TenantsTips / USA / Avoiding the Pitfalls of Rental Scams

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Rental Scams

People who are searching for a rental property are often extremely vulnerable, and overwhelmed, which makes them a prime target for scam artists.

People are typically either in a time crunch when searching for a rental property, or very enthusiastic, which makes them more likely to be trusting or else just in a hurry to obtain a rental.

rental scams in USA

How Are Renters Scammed?

There are a number of different ways renters can be scammed. In some cases, a scammer may pose as a landlord on a property that they aren’t able to legally rent out, and then obtain payment for the property.

In other circumstances a scam artist may show their own apartment, acting as the landlord, and then ask for the payment of everything from a security deposit to the first month’s rent. The scam artist will then disappear, leaving the renter out of a lot of money, and still with no place to live.

In many cases a renter may be lulled into a false sense of security because they use a reputable search website, but it’s possible for scam artists to strike anywhere, so renters should always have their guard up.

What to Avoid When You’re Renting

  • Never send money upfront without meeting a landlord in person or seeing an apartment. For example, a scam artist may post an apartment listing on a website, and then ask for a mailed payment in order to hold the property. You should always visit an apartment in-person before handing over any money. It’s also a red flag if a landlord continues to have reasons why they can’t meet with you in person. Be suspicious if the landlord continuously says their unavailable to show the property.
  • Be wary of landlords that seem overly impatient to lease you an apartment. Typically a landlord is going to be skeptical of any new potential renter, and ask for a lot of information, regarding credit and finances, employment verification and even criminal background information. If a landlord doesn’t require this information, or seems more than happy to jump into renting you a property, it could be a red flag.
  • If you’re asked to pay a lot of money upfront, this may be a sign you’re being scammed. Know the local and state laws in your area about how much a landlord can legally charge for a security deposit, and don’t pay upfront fees that seem very high. A landlord’s primary source of income should come from your long-term rent, not from fees charged before you ever move in. Of course a security deposit is standard, but it should be excessive or accompanied by an array of other fees.
  • Be very cautious of a landlord who doesn’t require you to sign a lease. A lease is not required by law, but most reputable landlords require them for their own protection.
  • If a landlord tries to pressure you into making a fast decision, you should approach the situation carefully. As a renter you should take the time to carefully review any documents before signing them, and if a landlord seems in a hurry to get your money, this may be an indicator of a problem.
  • If an online listing for a rental property seems too good to be true, particularly for the price, it probably is. For example, many scam listings will describe luxury apartments, and even post pictures of amazing properties, and the rent seems to be much lower than what it should be. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t allow yourself to be caught up in the excitement and ignore your gut feeling that something is not right with the rental posting.

Above all, when you’re renting a property, use your instincts. Don’t become overwhelmed with emotion and become the victim of a rental scam.

If you are the victim of a scam, contact your local law enforcement agency to determine what recourse you may have.


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