Beware of These Common Rental Scams

Posted by Lauren Schneider on Monday, January 13th, 2020 at 1:19pm.

Common Rental Scams - and How to Avoid ThemWhen looking for a Peyton home to rent, the majority of people find themselves looking for weeks for a suitable place. As time goes by, worries and uncertainties can pile up, making it easy to fall for common rental scams. This is especially true since so many of these modern scams are well-crafted and outright believable. Knowing just what to look for, however, can help people avoid those scams and find somewhere to live with and have a smooth PCS move in the process. To help out, here's a glimpse into the most common rental scams and how to avoid them.

For informational purposes only. Always consult with a licensed real estate professional before proceeding with any real estate transaction.

Fake Listings

Scammers have recently taken to pulling details from real rental properties and using them to create fake listings. At first glance, and even upon close inspection, these listings look legitimate, leaving people comfortable believing the scammer.

To sweeten the deal, many of these listings will show awesome deals, like a steep discount on rent upon signing a long lease. For this scam, an extremely low price is one red flag, as is the scammer stating they have had a lot of interest in the property. They will even go as far as asking for a quick deposit to keep the other interested parties from snagging the rental.

Renters can avoid all the drama by insisting on visiting the property in person before agreeing to make any payments. Before going, they should go to the local county tax assessor's website to look up the property owner. Then, they can ask to compare the ID of the person who arrives at the property to that name, verifying they own the place and have the right to rent it out.

High Application Fees

While landlords have to run background checks to verify renters meet their qualifications, their fees do not need to be exorbitant. When fees are high, it could point to landlords simply raking in the dough by running background checks and denying the applicants.

On average, landlords only charge each applicant 25 dollars to run their background check and process their application. In some areas, however, the price can run as high as 60 dollars a person. Any higher than that and there might be a problem.

Renters can ensure they are not running into a scam by comparing the proposed application fee to what other landlords in their area are charging. If the fee is more than double the average in the area, they should skip that property and continue the search, no matter how much they want that rental.

Absence of a Lease Agreement

When renting an apartment, condo, or house, most landlords will present a lease agreement to be signed on the spot. The suggested lease may be lengthy at a year or more—or simply go from month to month. Either way, there should be documentation to back up whatever agreement they present their renters.

Landlords who are renting property from afar and insist on a verbal agreement alone may be trying to pull a fast one on their prospective renters. They may initially make an excuse on why the lease is not available, only to deny providing one after getting the initial payment. Then, renters are stuck having to decide between starting their search anew, and without the bulk of their cash on hand, or sticking with the uncertainties of renting without a lease.

So, all renters should insist on seeing a rental agreement well before offering a deposit on the rental, no matter how many other prospective tenants are lined up. In addition, they should carefully comb through the lease and voice their concerns about any questionable requirements.

Red flags to look for in a lease agreement include:

  • Cash payment requirements
  • Lack of contact information
  • Unreasonable late fees
  • Questionable eviction terms
  • Vague security deposit conditions

If any problematic areas are found in the lease, renters can ask the landlord to clarify in writing or even request changes before signing.

Bait and Switch Tactics

When finding a home to rent, many people will view the property, sign the lease and issue the initial payment, and then come back to get the keys. With bait and switch tactics, everything will look great until the renters come back to pick up the keys to their new home.

At that time, the landlord may indicate the rental they viewed is suddenly unavailable and offer them a different unit. This alternate unit usually does not have nearly as many features and amenities as the one they were shown, leaving them deeply disappointed.

With their deposit already issued and lease signed, renters may feel like they do not have any recourse when this happens. Unfortunately, unless the rental's address or unit number is indicated on the lease, they may not. Renters should always have the landlord clearly write down the address and unit number of the rental before signing the lease. Then, hold onto those documents to take to a lawyer in case of bait and switch tactics.

With their newfound awareness of these common rental scams, Peyton renters can avoid getting duped and ending up losing out on their new home. They can then move through the process of finding and acquiring a rental with confidence they are taking all the right steps.

For informational purposes only. Always consult with a licensed real estate professional before proceeding with any real estate transaction.

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