Most people aren’t considering the possibility of a rental scam when searching for their next apartment. As apartment hunters are eagerly looking for their next spot to live, their emotions betray them and make them easy prey for scammers. Rental scammers take many shapes, so keep your eyes peeled for shifty behavior
What is a Rental Scam?
Simply put, a rental scam is when an individual is trying to steal money from a prospective tenant with an apartment the individual has no legal right to be leasing to begin with. Depending on the situation, an actual apartment unit may be included in the scam, but the scammer has not authority to rent the apartment and their only goal is to get your money and run. In rare occurrences, the scammer could be a landlord, but more often than not it is only someone attempting to impersonate one. A common scam is when a tenant is moving out, the scammer will show the apartment, pretending to be the landlord and collect tour/showing fees, maybe even the security deposit. After the tour of the apartment, the scammer will be nowhere to be found, and the prospective tenant will only realize once it’s too late to do anything about it that they have been duped. There are many red flags to be mindful of, so you need to protect yourself and be weary of anything that doesn’t seem right.
What if the Landlord Wants Me to Pay Before I Meet Them or Tour the Apartment?
While paying to tour an apartment is common, never pay until after you have met the landlord and toured the unit. It may sound like common sense not to pay for anything you haven’t seen with your own eyes, but this scam takes many people by surprise. A twenty five dollar application fee is common practice, but anything else should be met with strong skepticism, especially if you haven’t seen the apartment or signed the lease.
What if the Landlord Wants Me To Move Into the Apartment Too Fast?
All landlords want their units to be filled at every given moment, that’s how they make their money. But if a landlord looks like they are trying to get you to move in faster than normal, you may have a scammer on your hands. It’s normal for tenants to have to pass a background and credit check, and if the landlord is willing to bypass these processes, something isn’t right. Perhaps the landlord is genuine, and honestly just wants you to move in, but if they skipped the background check with you, how many other people has the landlord skipped the background check with? Do you feel comfortable being neighbors with people who haven’t had a background check?
What if There Are Irregular Fees or the Security Deposit is Abnormally Expensive?
If the landlord is asking for a bunch of fees right away other landlords aren’t asking for, you may have walked into a scam. Likewise, if the landlord is asking for a security deposit that is significantly more than what it should be, this is also a red flag that the landlord only wants your money and not you as a tenant. There are many fees that come with living in an apartment, but if the landlord hits you with too many too quick or a security deposit that is too much, you should find somewhere else to live.
What if the Landlord Says “You Don’t Need a Lawyer”?
Landlords aside, if anyone ever tells you, “you don’t need a lawyer,” you should have your guard up. The average tenant doesn’t have their lawyer read over their lease, but if the landlord outright tells you don’t need a lawyer to read over your lease, you definitely should have a lawyer read over the lease. The landlord could trying two things. The first, is they want to push you into signing the lease because they apartment isn’t available. The second, if the apartment is available, they’re trying to swindle you into a lease agreement that puts you at a disadvantage and they don’t want you to discover it in the fine print of the lease agreement.
What if the Landlord Says “You Don’t Need a Lease”?
A lease is not required to rent an apartment. Some month to month rental agreements will not have a lease, however if the landlord is the one stating you don’t need a lease, you need to be careful. The lease doesn’t just protect the tenant in the rental agreement, it also protects the landlord as well, which is reason for concern if the landlord is willing to forgo their own protection.