12 Signs of a Rental Scam You Should Be Aware of

6 min read
rental scam

Beware! There are tons of scammers out there looking to get their hands on your hard-earned money when it comes to renting property.

Continue reading to find out 12 signs of a rental scam that you can hopefully spot.

12. The Landlord is Too Eager

rental scam

If the landlord seems just a little too eager to lease you the property, chances are you could be getting scammed. See, here’s the thing: there’s a process to renting a home. It’s not like buying a product from a store where all you have to do is have the cash (or credit) on hand to pay for said product and take it home with you.

When renting a home, you’ll be asked for financial information and employment verification and may have to undergo a background check. If the landlord is willing to skip this process is overly willing to negotiate the lease with you, take it as a sign that something is wrong.

11. You Aren’t Allowed to See the Property

rental property

You wouldn’t buy or rent something sight unseen, right? Right! But scammers are hoping that you’ll be gullible enough to do just that. They’ll often use vacant property (e.g., a vacation home or a home that a bank owns) as their rental property. When it comes time to view the said property, they will suddenly be unable to meet with you or flat out refuse to give you the address.

“If you reach out about an online rental listing and the person who responds doesn’t immediately ask to show you the available space or at least discuss options for a virtual or video tour, consider it a telltale sign that he or she has no association with the property,” U.S. News & World Report wrote on its website.

To avoid having something like this happen to you, make sure you NEVER sign the contract before you’ve seen the property.

10. The Asking Rent and/or Security Deposit Doesn’t Match Up

Renter, Scam, Lease

If the asking rent for the property you’re interested in is unusually low, it could be an indication of a fake listing. To find out if it is indeed fake, look at the other apartments/homes in the area.

If the one you wish to rent costs a few hundred dollars less than the others in the neighborhood, it’s more than likely you’ve come across a scammer trying to bilk you out of your hard-earned money.

According to an article published by Allstate, this type of rental scam is usually aimed at people who are moving into the area from out of town or people who are willing to put money down without ever seeing the property.

Then there’s the security deposit. If what they’re asking for is way too low, beware. This type of rental scam preys on the budget-conscious, hoping to bait them in with a low-security deposit so they can pay before someone else can get the apartment.

On the other hand, if the security deposit is way too high, the scammer is likely trying to get as much money from you as he or she can before suddenly “disappearing.”

9. They Ask You To Wire Money

Wire money

Wiring your security deposit and first month’s rent to a fake realtor is the same as dropping a wad of cash on the ground in a public place — you’ll never be able to get that money back.

And, even if it’s an actual realtor, you’re still putting yourself at risk by wiring money to them. All a hacker has to do is get into an email at the escrow or title company to send the renter an email explaining where to send the funds. Then the hacker makes off with the money.

8. The Property Listing is Sketchy

property listing

If you see a property listing that’s overly vague and/or has photos with an MLS watermark and/or is full of grammatical errors, it’s more than likely not a legitimate listing.

What’s more, is that sometimes even legitimate listings can be fake. Scammers will pull details from a legitimate listing on Craigslist, for example, and use it as their own.

They flag to remove the original, legitimate listing and replace it with their bogus listing. Would-be renters then send their money to the scammer, and he or she makes off with it.

7. The Property Owner Says They’re Out of the Country

sketchy, landlord

If the property owner says they’re out of the country and have a “plan” to get the keys into your hands, you should be concerned. For example, they’ll tell you they will mail you the keys, or they have an agent working on their behalf who will get the keys to you — provided that you send them the security deposit first, of course.

Just know that you’ll never see those keys, and you’ll be out of the money you sent them. But, if you happen to get a set of keys, it’s only because the scammer created fake keys.

6. The Person Showing You the Home is Not the Owner

tour home, rental

Sometimes scammers claim to be helping someone else rent out their property. Unfortunately, the property is usually a vacation rental, a foreclosed home, or a home owned by someone else who happens to be out of town — in other words, the property was never actually for rent.

By the time the would-be renter figures this out, the scammer, along with the security deposit and first and last month’s rent, will be long gone.

At other times, the scammer can be a tenant of an apartment in which he or she is vacating. They pretend to be the landlord and ask for the security deposit to secure the apartment before someone else does. Once they get your money, they cut off all communication with you and move to another location as quickly as they possibly can.

5. The Lease Isn’t Available

rent, sold, landlord, lease

There is something you need to know before renting a home: a lease is ALWAYS required when renting any property — even in the case of short-term rentals. That’s because the lease not only protects you, the renter, it also protects the landlord.

Therefore, if a real estate agent does not have a lease for you to sign, says there’s no time to review the lease with a lawyer, or just simply won’t make the lease available to you, you’re being scammed.

4. The Listing Asks for Serious Inquiries Only

serious inquiries

A landlord telling you they need to run a credit check on you before showing you the property or asking for cash or wire transfers before you can see the property because they are only interested in “serious inquiries” is a clear sign that you’re being scammed.

Yes, a landlord will run a credit check on you, but this is before closing the deal, not before showing you the property. And, they won’t ask you for money until the application process is complete.

3. They Tell You That You Can Pay the Rest Later

pay rent

You should expect to pay the full amount of the security deposit all at once. If the owner tells you that you can pay some now and the rest later, get out of there as quickly as you can.

“A scammer will likely not ask for the full amount due for a traditional move-in — such as the first month’s rent, a security deposit, and a pet deposit.

Instead, they’ll only ask for an amount that is quick money,” Seth Stephens, director of sales for Renters Warehouse in Seattle, told Reader’s Digest. And, “be wary of someone who is pushing to have funds wired or mailed to them quickly,” he added.

2. They’re Ready to Make a Deal With No Background Info

payment, deal

If you were renting out your property to someone else, would you skip the background check? Nope! And, neither would a legit landlord or property manager. If you run into one who’s willing to forgo a background check, run in the opposite direction.

Also, be leery of any landlord who tries to charge extra for a background check. According to an article published by Apartmentguide.com, a background check costs between $35-$75 per applicant. If they’re asking for more than that, it’s probably a scam.

1. A Stranger Contacts You About a Rental Property

rental scam

There’s a reason why people warn against putting personal information online. It makes it easy for scammers to target you. Even just mentioning that you’re looking for a place to rent can bring the scammers out of the woodwork.

They’ll see your post and contact you to send you details on a home. Then, they should let you view the exterior of the home, but no one is available to show you the interior.

Once you view the exterior, they’ll request money for the application fee and security deposit to be wired to a foreign location. Once the money is wired, they’ll disappear.