When you're searching for an apartment, you may encounter listing that are too good to be true. In order to avoid falling victim to scams, learn what red flags to look for and what to do if you're suspicious about an apartment you'd like to rent.
The pictures of the apartment might look great, and an attractive price tag and nice amenities only add to the appeal. However, if the landlord asks for an application and deposit before you see the place in person, this is a major cause for concern.
If you live far away from the apartment you're considering renting but you have friends in that area, ask them to look at the apartment and review any lease agreement. This type of housing scam could end up with you losing money to someone who does not have the authority to rent a specific apartment.
If the landlord wants to expedite the rental process, either by skipping a credit check or by suggesting that you make a deposit before you have time to really ponder over whether you want the apartment, be careful. This could mean that there is something wrong with the apartment, or it could even mean that the landlord is only posing as a landlord.
As you're browsing apartment listings, make mental notes of the deposit amounts. If an apartment you're interested in requires a deposit that is quite a bit higher than comparable apartments, be cautious.
Also be aware of other fees. For example, landlords usually charge an application fee, but if it seems too high, do not feel pressured to pay it.
The rental or lease agreement is the most important rental document. The agreement will give information about your required deposit and monthly rent, the duration of your lease and fees for moving early, the rules you must follow as a tenant, and other information. It also outlines the responsibilities of your landlord.
If someone wants to rent a place to you without letting you first take a close look at the rental agreement, or if there is no rental agreement, do not agree to anything. If you have a dispute with your landlord later on, a lack of paperwork will mean that a legal battle is just a matter of their word against yours.
You aren't required to have a lawyer look over your lease agreement before you sign it. However, if you have any doubts about the agreement, it may be wise to have a legal professional review it.
A lawyer can make sure that the language in the agreement doesn't obligate you to do anything you wouldn't want to do.
If a landlord strongly discourages you from contacting a lawyer, they are probably trying to hide something.
If the person who wants to rent an apartment to you asks for personal information too soon, don't give it out. Your social security number may be required for a background check, but you should never give out your credit card or bank account numbers.
The only time you would give out financial information is if you sign an agreement and the property manager gives you the option of making automatic rental payments. However, it is better if you provide this information through an online platform that hides your information from the landlord.
Even if you don't detect any red flags when you're looking for an apartment, you should still take the following preventative measures:
If you're concerned that you've been scammed, collect all of the documents related to your lease or rental agreement and contact a lawyer who is familiar with housing laws in your area. The lawyer will be able to advise you about next steps. This could involve contacting the police or filing a lawsuit, depending on the circumstances.
If you move into a place and find that it does not meet your expectations, you may be able to withhold your rent until the matter is resolved, according to the laws in your state. Usually, you would only withhold rent if the landlord refuses to remedy an issue with the apartment that endangers your health or safety.
Whether you're fresh out of college and looking for your first apartment or you're just not sure how to go about renting your next place, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with potential housing scams.