When you are searching for an apartment, it’s easy to get excited about the perfect apartment and overlook the warning signs of a potential apartment scam! New renters, out-of-town renters, and low-income renters are the most vulnerable, but even the savviest renter can fall victim to a clever scammer. With COVID-19 changing the way we search for apartments, apartment scams are on the rise now more than ever! It’s important to keep the warning signs of a potential scam in mind and be educated about leasing laws and your rights as a tenant to help protect yourself. If you are apartment hunting, here are a few warning signs to watch out for!
Sending Money To Someone You Haven’t Met:
Rental scams commonly involve someone trying to rent you an apartment or home they don’t actually own. These scammers will typically try to get a security deposit and rent from you, then disappear without a trace and leave you without access to the promised rental! Being asked to send money when you haven’t met anyone or seen the place in person is the number one sign you are potentially being scammed.
Too Good To Be True:
Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! The rent being too low for the apartment or home offered can be a sign something is not right. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the rental market so you can recognize when the rent is too low for what they are offering. Make sure to ask yourself, and the landlord, why is the rent so low? Is something wrong with the apartment they aren’t telling you? Or are they attempting to reel you in with the promise of low rent, only to disappear with your security deposit?
A listing with typos, grammatical errors, inconsistent information, very little information, low-quality images, very few images, or images that don’t match the description, can be all signs of a potential scam. Professional leasing agents will ensure the listing is free of errors and includes information and pictures about the apartment or home in question.
Renting An Apartment You Haven’t Seen:
If you are relocating to a new area, only using virtual tours to pick your apartment, or the apartment is not offering in-person tours, you may be in a position of renting an apartment or home you have never seen in person. While this isn’t totally uncommon to rent sight-unseen, it’s important to verify the landlord actually has access to the place they are trying to rent you.
If the landlord seems to avoid an in-person tour, such as claiming they are out of town, too busy, or otherwise avoid allowing you to see the apartment, it can be a warning sign they don’t actually have access to the apartment they claim to own or represent.
If the landlord avoids sending you pictures, it could be another sign of a scam. It’s important to ask for quality pictures of the entire apartment, especially the inside. If the landlord avoids providing pictures or only provides pictures of the outside, it may also be a sign they don’t have access to the apartment or home or are avoiding showing you the full picture. While this isn’t necessarily a scam, if they won’t give you pictures, the rental may not be exactly what the landlord is promising.
During COVID-19, even if you can not get an in-person tour, many communities are offering live video tours where you can see the apartment live and ask questions. If you can’t tour the apartment in person or don’t feel comfortable, this is the next best option to ensure the rental is legal and what you expect.
Renting Without A Lease:
While not all rental situations require a lease, it’s important to remember that leases not only protect the landlord but the renter as well. If the landlord is attempting to rent without a lease, it can be a sign that something is up! It could mean they do not have one, that they are illegally subletting the apartment, or will attempt to evict you in order to take your rent and security deposit. It’s always safe to ask for a lease, even if you are renting month to month. If the landlord or manager refuses one, it’s always a good sign to walk away.
What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed?
If you’ve been scammed or suspect a scam is in action, contact your local authorities as soon as possible and report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. If the fraud happened over the internet, such as through an internet listing, you can also file a claim with the IC3. Make sure to retain any communications such as emails or text messages with the scammer to show the authorities. If the fraudulent listing is still up, you can report the listing to the listing website to have it taken down.
How To Protect Yourself?
You can help avoid falling for rental scams by following these tips and ensuring you are renting from reputable sources. Use official community websites to contact the apartment management directly. If you find the rental on a listing site, verify the listing and the person you talk to is a legal representation of the property. During the rental process, protect yourself by making sure you also:
- Carefully read everything you are signing.
- Understand anything you are paying for.
- Know your rights as a renter and as defined by your lease.
- Ensure to follow your leasing agreement.
Renting directly from reputable apartment complexes is one of the best ways to make sure you are renting from a legitimate source. Great apartment communities such as Big Sky Apartments provide experienced, professional property management instead of just a landlord. The award-winning Park Properties Management Company provides this essential support for our valued residents.
If you are looking for a truly safe and supported apartment to rent in Staunton, contact Big Sky Apartments in Staunton to get started today!