Apartment and home rental scams present major problems for potential renters. They have existed for a long time, but their prevalence has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to learn a few steps to take so you can try and avoid them before you start your rental search. That way, you can feel more secure when you sign a rental agreement. Here are some ways to avoid getting caught in the trap of a rental scam.
Learn the Current Common Rental Scams
Rental scams come in many forms. Familiarizing yourself with common scams can help you avoid falling victim to them. For example, copied listings are quite common. Scammers advertise legitimate listings with which they have no affiliations. Then they request deposits from potential renters before viewings ever take place.
Other common scams include:
- Owners supposedly unavailable
- Properties shown by third parties
- Inflated extra fees
- Oddly cheap rental price
- Requests to wire money to foreign locations
Know How to Pay
When paying for a rental, do not use websites like Western Union. Also, avoid cash transactions. Money that is wire transferred or cash that changes hands without a record is typically impossible to trace.
A legitimate landlord accepts personal checks, or at least cashier’s or bank checks. If any disputes or fraudulent activities arise, your bank and the police can use the check information to investigate. In most cases, the transaction is reversible if proof of fraud is present.
Deal Directly With the Property Owner
The safest way to rent a property is to deal with the owner. Meet him or her in person and take a tour of the rental together. If the owner insists on having a property manager or other party show you the property, at least verify the identity of the owner. Also, make sure his or her name and contact details are clearly listed on the lease or any other paperwork you sign.
Research the Property and Owner
If you are interested in a property, research it online. Make sure the listing is legitimate. Also, check the background of the individual or company renting the property. If possible, speak to current tenants to gain insights into how the property is maintained and how easy it is to communicate with the landlord or property manager.
Hire a Real Estate Agent
Another way to avoid rental scams is to hire a licensed real estate agent. He or she may be able to spot real estate scammers. In fact, many scammers deliberately avoid dealing with real estate agents. Therefore, you have a better chance of only seeing legitimate rental listings when working with an agent.
Know How to React to a Scam
Preparation can help you avoid many rental scams. However, there is still the possibility you may become a victim of one. If that happens, reacting quickly is vital. Start by contacting local police and file a report with your state attorney general’s office. Then, If necessary, you can hire an attorney to help you pursue the matter in court.