Apartment rental scams have certainly been around for just about as long as scammers have. Their goal is always to make you part with your money, preferably in cash that cannot be traced, and never to actually rent you an apartment.
Sometimes the apartment is real; sometimes, it is not. The person posing as a landlord seldom has the right to rent out the space in question.
Unfortunately, apartment hunting can have your emotions running high, and it's easy to be too trusting. Other times you're in a time crunch, wanting or needing to get out of your current apartment as soon as possible due to personal reasons or when in the process of relocating for a job. Being eager to hurry up and get moving can make you vulnerable to scammers. It's also easy to be excited about moving, making you more trusting of a shady landlord.
Finding a new apartment can consume both your time and your energy, and even more so when you have to be on the lookout for apartment rental scams constantly.
At South Parc, a family-friendly apartment complex in Portland Oregon, we've gathered a few tips for you on how to reel in a real apartment with a reputable landlord that isn't trying to scam you.
Always Look Before You Buy
Perhaps this one seems obvious, but you would be surprised to find out just how many renters make up excuses as to why their new landlord can't show them the place, yet.
If you have a landlord unwilling or unable to show you the place they have up for rent, it probably means it's not their place. If you are relocating from far away and can't look at the place yourself, have a trusted friend or family member that's local take a look at it for you.
Stay Away from Sub-leasing
It's almost impossible to verify whether or not the original tenant is allowed to sub-lease to you. It is an easy way to facilitate an apartment rental scam, and it can even get both the original tenant, as well as yourself, evicted if the original lease doesn't allow for sub-leasing.To avoid any issues with eviction, convince the original tenant to add you onto the original lease.
Don't Do Cash Only
Not all landlords that deal in cash run apartment rental scams, but landlords who are up to no good usually do deal in cash since cash will never leave a trace. If your landlord is unwilling to accept anything but cash, do yourself a favor and move along. The same goes for landlords who require wire transfers.
Insist on a Lease
If a landlord insists that you don't need a lease, move along. Even in states that allow oral agreements to be legally binding, insist on a written lease. Also make sure that both homeowner and tenant sign this contract, and get a full copy of the lease
Know Who You Rent From
In the same vein as making sure the landlord has access to the property, making sure the landlord can prove homeownership is essential to avoid apartment rental scams. Don't take anything but documents with your landlord's name, and don't believe that the papers will be sent later.
If it Looks Too Perfect
If it looks too perfect, it probably is. If an apartment seems extra nice, and is going for several hundred dollars less than you were expecting to pat, be aware that it might be a scam. The same goes for listings that are worded differently but still has the same pictures. Scammers often borrow text and pictures from existing ads.
Don't Trust the Middleman
Make sure that you aren't walking straight into an apartment rental scam by meeting your actual landlord in person when looking at the apartment you want. Don't accept the word of a middleman. The middleman is especially common on platforms like Craigslist, and this includes property managers.
Don't Forget to do Your Research
Verify as much info as you can, both about the landlord and about your apartment. Running a reverse image search in Google of the pictures in the ad is a good way to find out if the place you're looking at is allready listed in other places. Also google real estate agents or companies if that is who you are dealing with.
Look into your area. Notice the average housing prices and see if your new place fits the monthly rent at your new place or not. Also make sure to verify with the landlord that the rent price will in fact be what was listed in the ad.
Talk to the Tenants
If the apartment you are looking to rent has tenants that currently live there, talk to them before signing the agreement. If you can get a hold of previous tenants that don’t have to worry about talking badly about the landlord, that is even better.
Thankfully, not everyone is out to scam you. As long as you stick with common sense and the abovementioned tips, chances are you will find a legit apartment to rent, without getting scammed out of your money. Good luck!