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5 Tips on How to Avoid a Rental Scam

Whether you’re a student looking to get your own apartment for the first time or an adult looking to get a new place to move into – getting scammed has become a frequently occurring thing nowadays. Having some basic knowledge about the scammers and their techniques is essential for everyone who wants to rent a place successfully without dealing with frauds and their shady schemes. This list of tips will teach you how to spot a rental scam whilst looking for a perfect place.

Never rent a place without checking it out first 

This is a particularly difficult task in the middle of a pandemic as many people do not want to take the risk of visiting an open house. In a situation like this, if possible, you should ensure that a friend, family member or trustee pays a visit to the landlord’s unit and takes a look at it. Even though there are lots of scammers who actually have access to the property, insisting on a house tour is a huge step towards a more transparent rental process. Checking out the apartment and ensuring that your landlord is delivering on his side of the deal is something you should do before you sign your lease.

Keep evidence of everything and ensure that everything is in writing. 

Don’t just sign on the dotted line. Make sure to read every clause you’re about to agree to! Also, check if it’s in line with a standard lease from your state or province. At the very least, this should include your rental period, damage deposit, and rent.

Identify the owner of the property and make sure your lease does as well

Prior to going ahead and signing the lease agreement you should ask for the homeownership documents. This is to prove that you’re dealing with a person who has all the rights to rent out this place. This will help you understand that this whole deal is legit. Avoid anyone who’s telling you that the documents will be sent to you later. A real homeowner would not have any reason to avoid showing you the required documents. If you see the ownership documents and the name there doesn’t match the name of the landlord, get out.
Your lease agreement should also include the actual homeowner’s name in order to ensure that the house is rented out legally. Anyone who is trying to impersonate a trustee or says that he’s working on behalf of the owner should have the corresponding documents to prove it.

The Middleman Rental Scam 

The middleman rental scam is one of the most common schemes out there. Scammers place ads of beautiful apartments with a reasonable price and pose as the ‘manager of the estate’ for the real owners when you call them. Usually, they do not even have access to this place! They find this place on another real-estate platform and steal the pictures and description from there. They insist on collecting rental payment, security deposit and other payments that can be gathered first. Then, they simply run away with your money.  According to the study called ‘Understanding Craigslist Rental Scams’, there were about 29K scam listings detected over the 20 cities they monitored, within a period of 141 days.

Check the current market rates and do the math 

Run research on the average rental price in the neighbourhood you’re trying to buy/rent your apartment in. This should give you a basic understanding of what kind of price is reasonable. Especially for the particular place you’re looking at. Having this knowledge will ensure that any ad with a weirdly low price will look suspicious to you.

There you have it; 5 tips to avoid getting scammed by your landlord! If you enjoyed this blog, you may want to consider reading our other entries as well, which you can find here! So, until next time, stay safe and happy renting.


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