If you are searching for a rental property, you have probably already imagined yourself cooking in a bigger kitchen or decorating a gorgeous living space. You might be in a rush to grab that perfect home because you would be devastated if someone else got it first. However, if you aren’t careful, you could be facing a much bigger loss.
It might seem like something from a TV movie, but millions of potential tenants have been victims of rental scams. These people are often completing the process of moving in when they discover the deal was a fraud. Not only do they lose hundreds or thousands of dollars after paying a deposit and rent to a con artist, but the loss of a rental can leave victims homeless.
With rental scams on the rise, there are many signs you should know to protect yourself from a con artist.
1. The Owner Will Mail The Keys
Sometimes, the property owner claims to be unavailable to show you the home and offers the chance for you to see it alone. The scam plays out when you wire a deposit without even meeting a landlord. It’s likely you will never see this “owner” or the promised keys.
2. The Security Deposit Is Too High
A security deposit usually includes first and last month’s rent to cover any damages to the property. Anything different is a red flag. While the landlord might have a ready excuse about property value or excessive damages, it is likely to be a scam.
3. We Fired The Property Manager
A careful renter may drive by the listing before actually going through with the rental. If you see a realtor sign in the yard it is obviously a red flag. Many scammers use actual realtor listings, including pictures, to create scams online. The owner might claim to have fired the realtor. If you fall victim to this situation, call the realtor and get the facts.
4. Wired Security Deposits
Of course, it seems safe to wire money to a realtor you have already visited at a legitimate office. However, you might find out that money went somewhere else. Scammers hack emails of legitimate companies to intercept your money at the right time. Legitimate realtors do not ask for wired funds.
5. No Rental Agreement To Sign
A lease or rental agreement is designed to protect the landlord as well as the tenant. A landlord that doesn’t ask for your signature isn’t properly protecting themselves.
6. An Offer To Make A Partial Payment
A property owner suggesting you don’t need to pay the full amount advertised is a major red flag. This is usually a sign of a scammer in a rush to get you to pay.
7. An Overeager Landlord
When you are in a hurry, it might seem helpful if a landlord doesn’t request financial records or obtain references. However, it is likely too good to be true. Landlords need to know you have the consistent income to pay rent, and that you are not a criminal. A landlord who doesn’t seek this vital information could be a con artist.
If you are seeking a home to rent, it is important to protect yourself against scams. With much of the marketing for homes done online, it’s easy for con artists to gain the information they need to pull off a believable scam.
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