Tenants who are looking for a home to rent should be careful of who they are dealing with. Not all people who claim to be landlords are legitimate. In fact, there are many cases of rental property scams where scammers pose as landlords in order to steal money from interested tenants.
They will typically require you to pay a security deposit, reservation fees, move-in fees, or other charges even before you see the rental property. These scammers do not intend to rent a property—their goal is to take money from you.
As a tenant, you do not want this to happen to you. That is why it’s important to know all possible red flags that may indicate that you are potentially dealing with a scammer. In this blog, we will cover all the signs that you should watch out for.
How Can You Tell If a Rental Property Listing Is a Scam?
Fraudulent rental listings are quite common and they are relatively easy to spot. Here are the most common rental property listing scam warning signs that you should be aware of when looking for a home to rent:
1. The Landlord or Owner Refuses to Meet in Person
There are plenty of valid instances that a landlord or rental property owner cannot meet you in person. For instance, the landlord is not living in the same state or city. If this is the case, they should at least authorize someone to meet you on their behalf.
However, if the landlord refuses to meet you in person, and also does not assign someone to meet with you, then you should see this as a big red flag. If you want to give the landlord the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you can ask for a real-time video call and ask him or his authorized representative to show the property to ensure that it exists.
Keep in mind that legitimate landlords will make sure to meet the prospective tenants in person because they also want to interview you and screen potentially problematic applicants. They also want to make sure that you are a legitimate applicant too. However, if the landlord is a fraud, then they will have all the excuses not to meet with you so you won’t be able to identify them.
2. The Landlord Is Pressuring You Into Moving in Immediately
Most rental property owners take their time to screen their tenants because they don’t want to deal with the bad ones. However, if you feel like the landlord is pressuring you into moving in immediately, even before you see the actual property, then there must be something strange going on.
Even if you meet someone who claims to be the landlord, do not trust this person directly. You need to see the rental unit first before you give them any money as a reservation fee, security deposit, or move-in fee. If the so-called landlord is in a hurry and doesn’t seem interested in scheduling a property showing before they ask for any fee, it’s best to walk away from the potential deal.
Scammers typically use someone else's property ad to post on listing sites. They don’t really own the property that they post, so they don’t have access to the interior of the rental unit. If the landlord tells you to just go to the property and inspect the exterior, then it’s definitely not legitimate.
3. The Landlord Requires You to Pay a Fee Before Signing a Rental Agreement
If someone asks you to pay something even before you sign a lease, it is a clear sign that the deal is a scam. Scammers will usually ask for different types of fees just to steal money from potential tenants.
The most common examples of these fees are reservation fees, move-in fees, and security deposits. Application fees are usually charged before signing the lease, as they are typically used to cover the costs of background checks. However, do not pay anything before seeing the property. Also, never mail or wire transfer any payment without signing the lease.
4. The Property and Its Price is Too Good to Be True
This is a biggy and is probably what most people get snagged on! If the rental rate is just too good to be true, it most likely is. If you see a rental home that is priced significantly lower than the average rental rate in your area, consider this as a warning sign that the deal is not legitimate.
It’s important to do your own research when searching for a rental unit. As a tenant, you should be aware of the rent prices of comparable rental listings in the area of your choice. Prices should vary based on size, property type, and amenities.
5. The Landlord Is Too Eager to Accept You Without Screening
If the landlord is too eager and willing to accept you right away even without going through the proper tenant screening process, this is most likely a fraud. All landlords want to ensure that the tenants who will rent their properties are qualified.
To do this, they will perform several background checks, including your employment history, credit record, and past tenancies, to ensure that you can pay your rent and be a respectful tenant. But if the landlord is willing to overlook the screening process, then you should consider this as a red flag because it most likely is a scam.
How to Avoid Rental Property Scams
The best way to avoid a rental property scam is to find rental listings through legitimate sources. You can work with a property management company to find a legit rental home. Not only do you not have to worry about the potential of a scam, but you will be in the care of a company that has years of experience managing properties.
Professional property managers also have the resources to handle your requests quickly, have a comprehensive lease agreement that protects all parties, and are well-versed in the landlord-tenant law so you don't need to worry.
If you’re looking for a rental property, contact Rollingwood Management Inc. today. We can help place you in a beautiful rental property with a reputable landlord. Get in touch with us today to learn about the properties we are currently offering!