Rental scams have been around forever. And over the years, scammers have gotten better and better at tricking unsuspecting renters. To protect yourself from falling into their trap, follow these helpful tips!
Use a licensed real estate or leasing agent
Having a real estate agent gives you added protection. With their extensive knowledge of the market, they are better prepared to identify/recognize a scam. For instance, if the rent seems too good to be true, especially in a hot market, than it probably is. Also, it is highly unlikely that a scammer would be comfortable working with an agent to illegally rent a property.
See the property in person
There are several valid reasons for renting a property sight unseen, including moving from out of state. However, it’s never a good idea. If you are unavailable to see the listing, have a family member, friend or real estate professional verify that the place 1. Exists and 2. Matches the pictures/description. Scheduling a showing is also a good opportunity to meet someone from the property, such as the owner, landlord or a representative from the management company. If they are hesitant to show the property or meet in person than it could be a scam.
Never pay in cash
Paying for a property in cash can be impossible to trace. I would highly suggest paying for the security deposit and/or 1st month’s rent with a check or money order. If the “owner” is insistent on paying in cash, take that as a giant red flag. There is no reason why anyone should require a cash payment.
Get a written lease
Ask for a written lease that specifies all of the details of the agreement. Include information such the address, term, price and the owner’s name. (You can easily look up the owner’s information through county records.) For added protection, it doesn’t hurt to have a lawyer look over the lease as well to verify that it’s a legally binding contract.