Not all landlords are the “bad guy” landlord that Hollywood makes them out to be. There are plenty of landlords out there that have hearts, understand personal problems, and are flexible about issues that might come up (financial or otherwise).
But for every good landlord out there, it seems like there are a couple of bad ones – and knowing how to avoid the tricksters, schemers, and outright liars in the rental world is crucial to avoiding being the victim of a landlord’s scam. So today we’re talking about how to identify possible scams, and what to do if you unwittingly become the victim of one.
Types of Rental Scams
First things first – when you’re apartment hunting, it’s important not to ignore potential red flags. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. So when it comes to renting an apartment, there are a few potential scams you should be on the lookout for.
- Wire Transfer = Red Alert. If you’re checking out apartments, it’s entirely possible that you might be asked to pay an application fee, background or credit check fee, or security deposit. But if you’re asked to wire someone money before you even see the place? That’s a big red flag – you should never transfer money to the landlord of a property you haven’t viewed, and you should never make a deposit on a place you haven’t signed a lease on.
- Excuses, Excuses, Excuses. If a landlord has a long list of excuses for why they aren’t available to meet you in person or show you the property, chances are good that something is fishy with the situation.
- Multiple Listing Service. Apartments are a dime a dozen – but that doesn’t mean your prospective apartment should be listed a dozen times, with all sorts of different info. If you see your potential future home described as a “One bedroom, one bath” on one site, and a “Three bedroom, two both” on another site, it’s good to be on alert for a potential scam attempt.
- That’s A Little Personal. Ever been on a first date where someone asked for your social security number? You’d probably be a little weirded out if they did – and rightly so! Same goes for apartment hunting – if your potential landlord asks for all sorts of personal information before you get the chance to look at the apartment, that should be a red flag for a potential scam.
How to Move Forward If You’re Scammed
So you were looking at an apartment before you saw this blog article, and you’ve been scammed. What to do now? Well, although it can be difficult to handle (depending on how far into the scam you’ve been drawn), there are a few things you can do right away.
- Stop communicating with the scammer. Don’t let them know that you think they’re a scammer or they could disappear into the wind, vanishing without a trace (and possibly with your personal info or money).
- Contact the authorities and report the scam. You can file reports with your local police agency, as well as the Federal Trade Commission (if your communication with the landlord was online). Doing so can help out your case, and can also help the appropriate agencies build a case against the scammer.
Share your story with other potential renters to help avoid friends and neighbors falling victim to the same scam. If there’s a notorious scammer in or around your town, posting on community boards and social media can help avoid future scams – and might encourage past victims to report their situation too, further strengthening the case against the scammer.