Lots of rental owners can be picky about the types of tenants they accept. But when you’re on the other side, looking into units to rent, you have to be just as careful about the management your potential home is under.
Not all property management companies are reliable or legitimate. There are always tricksters out there waiting to make a quick buck. So when you’re looking into rental properties for your next place to live, learn to spot and avoid these 5 rental scams:
Scam #1: Fake Rental Rates
Scammers who want to collect your email and information will act like they’re offering you a great rental deal. They do this by enticing you with a lower-than-average rental rate that seems too good to true, so you email them to ask for more information on the unit. They collect your information, then proceed to use it for their own gains.
Too good to be true is usually the situation here. The easiest way to spot these fake property postings is to look into the average rental rates in your area for the same type of listing. That way, you can compare similar units and avoid looking into the ones that are way below the normal price.
Scam #2: Stock Images v. Real-time Portrayal of Space
Another way to tell if a property management company is a “fake” is when they use incorrect or false commercial photos of their so-called “property”. Some will even use artist renderings instead of photos, but either way, renters only see the gorgeous, clean units the scamming company wants them to believe they have.
It’s vital you schedule a walk-through of the property and an individual unit viewing before you sign or pay for anything. The units should look a little lived-in but well-kept, unless they’re brand new. In this case, an artist rendering can be justified if the owners haven’t gotten around to photos yet. Use your best judgement before you move forward with any rental option.
Scam #3: Renting out Foreclosures
When hard times hit, you can bet scammers will be trying to take advantage of the situation for themselves. In property management, this is when a scammer finds an abandoned or foreclosed property, acts like the owner, and entices renters to pay a cash deposit and pay their “monthly rent” in cash until they’re caught.
Scammers can pose as fake agents (and even real agents will stoop to this level to make an extra buck). They’ll rent out a unit and then bolt right before the new tenants move in, or they’ll just sit quietly collecting your cash until they’re caught.
You can avoid this scam by refusing to deal in cash and wire transfers and always documenting everything. If something seems fishy then take your time — if this causes the scammer to run or move on to another victim then you’ll know your instincts were correct.
Scam #4: Impersonating a Landlord/Owner
This property management scam is related to #3, with a slight difference. Instead of finding a real property that’s not their own to rent out, these scammers will get your security deposits and information by impersonating a landlord or owner of a property that simply doesn’t exist. These scammers will use online classifieds like Craigslist to advertise the properties and answer your inquiry emails with even more great (but wholly unreal) information about the place.
However, if you pay attention, there’s always something odd about these listings, whether it’s a vague email address full of numbers and letters, or a lack of location information. Keep a sharp eye out for problems of this nature, and you won’t have to worry about being scammed.
Scam #5: The Eviction Prevention Hoax
Finally, another serious scam to look out for is the classic hoax. This usually looks like an email or letter from a fake legal service claiming to help tenants living in foreclosed homes avoid eviction if they pay a fee. Usually, these tenants aren’t being evicted, and the fake property management service wouldn’t be doing any work the tenants couldn’t do themselves.
If you get one of these notifications, investigate it before you send any money. Your state has laws about how long you may live in a foreclosed home, so make sure you find out what that time frame is. Also, if you are fearing eviction, it’s best to go directly to the institution you’ve been communicating with in the past (most likely the bank).
You can’t be too careful when you’re looking for your new home, and fortunately when you’re armed with the right knowledge, you can make sure you avoid lots of unnecessary trouble. If you want to be completely anxiety-free when it comes to renting a property, Renters Warehouse has standardized processes in place, documenting everything with full background checks and video-taped inspections, giving you the freedom to rent with confidence.
Have you ever been scammed when it came to a rental unit? What did you do about it? Let us know in the comments below!