Our team has run into a lot of people who have been scammed trying to acquire a rental property. It is alarming and estimated at an average loss of between $500 and $1000. This can happen for both single family homes and apartments. Rental scams present themselves in a wide variety of ways and these are the most common:
1) Already Leased - A real or fake landlord attemps to collect application fees or security deposits for a rental that is already leased.
2) Hijacked Ads- A fake landlord posts advertisements for a real property with altered contact information. Homes for sale are often re-listed as rentals in this type of fraud. Often for a very low price.
3) Bait and Switch - A different property is advertised than the available rental, and the scammer tries to collect a deposit or get a lease signed for the different property.
4) Phantom Rentals - A scam artist makes up listings for places that don't exist or aren't rentals and tries to lure renters with very low prices.
5) Missing Amenities - A real rental is listed as having features it lacks as in laundry room or pool in order to collect higher rent. The landlord tries to get renters to sign the lease before they notice the missing amenities.
We have a few tips to avoid these scams:
Use a professional Realtor to help you find a house. There is an extra layer of protection to view and apply for homes listed in the MLS system. And you will have someone who looks after your best interests in applying and signing leases.
Always visit the property in person to make sure it actually exists and meets the description in the ad.
Do your homework and make sure the person you are meeting to view a property is the actual owner of the property. As for ID and check tax records for owner's name.
Protect your confidential information. Do not provide sensitive information like social security numbers or bank account numbers until you have verified the property manager or landlord is legitimate.
If you're the victim of rental fraud or a scam www.TheSpruce.com offers advice on what to do. Simply search "rental scams" in the search bar on the website.