As a renter who is looking for a property to suit your needs, it is important for you to know how to recognize red flags so you can avoid becoming a victim of rental fraud. While there is no way to guarantee that you will be safe from scam artists, recognizing these five red flags will help to significantly reduce your risk of being scammed.
Red Flag #1: The Landlord Requests Deposit Money Upfront
Scammers will attempt to get interested renters to send deposit money before they ever meet you or show you the property. Walk away from any deal where the landlord asks for a security deposit to be sent upfront. A lease should be signed before any money changes hands.
Red Flag #2: The Property Viewed is Not the Same as the One Advertised
The old bait-and-switch is one of the most common scams associated with any type of sales transaction. With the bait-and-switch scam, the property that is being offered is not the same as the one that was advertised. Even if the landlord seems to be perfectly pleasant, be sure to ask to view the actual property that you will be renting before you sign a lease. Simply seeing a picture or viewing a unit that is supposedly “similar” to the one you will be renting is not good enough.
Red Flag #3: No Lease
A scammer may try to convince you to rent a property without “needing” to sign a lease, presenting this as something that is a perk for you because you are not “locked in” to the rental. In reality, a lease protects you as much as it protects the landlord, so you should never enter into a rental agreement or hand over money unless there is a lease involved. Even month-to-month leases will help to protect you as it outlines the responsibilities of both parties.
Red Flag #4: Missing Amenities
In an attempt to lure in potential renters, a landlord may include a whole host of amenities to go along with the property. Once you arrive to view the property, however, those amenities may be missing. Before signing any agreements, verify that the listed amenities actually exist and are available for you to use. Otherwise, you may be paying extra for amenities that aren’t even there or you may be locked-in to a lease for a property that does not contain the amenities that you need or desire.
Red Flag #5: Added Fees
In an effort to get as much money out of you as possible, a landlord may add a number of additional fees onto your rent or may require unnecessary fees as part of the rental process. For example, while it is common for landlords to conduct background checks on potential tenants in order to learn more about your credit and criminal history, a scammer may attempt to charge you high fees to cover the cost of these checks. If the landlord asks for more than around $30 to $60 for your background check, you should definitely proceed with caution.