Nowadays there are a lot of houses for rent on the market. This is definitely a trend that is here to stay and can be beneficial for both landlord and tenant. However, unlike apartment buildings and complexes, rental houses may not be managed by a property manager.
Rental properties that are not managed by professionals are much more likely to be the target of rental scams. Here are some precautions that every potential renter should take, for every rental property they are thinking about renting:
- The website where you find the property should have multiple photos, inside and outside. Inquire about the property and ask about something you can’t see in one of the photos.
- The website where you find the property should have details about all the amenities. Look at the list and make sure the attractions mentioned are actually nearby – within walking distance if that’s what they say they are.
- The webiste should have an exact address, not just an area circled on a map. Move on to another property if you can’t get the exact house address.
- You should be able to set up an appointment for a walkthrough. Do not sign anything or make any payments until after the walkthrough.
- You should be asked to provide information about yourself to be screened as a potential tenant. If you are not asked for your information at all or if you are asked for your information prior to a requested walkthrough, move on to another property.
- You should be asked to sign a lease, but you should not be asked to sign or pay anything before seeing the property. If any kind of payment is requested before you have signed a lease and received keys (that actually open a door to the property) move on to another property.
- Pay attention to the following warning signs: if the person asking for the intial rent or a deposit is out of the state or country; if the rent requested is too cheap for the area where the property is located; and/or if you are asked to wire a deposit or rental amount. These are all potential signs that the person asking for money does not own or manage the property.
- Don’t be pressured. Scammers favorite tool is to try to make you act without thinking something through. Whether there is a time limit or not, you should thoroughly research the property – and if you don’t have time, move on to something else.
- Know the owner – check real estate, property management, and tax assessor’s records to make sure that the person you are dealing with is the legitimate owner of the property.
Finally, if at any time during the process you feel uneasy or doubt what you are being told is true, move on. There are a lot of scammers pretending to be owners as soon as a house is placed on the market because more often than not, they get away with it! If no one was fooled, the number of scammers would drop significantly. Don’t be a statistic.