When searching for rental property, you may come across places that just seem too good to be real. Well, in some cases this is true, and that property is a scam. For example, a recent Chicago Sun-times article followed the events of a local Chicago couple, who were nearly duped. They believed they were coming to see a nice sublet apartment for $1400, but the property was non-existent. This post will discuss ways to avoid common rental scams.
As mentioned in the article, the couple were looking for a temporary place to stay while their current home was under construction. They believed they found a perfect spot on the popular website craigslist. Unfortunately, after delays in communication, a shady “owner” going out of town, and a visit to supposed property left the couple with questions.
Sign Then Spend
In the case of the couple mentioned in the article, they had not paid any money yet, although the representatives request. Often, people unfamiliar with the leasing process will do whatever the representative asks of them by the owner or agent. Scammers are aware of this and will prey on unsuspecting people. If someone is asking you to pay security deposits, rent in advance, or some other large fee, before viewing a property or signing a lease then it’s likely a scam.
Do Some Homework
If you notice a property with an unusually low price for the bed/bath count, then it’s likely a rental scam. Getting yourself familiar with the local market prices helps determine a scam from a gem. A great way to familiarize yourself with the local housing market is to hop on one of the property search engines. In your spare time, get on Zillow, Trulia, Zumper, or one of the other search engines to see what market prices look like.
Shady Even On A Sunny Day
Another common red flag for rental scams is a shady owner or agent. If you are contacting an owner or agent about a property check for signs of deception. Scammers will often misspell words, use fake email addresses, and the old favorite “I am out of town/unable to show” to trick victims.
Check the email address of any representative of a property to make sure it’s legit. If the representative is misspelling keywords or tells you they can’t show you the property for any reason, then walk away.
Call A Professional
The best way to avoid rental scams may be to work with a professional. They are better equipped to feel out a property, owner or agent, and determine what is legitimate. In most cases it will cost you nothing to work with your local real estate broker, so you have nothing to lose.
If you plan on renting, or currently rent property, you should think about purchasing renter’s insurance. Insurance won’t protect you from scammers, but it can protect you from yourself. Renter’s often mistakenly believe their landlord’s insurance policy covers them, but this is not true. Before disaster strikes, head over to one of Insurance Navy’s many locations or shop for quotes online at InsuranceNavy.com.
Take Home Message
It is not easy to differentiate a rental gem from a rental scam, but there are common signs you can look for. Never hand over money unless you’ve seen the property or signed a legitimate lease. Do your homework on the rental market before looking for a property, walk away from sketchy owners or agents. If you don’t have the time to search for property or do not feel equipped enough, seek a professional. And of course, when you do rent a property, remember to purchase a rental insurance policy.