Looking up houses for rent takes time and effort, and is a tedious task. The biggest concern is finding the perfect house for rent in a safe neighborhood with plenty of amenities. If we add rental scammers to the list, your stress level increases ten-fold. Therefore, to make sure you don’t fall into the traps of fraudsters, it’s a good idea to know their modus operandi and be extra cautious. Tragically, the global pandemic has given scammers a golden opportunity to deceive potential tenants since in-person showings have been challenging. In fact, according to statistics, 43 percent of renters dealt with fake rental listings while over five million people were duped of considerable amounts of money in real estate scams!
So, what can you do to avoid being scammed? Let’s find out.
Research the rental company or property online
While searching for a house for rent, dig into the rental company or the property owner and check out their reviews when you encounter a listing of interest. People are always vocal when it comes to something they aren’t satisfied with. In case you find any that stand out or are negative, for the most part, there’s a problem, and you need to let it go.
While we’re on the topic of rental apps and sites, you can always trust Cirtru, the most reliable rental house finder in the USA if you’re looking for rental houses!
Validate the address of the rental listing
Rental house listings come with proper addresses. So, if you find a property you like, copy the address and use a search engine to determine what it looks like and whether it matches the uploaded photos. If you come up with nothing or the pictures don’t look anything like the ones on the site, the listing is fake.
There’s something else you may want to check. Many times, rental postings lack essential information like the address or pictures. You may even find spelling errors, grammatical inaccuracies, or wrong words all over the listing. Stay far away from such ads.
Refrain from paying cash upfront
Scammers believe that cash is the best way to carry out their devious schemes for the simple reason that no one can ever track its source. So, if you make the mistake of forking over money to them, you’ll lose out on two things – the rental property and your money!
In addition, you’ll find a sales technique fraudsters use that borders on desperation, in a bid to lure you into paying money or forgo a fantastic rental property. In many cases, they may ask you to transfer money electronically, but don’t do any such thing unless you’ve viewed the property or signed the lease. Always go with your gut should you find yourself in such a situation.
Check out the place before renting it
Checking out the rental house is a must before you even think about renting it. If a potential landlord tells you that the prerequisite for showing you the property is a security deposit, you can rest assured that the person is a scammer. There may also be instances where they evade showing you the property, possibly because there isn’t one, by using excuses such as being out of town, unwell, or dealing with a situation. If the property’s in another city and you’re not able to make it, request a family member or a friend to view the property and share feedback with you.
In a word, know that a genuine landlord will always be eager to show you their property, so schedule a showing and apply for the rental only if you’re sure this is the real deal.
Read and sign a written agreement
If you’ve chosen a rental house, applied for it, and been approved, the next step is signing the lease agreement. Although a few states permit verbal agreements, it’s a given that you should always sign a written contract to avoid complications, legal or otherwise.
Once you receive the lease agreement, be sure to give it a thorough reading to check whether everything’s in place. If something you’d requested isn’t on the document, make sure you have it added. If you have problems understanding certain aspects of the lease, ask for clarification.
Finally, once you and your landlord sign the lease, you must ask for a copy and keep it in a secure place.
Seek ownership documents from the landlord
Are you convinced that the person you’re renting the house from is the actual owner? It’s wise to request ownership documents from the landlord to ensure that the property belongs to them. That way, you know that the transaction is authentic.
This is something you should do even before you’ve signed the lease. If your landlord responds by saying they’ll share the paperwork with you soon or another time, know that something’s not right. Why should a person have a problem sharing documents if they have nothing to hide?
Should you find that their name doesn’t feature on the ownership documents, drop the deal like a hot cake!
Ensure the lease states the owner’s name
The lease you sign must include the name of the property owner. Should an imposter be posing as the owner or pretending to be working for the owner, they must have the essential paperwork to prove ownership so that you’re aware that the renting-out process is legitimate.
In instances where the property has two owners, remember to request a confirmation letter from the second owner, sharing their acknowledgment and lease approval.
Have an in-person meeting with your landlord
When you attend the scheduled viewing, ensure that you meet the landlord in person and ask them relevant questions about the property.
If the person walking you through the property isn’t the owner, ask for the owner’s name and contact details. Generally speaking, a seasoned fraudster will always find excuses to avoid communicating with you, physically or otherwise, whether it involves showing you the property or signing the lease. So, if no details are shared with you, you know it’s a scam.
Be cautious of the middlemen scam
Such scams are common and scary! What happens in such cases? You find an attractive advertisement about a property, and you contact the company or owner. They tell you that they’re looking after the property and run the place for the owners. Although the property might be genuine, they have no hold over it. They copy images and descriptions from other rental portals or apps and paste them into their rental listing on sites like Craigslist.
In the end, deal with landlords or property owners and avoid middlemen like the plague!
Research current market rental rates
You’ve selected a neighborhood that appeals to you and you wish to rent a house there. But you’re not sure what kind of rental rates prevail in the area. To be more well informed, do a little research and find out the median rental price.
Once you have an idea of what to expect, be vigilant of listings with extremely low rents in the neighborhood. This should tell you that they are scams. There’s something else you should keep in mind. Let’s say you’ve finalized a rental house and have negotiated the rent with the landlord. When signing the lease, make sure that the rent you and your landlord agreed on is on paper too. If you rush through the agreement and sign it, you might be getting yourself into a big soup.
Don’t entertain landlords who don’t run background checks
As a tenant, it’s your right to look for a safe rental space that meets your requirements. Likewise, potential landlords also need to ensure that you are financially reliable and morally sound before they take you on as a tenant. So, if a landlord seeks your approval for credit checks and background checks, you should be able to trust them.
On the other hand, if the landlord tells you that background checks don’t matter and seems to be in a hurry to get you to sign the lease, you need to cut them loose. In summary, if they’re not bothered about your background, it’s because they have a sketchy one!
So, how do you feel about getting started with your house-hunting process? Scared? Worried? Don’t be! While you need to face the reality that the rental market’s swarming with scammers, don’t let that stop you from finding the ideal house. Just remember to take all the time you need to research, investigate, and screen information and people before deciding. To conclude, never allow yourself to succumb to the pressure created by fraudsters, and let your sixth sense guide you in the right direction!