Spot and Avoid Rental Scams: Tips You Need When Apartment Hunting - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Nov 4, 2019

Spot and Avoid Rental Scams: Tips You Need When Apartment Hunting

Apartment hunting can be a long and tiring process. You might be focused on crossing the must-haves off your list, ensuring your future place fits your needs, and not having much luck, when suddenly you come across the perfect listing! Not only does it meet all your must-haves and then some, it’s available right away, and very affordable. Score! 

Does the above scenario seem too good to be true? It’s because it probably is! Scammers prey on innocent apartment hunters desperately in search of their next home by spoofing them with the perfect rental scam all to keep the security deposit for themselves. Luckily, there are a few telltale signs that can help you spot and avoid rental scams before you get too far. 

Here are a few things to look for:

1. The rental is priced suspiciously low 

How often do you come across something that is exactly everything you hoped for? Not very often, right? We typically compromise something, and often price point is the determining factor. A simple way that scammers entice their victims is by offering what sounds like an amazing listing for a price well-below market value. It’s important to compare listings to others in the area with similar features to learn if pricing is in line with market value. Of course, there are instances where rentals may be priced below market value for other reasons like noise, or the neighborhood for example. Nonetheless, you should keep this red flag in the back of your mind as you continue to learn more about the listing. 

2. When you reach out, the landlord is not able to meet in person

Some landlords have full time jobs and rent property as supplemental income, and others manage their property full time. Regardless, any good landlord  will want to meet their tenants before allowing them to live in their space. The landlord is, after all, primarily responsible if anything were to happen on or to the property. If you reach out about a listing and the landlord claims to be out of town long-term and suggests moving forward with the process without meeting or seeing the listing in person, you should be concerned! Some scammers have claimed that work is causing them to relocate, or they are subletting the space as they are away for an extended period. 

3. They want you to sign a lease before seeing the property

Never rent an apartment sight unseen. You especially do not want to sign a lease before ever even seeing the rental listing in person. Always visit the rental prior to signing a lease and complete a thorough inspection. In most rental scams, the scammer doesn’t even have access to the property in the listing. They’ve likely copied the listing from another site, and changed the price and contact information to trick you.  

4. You’ve been asked to mail or wire money for the security deposit

Since the landlord has claimed that they are living out of the area, you’ll likely be asked to mail or wire money electronically to pay the security deposit and/ or first month’s rent. They may try to pressure you to send the money quickly to ensure it isn’t rented to another person. You should never pay any money until after you’ve thoroughly read and signed a lease. 

5. There are typos and other errors in the listing

Any landlord will take pride in their property and work to find the very best tenant to rent it. To do so, a landlord will be explicit and clear in their rental listings to ensure they are attracting the best clientele. Look for basic spelling and grammatical errors as red flags in this process.

6. Thoroughly research the listing 

Listings are often copied from reputable real estate sites, so the details and images of the property are legitimate. This simple trick can easily be unveiled by conducting a simple search online for the listing address, landlord’s name, email, etc. If you find the listing on other real estate sites you can easily determine if the person you’ve been speaking with is not the owner of the property. Scammers will often impersonate a local individual to disguise themselves as a true landlord. 

Ultimately, it is best to trust your instincts. If something feels off about a person or a place, avoid it. Use these tips to help you spot and avoid rental scams to keep you and your money safe.