Beware of These 5 Rental Scams
By: Renters Warehouse
Rental owners can be quite selective about the kind of tenants they accept. But when you’re looking at things from the angle of searching for units to rent, you have to be just as careful about the management your rental property will be under.
It’s important to know that not all property management companies are reliable or legitimate. There are always tricksters out there waiting to make a fast buck. When you’re checking out rental properties, make sure you learn to spot these 5 rental scams.
Scam #1: The Stock Image Switcharoo
The eyes have it. One way to tell if a property management company is a “fake” is seen when they use incorrect or false commercial photos of their so-called “property.” Some will use artist renderings or sketches instead of photos. Either way, renters only see the gorgeous, clean units the scammers want them to believe they represent.
It’s essential that 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 had the time to take any photos yet. Use your best judgement before you go forward.
Scam #2: Fake Rental Rates
Scammers who want to collect your personal information will act like they’re offering you a great rental deal. They do this by seducing you with a lower-than-average rental rate that seems too good to true. You then email them to ask for more information on the unit and they collect your information, then proceed to use it for their own purposes.
If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. 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. This way, you can compare similar units and avoid looking into the ones that are way below the normal price.
Scam #3: Renting out Foreclosures
During hard times, you can bet scammers will be trying to take advantage of the situation for themselves. In property management, this can happen when a scammer finds an abandoned or foreclosed property, pretends they’re the owner, and entices renters to pay a cash deposit to pay their “monthly rent” in cash until they’re caught.
Scammers may pose as fake agents and rent out a unit only to bolt right before the new tenants move in, or they’ll just sit quietly collecting the cash until they’re caught.
You can avoid this scam by refusing to use cash or wire transfers and by making sure you document everything. If something seems off, then take your time with the transaction. Should this cause the scammer to run, 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 an existing property that’s not their own to rent out, these scammers will obtain security deposits and information by impersonating a landlord or owner of a property that doesn’t exist. These scammers will use online classifieds like Craigslist to advertise properties and will answer inquiry emails with fake information about the place.
If you pay attention though, there’s always something off about these listings. Whether it’s a vague-looking email address full of random numbers and letters, or a lack of information about the location. Keep a sharp eye out for these kinds of things, and you won’t have to worry about being scammed.
Scam #5: The Eviction Prevention Hoax
Finally, another 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 actually being evicted.
If you get one of these notifications, investigate it before you send any money. Your state has laws in place detailing how long you may live in a foreclosed home, so make sure you find out what that timeframe 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 armed with the right knowledge, you can avoid lots of unnecessary problems. Be vigilant and make sure you trust both what you observe and what you feel in your gut. For such an important investment, it’s vital that you are well-protected.