7 Apartment Scams to Look Out For

By Alicia Geigel on June 9, 2023

Looking for an apartment is an exciting experience that can lead to new experiences and a lifetime of memories in a new place. Shopping around for the right apartment can take some time, especially when you’re trying to avoid scams. But what do these scams look like? Apartment scams are usually ways that thieves and other scammers make quick money by falsifying ads, providing false applications or documents to sign, and giving potential tenants vague details.

If you’re deep into your apartment search but aren’t sure how to spot scams, here are seven common ones to look out for!

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1. They ask for money right away: The process of renting an apartment usually begins with an online search, which then leads to making contact with the listing agent or person renting out the property. After touching base with the person, you will typically make an appointment to see the place and gather more information about the location, utilities, amenities, etc. During this process, no legitimate real estate agent, landlord, or property manager will ever ask for money before you even see the place. If anyone seeks to get money from you in the form of a deposit, this is likely a scam.

2. The ad is copied and pasted: In the real estate market, there is always a chance that some ads will use the same language and sound similar. Words like move-in-ready, upgraded, outstanding, welcoming, etc. will frequently be used in property listings, but if you see an ad that is fully copied and pasted from another ad, with a lower price, it is likely a scam. A blog post by Trulia notes, “This is intended to generate furious interest, getting people to hand over a security deposit asap…This maneuver is especially aimed at someone who’s busy or renting from out of town and is willing to put down money before seeing the rental unit.”

3. The landlord is out of the country: A landlord or property manager that is legitimate and serious about their business is always going to be available to talk to you about their property and meet with you to show off their property. If they are out of town or unavailable, they will likely have another point of contact that will get in touch with you or get back to you as soon as possible. Under no circumstances will a property manager or landlord tell you that they are out of the country, sick, or on vacation, and expect you to pay money or see the unit on your own.

4. The price of rent is suspiciously low: Everyone wants low prices when it comes to just about anything, especially apartments and housing. If you’re looking for an apartment and come across a listing that is suspiciously low, consider it a scam. How can you determine if a listing has a price that is too low? Look in your area and gather information about the average housing costs in your neighborhood and adjacent towns. Consider if the apartment is in the suburbs, close to the city, or near a campus, and weigh the amenities (such as parking) included in the rent. If the apartment has a bunch of fancy amenities but is listed for a few hundred dollars, then you know it isn’t legit.

5. They aren’t open to showing the place: As stated earlier, a normal part of any apartment search and the rental process is seeing the place before you make any kind of monetary commitment or financial agreement. If the person you are talking to is weary to show you the property or constantly gives you excuses as to why it can’t be seen in person, it is a scam. Kasia Manolas of Avail writes, “In most rental scams, the individual advertising the property doesn’t actually have any way to access the inside of the property. If a landlord instructs you to inspect the property by walking around the outside at your convenience, this is almost certainly a scam.”

6. The listing has a lot of spelling and grammar errors: No person, not even property managers or realtors, are perfect. Everyone is capable of making mistakes, especially when it comes to writing out important listings. When looking for apartments, you’ll likely encounter a few typos here and there, but if you stumble on a listing that is filled with spelling errors, grammar errors, and has little to no punctuation marks, it is likely a scam. Professional landlords, property managers, and listing agents will always spell check and make sure that their ads are as polished as possible.

7. They don’t look into your background: If a landlord or property manager is ready to sell you on one of their properties without looking into your background, it is likely a scam. Devon Thorsby of U.S. News explains, “If a supposed landlord asks you to sign a lease with only email communication and no background on your financial stability, he or she is likely looking to get a one-time payment from you and may disappear before you move.” A landlord will typically ask for an I.D. and run a credit check to determine your eligibility to rent their property.

Thoroughly vetting through fake apartment listings and scammers can be exhausting and frustrating, but being careful throughout your search will give you peace of mind in the long run!

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