How to Avoid Rental Scams: 10 Red Flags to Look Out For

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How to Avoid Rental Scams

Searching for new housing to rent is a stressful situation on its own. You’re worried about hiring movers, finding a place that’s ready when you need it, having good enough credit, and so much more. Don’t raise your stress levels even more by falling victim to rental scams.

Rental scams are real and they’re everywhere you look. Unfortunately, there’s no much that you can do about them other than avoid them. Always be on defense mode and know your tenant rights when looking at new properties, whether it be an apartment, a house, or a condo.

Signing a bad lease is a sure way to turn a time that should be filled with excitement and joy into a time of disaster. Learn how to avoid rental scams by looking out for these 10 red flags!

1. No Contact Information

Your landlord should provide you with several different forms of contact. For example, you should have access to your landlord’s email address, phone number, office number, and more. You never know when an emergency with the property might happen, and to be able to contact your landlord at any given time is a necessity. 

If you’re in the process of finding a new place to rent and the landlord of a property that you’re interested in doesn’t give you multiple ways to contact them, consider this a red flag. At this point in the game, you as a renter mean money to a landlord. And a reputable landlord will do anything in his or her power to ensure you can contact them and they can contact you.

If the landlord doesn’t want to give out much contact information, then this is a sign that they might not be who they say they are. 

2. Inconsistent Emails

Although there are many ways to keep in contact with potential landlords, you’ll begin your communication with them via emails. Always be on the lookout for inconsistent emails. Sure, at first you might have a welcoming email from the real estate company or something that’s automated. 

However, once you begin communicating back and forth, the emails should remain consistent. If you notice that you’re speaking to someone different each time you receive an email, this is a major red flag. You should also check the name of the company on the emails to ensure that it remains the same as well. 

These might seem like obvious signs of a scam, but it’s easy to become so excited with the idea of renting a new place that you overlook these small details.

3. Photos With Watermarks

A landlord who posts photos with an MLS (multiple listing services) watermark is usually a scammer. When professional photographers take photos of a property, the real estate agent submits them to a multiple listing service. This way, realtors can search for all of the real estate listed in an area. 

Any photos used for these services will have an MLS watermark on it. A landlord who then takes one of these photos and illegally posts it as their own is not someone you want to rent from. This means the landlord stole that photo from the MLS and is trying to use it as their own. 

Keep an eye out for these watermarks when looking at pictures of the property. You’ll also want to ensure that the photos that are listed are professionally taken and are plentiful. A listing with bad quality photos that only show the exterior of the property and one room are another red flag. 

A true real estate agent knows that multiple photos of the property that are professionally taken are a huge selling point.   

4. Extremely High Deposit

If your landlord is requiring an extremely high deposit, it’s time to start questioning the agreement. Security deposits normally consist of the same amount as your rent and sometimes your last month’s rent is included in it as well. In some cases, it might be slightly higher due to added fees, such as having pets. 

However, your security deposit shouldn’t be 3x your rent or higher. In some states, there are laws on how much landlords can ask for security deposits. Check to see if your state has these laws. 

If not, don’t let your landlord charge you a deposit that’s extremely high. 

5. Extremely Low Rent

If you spot a property online with extremely low rent, your red flag detects should go off immediately. If you’re not sure if the rent is extremely low or not, check out other rental properties in the area and see what they’re going for. Don’t fall victim to a rental scam because the rental price seems amazing.

This is a way for scammers to pull in renters fast. Often times, when you notice a property for a low price and call to inquire about it, you’ll be told that property is no longer available but there’s another property very similar to it for a much greater rent price. A low rental price might also mean that there’s a significant problem with the property that isn’t being addressed in the listing. 

For example, the property might have structural damage, water damage, or a pest infestation. Never assume that a property listed with a low rental price is in perfect condition or that it’s actually available. 

6. Vague Listing Details

When landlords and real estate agents list properties online, in the papers, or anywhere else, they want to include as many details as possible. When a listing is a scam, the details for the property are normally very vague. This is because scammers have never been to the property before to know certain details to include. 

And because they aren’t sure what all is around the property, they normally won’t list the exact address on the listing. If you click to see the property’s location and a circle of the property’s general area comes up rather than the actual address, this is a big red flag. Scammers do this to prevent renters from uncovering the scam. 

If the address is listed, then renters can do their own research and learn what is around the area or take a look at the property themselves. 

7. No Background Information Required 

As a new renter for a property, your landlord should want to run a background check on you. Real landlords want renters who are reliable who will take good care of the property and pay the rent on time. If a landlord is ready for you to sign the lease without completing a background check or asking for proof of prior rental, then it might be a scammer. 

Normally, these people are looking to take your first month’s rent and deposit and then disappear. Don’t simply agree to sign your lease if the landlord isn’t requiring background information on you. When this happens, do your own research to ensure the landlord is not trying to scam you. 

8. Requesting You Sign Without Seeing It

A landlord who requests that you sign the lease without seeing the property first is a major red flag. You always want to see a property first before signing. Signing the lease beforehand might lead to you paying fees for a property that’s being falsely advertised. 

You’ll also want to take the time to see a property in person to confirm that the listing is accurate with its details. 

9. Requesting You Wire Money 

As with many other scams, a person asking you to wire money to them is a definite red flag. 

Anyone asking you to wire your rent or security deposit to them is someone looking to scam you. Never wire money to anyone. If you do make the mistake of wiring a landlord your money, you can’t get it back. 

And once they receive the money, they’ll disappear. Avoid this altogether by not taking the risk. As soon as you’re asked to wire money, cut ties with this individual completely. 

10. Listing Unavailable Homes

Another way scammers try to trick you is by listing homes that are unavailable. To avoid this scam, be sure to research the name of the landlord and the company that they tell you they work for. Do so by searching for the real estate company and checking if they actually work for the company.

Most websites will list their real estate agents, but you can always call them as well. There have been several times when landlords have taken money from renters for properties that aren’t available. Don’t let this happen to do.

Take the time to do some light research. 

Renters Beware! Avoid These Rental Scams! 

When searching for a new rental property, don’t make the process any more stressful than it has to be. Avoid these rental scams by knowing what red flags to look for before you go further into the process. 

And for more information on rental legal documents, click here to learn more!