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How Can You Tell If a Rental Property Listing Is a Scam?

There has been a sharp increase in online fraud since the start of the coronavirus pandemic so here is our Top Eight signs every renter should look out for:

1. They Don’t Want to Meet You in Person

It’s never a good sign if the person who posted a rental listing says that they are not able to or don’t want to meet you in person. Even if you’re not able to meet in person, you can always request a real-time video walkthrough of the rental so you know that the property exists.

A good landlord will make sure that they can meet you either digitally or in person so that they can feel comfortable with trusting you as a renter. Plus, a landlord should want to meet you in person to make sure you’re legitimate as well. On the flip side, scammers typically don’t want to meet you, since they don’t want you to be able to report them.

2. They Want You to Move in Immediately, Without Ever Seeing the Property

Even if you meet someone in person who claims to be the landlord, you should absolutely see the property before signing a lease or sending any money to them. It’s easy for someone to say they have a property and fake an online listing, so you need to see the property in person and make sure the place is available.

In most rental scams, the individual advertising the property doesn’t actually have any way to access the inside of the property. If a landlord instructs you to inspect the property by walking around the outside at your convenience, this is almost certainly a scam.

If you are in the unfortunate position of needing a place immediately, be extra careful. Properties that are available right away are likely either scams or the sign of a disorganized landlord.

3. They Ask for Rent or a Security Deposit Before Signing a Lease

An apparent sign that the apartment you’re looking at is a scam is if the property manager, landlord asks for rent or a security deposit before ever signing a lease.

As a potential renter, you should never be asked to give a large sum of money before seeing, or having all parties sign, a lease. 

Secondly, never mail or wire money to the person, especially if you still need to sign the lease. There might be some cases where the scammer lives overseas and needs you to forward the money to them in return for the keys, which is a situation to be wary of. Or, in an even more dangerous scenario, you might be asked to wire money to someone who you have only talked to online, in which case you should report the listing as fraudulent and cease all communications. Anyone who doesn’t live near the rental itself should have someone, such as a property manager who lives in the area.

4. The Price is Too Good

Whenever you see a price that looks too good to be true, it probably is. A property that is priced below the going market rate in your area should be an immediate RED FLAG.

How can you determine if a unit is at fair market value and not a scam? You can always do your own research on the rent in the area. To understand what market rates are, you should look at properties that are comparable in location, size. You can do this by using I Am The Agent Online Free Valuation Tool

While an asking rent amount below market is a sign of potential fraud, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the listing is definitely fraudulent. Keep in mind that the property owner may not know the fair market rent rate.

5. The Listing Has Typos, Poor Grammar, or Excessive Punctuation

Beware of rental listings that are full of errors. Serious landlords or property managers will take the time to write a decent listing and proofread it too. If you come across a rental listing that is full of typos, has poor grammar, and contains excessive punctuation, it was likely created by a scammer.

6. There Is No Screening Process

As a tenant, you’ll want to rent from a high-quality, responsive landlord who does things the “right” way. Professional landlords almost always have a set screening process that they follow to ensure they choose quality tenants like yourself.

If a landlord does not require a rental application and credit check, you should consider this a red flag. The landlord is either unconcerned about picking a good tenant because it’s a scam, or unconcerned because they are inexperienced. In both scenarios, you should be a bit suspicious.

7. They Want You to Sign an Incomplete Lease

One reason why every renter needs to read through a new lease is to see if it’s complete or not. A landlord or property manager that asks you to sign an incomplete lease does not have your best interest in mind because they can change the lease whenever, and however, they want without letting you know.

By going through your lease to make sure there are no blank spaces, vague writing, or incomplete sentences, you’re making sure that you will not be manipulated by the lease in the future.

8.Trust your gut instinct.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Have a healthy dose of scepticism about everything – if a landlord is asking for a deposit to be transferred before you have even seen the property, alarm bells should start ringing.


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