Watch out for the Worst Apartment Scams

Searching for an apartment? You could land in one of the following scenarios, which could put a bullseye on your back. Check out these tips on how to avoid rental scams.

1. Don't Rush the Process

You’re relocating. You’re eager to just find an apartment already, or you love the place and want to snag it ASAP.

Scam artists take advantage of this urgency by asking upfront for a high security deposit or illegal/excessive/non-fundable fees, which should raise red flags for you to investigate. Also take time to review the lease, rental agreement or contract in depth. Only make payments after you’ve sign the lease.

2. See Rental Properties Firsthand

The photos look great! It’s so exciting that you’re ready to send the money now.

Visit the property first (or tour it via FaceTime if you live out of town). Fake rental listings could already be leased or may not exist at all. The scammer could also copy details from another listing. Meet the landlord in person too before making any money moves.

3. Don't Fall for the Bait and Switch

You show up to see a place that appears to be amazing. It’s suddenly no longer available or is in terrible condition. Next, you’re quickly pressured into considering more expensive options.

Watch out for suspiciously too-good-to-be-true ads. Then before pursuing a higher-priced place, compare listing options in the area. Research the local average rent for different types of apartments and amenities available.

4. Take Pictures Prior to Move-in

It’s move out time! But you landlord tries to withhold the deposit because of prior damages you weren’t responsible for.

Before moving in, inspect the apartment thoroughly and document its condition by taking detailed photographs. Email these pictures to your landlord to use as evidence in case you unfairly get charged for repairs.

5. Don't Pay Through Insecure Methods

You’re asked to wire money, pay in cash or send funds using an unprotected money transfer service (Western Union, Venmo or PayPal).

Fraud alert! Apartment List recommends using checks or credit cards. Also verify the legitimacy of the agent, especially if they ask for personal information like your social security number or bank account info (which makes you vulnerable to identity theft).

More Tips for Safe Apartment Searching

  • Question a price that’s significantly lower than the area’s market rate.
  • Be suspicious of pushy landlords who skip the background check, credit report or screening process.
  • Rely on a trusted third-party property management site like Avail for a legitmate rental experience.
  • Search on Apartment.com, which adheres to a list of security steps to protect renters.

The apartment search is overwhelming! That’s why we encourage you to bookmark this page and use it as a quick guide to refer back to as you continue to search for the perfect place.

The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.