When looking for an apartment, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding the right place and overlook the warning signals of a possible apartment scam! The most vulnerable tenants include new renters, out-of-town renters, and low-income renters, but even the most savvy renter might fall prey to a skilled fraudster. Apartment scams are on the rise now more than ever, thanks to COVID-19, which is transforming the way we search for apartments. To protect yourself, be aware of the warning signs of a potential scam and educate yourself on lease regulations and your rights as a renter. Here are a few red flags to look out for if you’re looking for an apartment!
Sending Money To Someone You Haven’t Met:
Rental scams commonly involve someone trying to rent you an apartment or home they don’t actually own. These con artists will attempt to obtain a security deposit and rent from you, then vanish, leaving you without access to the promised property! The number one clue that you are being scammed is being asked to send money before meeting anyone or seeing the place in person.
Too Good To Be True:
Remember that if something appears to be too good to be true, it most often is! The rent being too low for the apartment or home offered can be a sign something is not right. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the rental market so you can recognize when the rent is too low for what they are offering. Make sure to ask yourself, and the landlord, why is the rent so low? Is something wrong with the apartment they aren’t telling you? Or are they luring you in with the promise of affordable rent only to vanish with your security deposit?
A listing with typos, grammatical errors, inconsistent information, very little information, low-quality images, very few images, or images that don’t match the description, can be all signs of a potential scam. Professional leasing agents will ensure the listing is free of errors and includes information and pictures about the apartment or home in question.
Renting An Apartment You Haven’t Seen:
If you are relocating to a new area, only using virtual tours to pick your apartment, or the apartment is not offering in-person tours, you may be in a position of renting an apartment or home you have never seen in person. While this isn’t totally uncommon to rent sight-unseen, it’s important to verify the landlord actually has access to the place they are trying to rent you.
If the landlord avoids giving you an in-person tour, claims to be out of town, too busy, or otherwise refusing to let you see the property, it could be a clue that they don’t legitimately own or represent the unit.
Another sign of a fraud is if the landlord avoids to send you images. It’s important to ask for quality pictures of the entire apartment, especially the inside. If the landlord avoids providing pictures or only provides pictures of the outside, it may also be a sign they don’t have access to the apartment or home or are avoiding showing you the full picture. While this isn’t necessarily a scam, if they won’t give you pictures, the rental may not be exactly what the landlord is promising.
During COVID-19, even if you can not get an in-person tour, many communities are offering live video tours where you can see the apartment live and ask questions. If you can’t tour the apartment in person or don’t feel comfortable, this is the next best option to ensure the rental is legal and what you expect.
Renting Without A Lease:
While not every rental arrangement necessitates the use of a lease, it’s vital to remember that leases protect both the landlord and the tenant. It could be a hint that something is wrong if the landlord is attempting to rent without a lease. It could indicate that they don’t have one, that they’re unlawfully subletting the apartment, or that they’ll try to evict you to get your rent and security deposit. Even if you’re renting on a month-to-month basis, it’s always a good idea to ask for a lease. If the landlord or manager refuses one, it’s always a good sign to walk away.
What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed?
If you’ve been scammed or suspect a scam is in action, contact your local authorities as soon as possible and report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. If the fraud happened over the internet, such as through an internet listing, you can also file a claim with the IC3. Make sure to retain any communications such as emails or text messages with the scammer to show the authorities. If the fraudulent listing is still up, you can report the listing to the listing website to have it taken down.
How To Protect Yourself?
You can help avoid falling for rental scams by following these tips and ensuring you are renting from reputable sources. Use official community websites to contact the apartment management directly. If you find the rental on a listing site, verify the listing and the person you talk to is a legal representation of the property. During the rental process, protect yourself by making sure you also:
- Carefully read everything you are signing.
- Understand anything you are paying for.
- Get receipts wherever possible.
- Know your rights as a renter and as defined by your lease.
- Ensure to follow your leasing agreement.
Renting directly from reputable apartment complexes is one of the best ways to make sure you are renting from a legitimate source. Great apartment communities such as Jubal Square Apartments provide experienced, professional property management instead of just a landlord. The award-winning Park Properties Management Company provides this essential support for our valued residents.
If you are looking for a truly safe and supported apartment to rent in Winchester, contact Jubal Square Apartments in Winchester to get started today!