Finding your next apartment to call home isn’t just about finding the perfect rental in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, or elsewhere in Texas. If you’re renting these days, you’re also probably dodging scams and spending time trying to make sure listings are legit.
And if you know some of the most common red flags of rental scams, you’re going to have a much easier time sidestepping the cons, saving time and money, and zeroing in on the best options.
Like many scams out there, apartment scams are usually meant to target more vulnerable renters, like first-time renters, folks from out of town, or anyone who’s in a big rush to move.
Here’s why, along with a closer look at the angles different rental scams can use and what you can do to protect yourself from being conned by one of them.
Grammar mistakes, typos, and nonsensical language aren’t the hallmarks of a professional landlord or property management company that’s marketing an apartment for rent. In fact, real estate professionals and property owners generally take the time to craft well-written listings that:
- Clearly and accurately explain the apartment’s size, location, and price
- Provide nice descriptors of the unit’s features and the community’s amenities
- Have been carefully crafted, so they read well and tell an inviting “story” about the rental
In contrast, scammers’ listings tend to be poorly written, sound “off” in tone, and be jarring to read.
So, if a listing sounds off, if it’s not really making sense, or if you’re questioning the language in it, take that as a clear warning sign that you may have run across a rental scam — and move on to other listings.
Property owners, property management companies, and landlords who are legit want tenants who will pay their rent on time every time. And the best way to screen for that is by checking credit scores and looking at rental applications before moving forward with a lease, the deposit, and other next steps.
So, if you’re coming across listings or “landlords” who have no screening process, it’s probably not above-board — especially if:
- You’re only able to communicate via email.
- The “landlords” are out of the country.
- They are asking you to wire money anywhere.
As much as you want to find the ultimate deal on the best apartment, don’t be misled by rock-bottom prices for out-of-this-world rentals. With apartments, rent prices, and scams, the adage, If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, certainly rings true more often than not.
That’s because it can be easy for scammers to show off gorgeous photos, offer what seems like an amazing deal, and then take advantage of you when you take the bait. And in many cases, con artists show off rentals that don’t exist or that they don’t operate at all.
So, always question rent prices, especially when they seem too good to be true. Few landlords are willing to leave rent money on the table, and a deal that seems like a golden opportunity that you have to act on now could actually be a scam primed to steal your hard-earned cash.
The only money you should ever hand over to a landlord or property manager is the cash for any application fees they charge. NEVER send a deposit or first month’s rent before thoroughly reading a lease and signing it.
If you’re getting pressured to send money over now while your application is processed — and before you’ve gone through and signed the lease — walk away.
Pressure to act now, especially when it comes to money, is a common indication of a scam. Remember, professionals who rent apartments will always want the contract (i.e., the lease) fully signed before collecting money and confirming that you have secured the rental.
Another telltale red flag of rental scams is not being able to see a property. Because con artists don’t own the apartments they’re “renting” out as part of their scam, they’ll often tell you things like (but not limited to) the following:
- You need to send the deposit before you can visit the property.
- You need to wire money to schedule a tour.
- You can’t go inside because of [whatever excuse], so just walk around the outside and look in the windows.
- Construction or fumigation is going on now, so you can’t see the property. But it’ll be ready for you, and you still need to send the deposit now.
Again, if the situation sounds fishy, it probably is. NEVER send money or a deposit for any rental until you’ve seen it AND you’ve read and signed the lease.
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