How to avoid rental scams

Renting a new home is an exciting new chapter in our lives. Moving to Chicago and the fresh start in a new apartment or house can bring us a higher quality of living and a different perspective. Therefore, you really shouldn’t let anything mess with your plans. The digital era has made it easier than ever before to find a place to live. Unfortunately, it has also made things easier for scammers. Knowing how to recognize them is a great skill. Lets’ find out how to avoid rental scams. 

How do they do it?

How do rental scammers operate anyway? Usually, they try to get money from a prospective tenant for a place that the scammer is in no legal position to rent. The place might be real, but the scammer doesn’t have the authority to lease it. Or it can be completely fictitious. The scammer is usually an impostor, but sometimes can be a real landlord. Scammers typically try to get money from apartment hunters, and then they disappear. For example, a tenant who’s vacating his apartment might show it, pretending to be the landlord. He might make you believe you’re getting that apartment and collect fees and security deposits upfront. Once you realize you have been scammed, the scammer has already vanished with your money.

Wooden little house on the grass.
Learn how to recognize rental scammers.

Too good to be true

If a rental property is advertised at a rate below market value for the area, it’s time to get suspicious. Scammers are using people seeing a deal so good that they’ll want to act quickly to secure it. Sometimes, rental scams can be advertised as having recent price drops to account for their low cost. Sounds great but not very realistic. If the price is noticeably lower than others, that should be a red flag. If you are new in a town, better ask for advice. Chicago movers that handle your belongings could recommend some real estate agent to help you out.

Cash up front is a bad sign

The easiest way of performing shady money operations is by working in cash only. The reason for this is that money simply cannot be traced. So once you pay them in cash for your new place, they just need to get away with your money. A landlord who wants to scam you will always insist on paying cash and will simply move on to the next victim if you refuse. Remember, a security deposit and paying the last month upfront should never involve cash.

A written lease is a must

The only form of lease that you should accept is a written one. Although some states do allow oral agreements, you shouldn’t. This way you will avoid rental scams. Imagine that you’ll have to take this case to the court. Everybody will ask you what proof do you have. You won’t have one, and these cases are always hard to resolve. Lease contracts should be signed by both parties- a homeowner and you. The best way to do that is to sign the lease in the presence of each other. Most importantly, you should get a copy of this contract, not only the landlord.

How to avoid rental scams when renting an apartment with living room.
Make sure you see the place before renting it.

Make sure you see the place with your own eyes

Seeing the actual place you are planning you are going to rent is absolutely necessary. If the landlord refuses to show you the apartment, you should definitely skip that offer to avoid rental scams. Don’t accept the first offer for cheap apartment rental you get, and never rent a place before seeing it. Every reliable landlord will be more than happy to show its place. Not just to convince you, but also to avoid some future problems or misunderstanding. Also, the real landlord probably doesn’t need to convince you, since there are many renters who will be interested if you’re not. Therefore, schedule the open house visit and evaluate the real property condition.

This also goes to those renting a place while still living elsewhere. There is always a way to check out the place. Your friend, family member or your trustee can pay a visit to the landlord’s unit and takes a look at it.

Meet the landlord

Although some scammers will meet tenants in person without a problem, some of them will back off after this suggestion. Meeting the landlord will allow you to recognize some con artists and will also allow you to get an impression of the landlord’s personality. And even if many out-of-town landlords are legitimate, insisting on a local landlord or company will lessen the risk of fraud.

Speak with the current tenants

In most cases, landlords are showing a property that is currently occupied. Occupied units are far less likely to be part of the scam. If you get a chance, try to speak to the current tenants in order to avoid rental scams. Do that outside of the presence of the landlord. Ask them nicely how the landlord treats them and whether anything unusual is taking place. This is also a great opportunity to meet the neighbors and get some insight view.

Two pair of hands on the table holding cups.
If you get a chance, try to speak to the current tenants.

Landlord too eager 

Usually, landlords want to know your credit score, and they may also want more information about you. Some of them require a criminal background check and employment verification. And that is perfectly normal, they want to know who is going to live in their place and to avoid having problems with tenants. If a landlord doesn’t seem interested in you and appears too eager to take the money, it’s suspicious. Also, if a landlord wants a higher security deposit than what’s required by law, or too high upfront fees, that’s a red flag.

How to avoid rental scams

These are just some of the obvious signs you shouldn’t ignore when renting a place. Basically, you need to keep your eyes wide open in order to avoid rental scams. If by any chance you have a personal recommendation for some property, that’s the best solution. And if not, be careful and assertive. Don’t look gullible, and scammers won’t have a chance. Good luck!