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Four important tips to avoid property rental scams

By on 31 May, 2018

Whether you’re looking to rent a one-bedroomed studio apartment in another part of town or relocating with work to the U.S. — perhaps a new job and apartment in Denver, Colorado — wherever you live and rent, you’ll need to ensure you do your best to avoid historically commonplace rental scams. Here's some advice from 

Rental scams may seem like an insignificant issue to many, but as technology becomes more widespread and innovative and landlord-tenant relationships become even less personal, an increasing number of would-be renters are falling victim to them.

Commonly, we see rental scams such as: advertising and taking deposits for properties that are already rented by the actual owner or agent – or don’t exist at all; charging extra fees for background checks without actually performing the check; charging exorbitant application fees; demanding cash payments and changing locks after receiving rent payments.

So, how do you avoid becoming a victim of a rental scam? Here are four major tips to ensure your safety as a renter.

Do NOT Deal in Cash

One major weak point in catching a rental scam criminal is the inability to trace a payment. Sophisticated scammers know that law enforcement officials can trace payments when they’re made in commons ways — debit card, credit card, checks, etc. For this reason, many rental scammers will make sure to only accept a difficult-to-trace payment form like cash, or by bank transfer to a fraudulent account.

With that in mind, a new tenant should never pay rent for their flat or apartment in cash or by bank transfer. Credible landlords will typically accept credit card, debit card, checks, money orders, cashier’s checks and other easily traceable payment methods. This will ensure that your payments can be tracked and documented. Even if the landlord isn’t a scammer, cash only payments are risky. Any landlord asking you for a cash payment should be ‘red-flagged’ and you should avoid that property altogether.

Meeting Your Landlord (In Person)

A major issue comes about when the tenant-landlord relationship becomes significantly less personal. Meeting your landlord in person is a great way to personalise that relationship and to ensure a less scam-ridden operation. Let’s say your landlord lives in one part of the country and you rent hundreds of miles away. Well, this might be an issue if they don’t have someone living nearby who you can meet in person before renting the flat or apartment. A personal meeting with your landlord will help you get a feel for them as a person and will limit the scamming opportunities.

Although many landlords have local people fill in for them during showings and throughout the rental process, it is helpful if you can meet the actual person who you will be paying each month for your rent payment. This will lessen the risk of fraud and lead to a better service overall.

The Sales Tactics

Some areas growing in popularity and therefore, prices rise. The same goes for markets all across the world. In every city, you’ll find demand for apartments and flats. But at the same time, no landlord, regardless of how great their specific market is, should ever push you into signing a lease or paying cash up front and on the spot without you feeling comfortable about what you’re getting. If you feel like the landlord is being pushy or overly sales-like, take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.

In most cases, landlords will ask for an application fee before taking next steps. So, if you’re viewing a flat and there is no application process, but instead your potential landlord asks for money on the spot, that’s a clear sign that you might want to steer clear of renting from that person. A thorough application process, although sometimes time-consuming for the renter, is a good indication of a credible landlord.

Licensed Estate Agents or Letting Agents

Many rental properties are managed by real estate agents. It is not rare for a tenant to have his/her own agent as well. In more expensive neighbourhoods, having an agent represent you as the renter is a great idea and will help you avoid rental scams. These licensed estate agents should be able to safeguard you against scams, as they know the ins and outs of the rental process better than anyone. Also, if you are scammed when using an agent, you can likely hold the agent responsible.

Before you start working with an agent to find your next property, make sure you confirm that they’re licensed and credible. This will help ease your mind and make your rental process much easier and safer.

Overall, many rental scams exist today. With innovative technology and less personal relationships, scamming someone has never been easier in the rental industry. So, next time you’re looking to rent, make sure you follow these steps and do your research before signing for your new place.