Avoid Apartment Rental Scams
Being a smart renter is crucial when you’re browsing for apartments. Always be vigilant. Don’t believe everything you see or read online. And most importantly, listen to your gut.
If you notice any sign that the listing may not be genuine, it’s best to not proceed. And never give anyone money who isn’t the verified landlord or a representative of a reviewed rental agency.
Follow these steps to protect yourself from a scam:
1. Never Rent Without Seeing the Place First
One of the best ways to avoid a rental scam is to check the apartment out for yourself.
A common practice of rental fraud is posting misleading pictures online. This is how they take advantage of renters who don’t have enough time for a viewing.
And the only way you’ll know that the listing is a real property is by seeing it in person.
So, no matter how busy you are, make sure you always arrange a viewing. If you can’t go in person for some reason, send a trusted friend or family member in your place. Worst case scenario, you should be able to view the apartment in a live virtual tour over Zoom, FaceTime, or a similar platform.
2. Verify the Owner of the Property
Landlords aren’t the only ones who can run a background check on you.
Before you sign a lease, make sure you ask for proof of ownership. The title deed is a good document for this.
Don’t just take anyone’s word for it. Rental scammers can sweet-talk you into giving them one of your organs if they must.
Don’t believe a landlord who promises to show you the title deed after signing the lease. And if the title deed doesn’t have the landlord’s name on it, it’s highly likely that it’s a scam.
As the potential tenant, it’s within your rights to ask questions. So, make use of the right to avoid rental scams.
3. Don’t Trust a Deal That’s Too Good to Be True
Everybody loves a great deal. And getting an affordable apartment is nothing short of a dream come true.
However, you should be wary of houses that are way below the market price.
Cheap listings are one of the ruses rental scammers use to pull prospective buyers in. Sometimes, a deal that’s too good to be true is a rental scam.
4. Make Sure You Sign a Written Lease
When you’re renting an apartment, signing a written lease is a MUST.
It doesn’t just protect you from a rental scam.
A lease is a legally-binding contract that ensures that the relationship between you and your landlord is as safe and streamlined as possible. If you have any disagreements with the landlord, you can use the lease as a starting point for settling disputes.
Make sure that the lease you sign is legally binding. It should cover the tenant and landlord responsibilities accurately.
Always read the full lease document carefully before signing it.
5. Steer Clear of Homeowners with Expensive Background Checks
Landlords can (and should) run background checks on prospective tenants. After all, they need to trust you before letting you into their apartment.
However, when they run these background checks, the prospective tenant is usually the one who pays for them. This fee is usually $30 – $100.
If a homeowner or agent asks you for more than that, you may be falling victim to a rental scam. Listen to those alarm bells ringing in your head and abandon ship.
6. Meet Your Landlord
While not entirely necessary, it’s good to meet your landlord before you sign a lease just to build that relationship and trust with them.
Yet, if you suspect that a rental is part of a scam, it’s almost mandatory to meet the landlord. For one, you can verify their ownership. This is very important..
Most scam artists aren’t comfortable with meeting face to face. A scammer who pretends to be a landlord will claim that they’re abroad or unable to meet you. And if that “landlord” regularly cancels viewings or meetings, you should remain suspicious.
7. Talk to the Previous or Current Tenants
If you can arrange to talk to the previous or current tenants of the property, you can confirm whether the listing is real or not.
It can also give you a chance to get unbiased answers to your questions about the property.
8. Use a Trusted Apartment Listing Site
Where you see the listing matters as well. If you find an apartment to rent on Craigslist, you should stay alert for rental scams. These types of platforms are known for shady practices.
However, if you use a site where listings are verified, you can browse without worry.
On Brixbid, we verify the landlords and the properties they list. That means every listing on our site is real.
Plus, we help renters negotiate a fair rental price. In other words, you can save money on rent AND avoid scams and schemes.
Looking for a place to live in Chicago? Explore our listings today!