Renting an apartment can sometimes be tricky. Scammers and conmen find it easy to take advantage of those looking for apartments because the apartment or house-hunting process is often an emotional one. When emotions are high, people often become vulnerable and gullible. Another reason why scam artists succeed is that they take advantage of people in a hurry.
You may have just moved into a city and are looking to rent an apartment as soon as possible so you can get to work. Because of this, your guard might be down. Luckily, there are some simple things that you can watch out for which can reduce the chances of getting caught up in a stressful experience.
Start with a General Rule
When looking for a place to live in an active and unique city like Washington, D.C. for example, start with a reputable mid to long-term apartment provider like Blueground. They offer turnkey furnished apartments with all the amenities and conveniences you need upon arrival when moving to a new area, city or country. Before you decide where to settle down in Washington,D.C., have a look at the different apartments available on their website.
They are bookable online so you can avoid the hassle and have housing secured before you even arrive. Also, Blueground’s apartments come with flexible lease terms. Meaning, you can change neighborhoods or apartments until you find what suits you best – or in case you just want to explore the city while feeling like a local.
If serviced apartments are not for you, you can find and compare other reputable providers on the internet. Try to find those with a good record, who have no complaints lodged against them, and who have been in the industry for a long time.
What is a Rental Scam?
Although there are many variations of this scam, the basic premise is that a “landlord” rents you an apartment that is not in their legal control. Sometimes, the apartment might not be real but most of the time the person renting it out has no legal standing to be doing so.
Sometimes, opportunistic scammers take advantage of desperate people. Someone vacating an apartment might try to show it off and even rent it out. They might collect fees, the rent, and the deposit before disappearing.
Listen to Your Gut
Before something goes wrong, we usually feel it. If there is anything at all that feels off during the whole process, pull out. Listen to your gut, because it may save you a lot of money and a lot of misery. It may be that the listing sounds or looks suspicious, or the whole process seems too good to be true.
Spot Red Flags
Some people might not get the feeling that something is wrong with the rental process, so here are a few red flags to keep an eye on:
Things feel rushed
Renting an apartment can take anywhere from a few days to a month. If you feel like you are being rushed or pressured, take a step back and reconsider the whole process. The “landlord” might be pressuring you to pay for the house and any related fees as soon as possible.
The landlord seems too eager
Most landlords need documentation before leasing an apartment. They do this so they know who they are leasing to. Expect to be asked for documents such as your employment verification, credit score or even background check. If the landlord does not seem to be interested in verifying any information you give them, rethink the whole thing.
You are asked for money before seeing the apartment or meeting the landlord
This is the biggest red flag of them all. If someone tells you to pay for an apartment you have not seen, run. If they give you an address, tell you to go check it out, and then pay without meeting them, run. Do not accept photos or phone calls – go and see the apartment for yourself. Also, ask around to find out if the apartment is empty if you have a few minutes to spare.
A high security deposit or too many upfront payments
If the landlord asks for a security deposit higher than what is accepted under the law or asks for too many upfront fees, you might be getting scammed.
“You don’t need a lease”
This is a very suspicious statement. While you don’t need a lease to rent an apartment, if the landlord insists that you do not need one, start asking questions. If the landlord tries to get any money from you without you having signed a lease, they may be scamming you. If they do not offer a lease, ask for one and listen to what they have to say.
An unavailable landlord
If the landlord tells you he is out of the country for an unreasonable amount of time and that you can pay and move in before they get back, run.
Renting an apartment can be fraught with danger and pitfalls if you are not careful. Many people lose a lot of money through rental scams. If you are vigilant and follow the tips outlined above, you will reduce the chances of this happening to you.