Trying to get over with the whole relocation and rental business quickly to dodge its pressure is the first thing you shouldn’t do. Moving is stressful, alright, but it is nothing compared to realizing that you’ve been scammed and lost money in the process due to impatience or carelessness. To avoid home rental scams, first, you must identify the major red flags and then thread cautiously.
Where the danger lies
It seems that we spend half of our lives looking out for scammers. If, for instance, you wish to relocate, you don’t only have to look out for moving scams but avoid home rental scams, too. The latter most commonly include fraudsters getting away with security deposits or first and last month rents, or background check fees.
Before I go into details, I’ll summarize the situations you may fall into. Those should immediately alert you that something’s wrong. There are many points during the rental process where scammers wait for unsuspecting victims. It should alert you if:
- the deal is too good to miss on
- the landlord doesn’t allow you to see the property before you pay
- you can’t identify the owner or meet him/her in person
- the landlord doesn’t care to identify you
- they don’t offer you a written lease
- the property listing photos bear a watermark from the local multiple listing service
- they ask you to pay in cash or another untraceable form of payment.
Be suspicious of good deals
There is nothing that attracts attention like a good discount. Some would rush blindly into the trap so they can save on the rent. Unfortunately, this is where the scammers await. By creating the air of urgency, they trick you into believing that you snatched the amazing deal before you can check the details. If the rent is much below the market price, and you handed over the cash deposit before you even saw the property, consider yourself scammed. Before you start packing, make sure you are mentally ready to relocate and rent because it takes time and effort to carefully consider your every step. It would be a good idea to consider asking for professional assistance. Moving professionals are more than happy to help. And if you don’t know where to look – we advise you to consider hiring Triple 7 Movers Las Vegas!
Ask to see the property
You should be aware that scammers usually hijack regular ads and switch the contact details. They may even present themselves as middlemen. Logically, if someone rents a house or apartment they can’t access, they will try to evade showing you the property. There isn’t a single reason why you shouldn’t inspect the property before you rent it. If they tell you that the house is not available for viewing for any reason, go to the address and check it. If the landlord hasn’t even provided you with the address, the case is clear.
Meet the landlord
Even in the best-case scenario, you need to know who your landlord is and how to contact him/her in case of an emergency. So, even if the rental agreement is legitimate, you’d want to avoid having a landlord you can’t reach. Whatever excuses a homeowner makes not to meet with you, don’t buy them.
Similarly, what does it tell you about the landlord who doesn’t want to make a background check on you? Imagine that you’re renting your apartment to someone. The first thing you’d want to ensure is that the tenants are decent and able to cover the rent. The only information you should never provide to the landlord doing a background check is your credit card or bank account number. A credit check will require a social security number though, but provide it only once you have a copy of the lease signed by the landlord.
Sign the lease in the landlord’s presence
Scammers will do everything in their power to avoid signing any legally binding documents. Usually, they will ask you to sign the lease, send it back, and pay the deposit. You’ll never get your copy of the signed document nor will you hear from them again. The best way to avoid a scam is to ask for a written lease and thoroughly read it first. If you agree with the terms, arrange that you meet with the landlord and you both sign two copies.
Check the listing details
A person that is not associated with the property will not have detailed information about it. Commonly, photos they use are taken from the local MLS (multiple listing service) and bear its watermark. A professional photographer would provide the photos to the owner who will be able to distribute the genuine photos as he/she seems fit without the watermark. Also, a legitimate landlord/homeowner will be able to provide you with every detail about the property. If the responses are vague or if they are ignored, you have every right to suspect that something fishy is happening.
Use a traceable form of payment
The only way the police can trace a scammer is if you pay them via bank account or credit card. This is exactly the reason why scammers won’t offer these forms of payment. If they request payment in cash or ask you to wire money (via Moneygram or WesternUnion, for example), refuse it. A legitimate landlord doesn’t mind leaving a trace of his dealings.
What if we can’t avoid home rental scams
We all think that scams can’t happen to us, but everybody can fall victim to sophisticated frauds, even the careful. If I were in such a situation, I’d call my lawyer, report the case to the police and give as many details as I can. Aside from that, I’d file a consumer complaint to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). I may or may not get my money back but I won’t fall for the same trick again, nor will millions of other consumers subscribed for FTC’s scam alert.
Always do your homework
How to avoid home rental scams? Stay ahead of the scammers. They rely on you being hasty or simply gullible. Research companies, agents and persons involved in the rental of the specific property. Google the address, check the location, talk to the neighbors and previous or current tenants. Read the reviews, and alerts from organizations protecting consumers’ rights. Our best option to fight and avoid home rental scams is through solidarity. Also, remember to stay organized once the time to move comes. Always calculate your expenses in advance and be ready for what’s to come! Moving to your new house should be a fun experience, so make sure yours is!