How To Spot A Rental Scam

by CSA Staff on February 27th, 2021 in Apartments

By Danielle Wirsansky

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, rental scams have been on the rise. Those in younger generations, like students, who are thought to be the most tech-savvy, however, are the ones most often falling for these scams. They are the ones who are most often looking to rent over purchasing and are often more pressed for time and money. And it is easy to fall prey when you do not feel comfortable visiting a property or being given a tour.

So what does a rental scam have to do with COVID-19? With physical and social distancing becoming the norm more and more, and as people try to do more important tasks online, it is easier to fall between the cracks and become prey to predators.

“What COVID has done is accelerated the rental industry’s adoption of technologies in the digital environment to become contactless,” said Maitri Johnson, vice president of TransUnion’s tenant and employment business, in an interview with CNBC. “As this acceleration into the digital environment has occurred, it also has opened up the prevalence of fraud much more so.”

Knowing that rental scams and fraud are more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic is one step towards helping defend yourself from falling prey to it. However, what can you do to stop yourself from falling from a scam should you stumble across one? Read on to learn how to spot a rental scam!
 

via Pexels

Too Good to be True

One of the golden rules, not just of thwarting rental scams but of life, is that if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true. If you are property hunting and you see an excellent, way below market price—this is your first red flag. What reason would a landlord have for dropping below market price unless their property is not what it seems? Students in particular are often very money conscious and are always looking for a bargain. You just need to be wary of the line between a bargain and a scam.

Be sure to do research and learn the average price of properties in your area or with similar floorplans and amenities. This will help you notice when there is something fishy going on with the pricing of a property you may be interested in. When it is too good to be true, you will know it and be better able to avoid falling into a trap.

Always, Always, Always See the Property

Especially during the pandemic, it is completely understandable that you might want to fall back and rely on pictures and virtual tours rather than meet a realtor or other property manager that you might not know and be exposed looking at a property. However, you really need to see the property before you move to it.

This can be difficult if you do not live in town, but if you do, then you definitely need to go and take a look. If the property manager keeps putting you off and trying to pressure you to sign a lease before you get to see the property, you will know that something underhanded is going on. You do not want to succumb to peer pressure.

Other elements of this scam might be that the landlord or property manager is out of town or on vacation and is unable to give you a tour of the property, or even that because of this situation, the landlord will give you a rent cut to persuade you to sign. Do not fall for it!

Rental scams are run by scam artists, and they know exactly what to say to make their demands and explanations sound reasonable. They know how to pressure you, how to manipulate your fears, anxieties, and emotions. You have to stay removed and logical. If they insist that you sign the lease or pay a deposit before you see the property to “reserve” it, you must refuse. Make it a hard rule that no matter what, you must see the property in person before you sign any financial contract or fork over any money.

Falling for a scam is easier than it sounds. It takes constant vigilance in your home hunting to keep yourself and your finances safe from those who would exploit the situation. Take every precaution you can to help yourself from falling into a scam, especially as scams become more and more commonplace. Take what you are told by property managers with a  grain of salt. Do your own research. Always visit the property yourself and see it with your own eyes. Know the market prices of the areas you are interested in. Do not give in to any peer pressure and if you have any hard rules, follow them and do not give in.

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