The process of finding and renting an apartment takes a lot of time and effort from both landlords and tenants— and all those moving pieces mean that both parties can be vulnerable to scammers if not prepared. Rental scams, at heart, are a misrepresentation of either the property available or a person’s intent to pay to live there, and can be damaging to all involved. Read on for a breakdown of some common scams and how to protect yourself against them.
Scam to Tenant
If you’re a student or an inexperienced renter, it may be especially hard to spot red flags in rental ads or in your communication with possible landlords. Here are some of the most frequent to watch out for:
- You are asked to sign the lease before you’ve seen the property. This is the #1 “don’t” of renting an apartment; often scamming landlords will show photos of one property but put the address of another on the lease, or only show photos that omit damage to the apartment.
- The monthly rent is much lower than that of similar apartments in the area. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is; there’s a catch somewhere, and the landlord likely doesn’t want you to know what it is until you’ve signed the lease.
- Ads for the apartment have grammar issues or misspellings (even British spellings such as favour or colour). This isn’t necessarily a flag all on its own, but when coupled with other shady behavior can indicate someone who’s not above board.
- You can only work with a representative of the owner, who says that the owner is too busy or out of town. This could indicate that a legitimate listing has been poached by a scammer, who is trying to convince you that they have the ability to rent you the apartment, but will split once they have your money.
- Similar to the above, if the “owner” or agent isn’t able to let you into the apartment, it could be a sign that they don’t actually have any rights to the property, and are trying to scam you. Don’t ever sign a lease without seeing the property first!
These scams are a scary prospect to consider, but it is possible to protect yourself by going into the process armed with knowledge. Read up on these and other common rental scams, and when you’re beginning the apartment hunt, do your research. Look up the owner, the property management company, and the real estate agent to confirm they are who they say they are; reverse Google image search the photos from the listing to make sure they weren’t skimmed from other listings; get all the terms of the rental in writing including any and all fees; and retain a full copy of the lease, signed by both you and the owner or property manager. All of these can not only prevent you from getting scammed, but give you legal recourse in the event that you are taken advantage of.
Scam to Landlord
Rental scams can go the other way, too. There are a number of rental scams that count on landlords not having effective and thorough screening processes in place, don’t have secure methods of collecting rent, and are careless with how they write leases. Here are a few common ones we’ve found:
- Falsifying prior rental information. Someone’s name will be given as a past landlord, when they either didn’t own the property or the would-be tenant didn’t live in one of their units.
- Overpaying rent with a check and asking for cash back. The aim is to pass a bad check and get cash in hand.
- Falsifying identity information. If you don’t contact your tenant’s references and employer, it can be easy for people without steady income to slip by you.
- Claiming an emergency as a reason to rent the apartment as soon as possible, without going through the regular process. This tactic can be used by people who don’t have steady income or who have a bad credit score and are afraid they’ll be denied housing.
For a landlord, the easiest way to avoid getting scammed is to have thorough and secure processes for all parts of your rental cycle. Run a tenant’s background check (also known as a consumer report) on your prospective tenants; make sure you meet each person whose name will be on the lease; verify those people’s identities, employment, and personal references; return any checks that overpay the rental amount due.
Digitizing your rental application process can help you deal with all of these possible pitfalls. By having your would-be tenants submit all their information online, you have a record of what they’ve claimed is true which can be used to pursue a claim against them if they scam you. By having your tenants pay their rent online, you remove their ability to engage in overpayment scams or ask for cash back.
How All County Denver South Can Help
All County Denver South Property Management is here to help property owners have confidence in the quality of their tenants and the security of their property through knowledgeable and trustworthy property management services. From managing tenant relationships to lease enforcement, we look forward to working with you to see how your investment can be a long-term, stress-free asset. For a complimentary quote, call us today at (720) 664-4550.