07 Nov 7 Ways to Avoid Home Rental Scams
We’ve definitely seen an increase in rental scams this year – fake apartment listings designed to scam prospective tenants out of money. According to National Rental Home Council (NRHC) members, who are owners of rental homes, scammers use a variety of tactics to get people’s money. Some hijack a real rental listing by changing the email address or other contact information and then placing the altered ad on another site.
Often, the scammers require a hefty security deposit up front, often before even viewing the unit. There are usually some telltale signs that a listing is fake, although the scams have been getting trickier. It saddens us that we even have to write this article but we want to make sure that anyone who is looking for a new home is aware of the situation and acts with an abundance of caution during their search.
Here are some safeguards to take as you look for your next rental home:
1. Always search for the address. Copy/paste the home’s address into Google and cross-reference the same listing on different websites (i.e. Zillow, apartments.com, etc.). Make sure that the landlord or property management company’s name matches on each of the listings. Scammers almost always “steal” info from a legitimate rental listing to use for their own fake listing.
2. Be cautious if the landlord asks for payment via Venmo, Zelle, or similar. Although some landlords do take payment through apps like Venmo, most use a secure online payment portal. Zelle doesn’t have any payment protection so it’s very difficult or even impossible to get your money back from a scammer.
3. Schedule an in-person showing, if possible. Meeting the landlord at the unit will likely eliminate concerns of a scam. Just make sure they have a key and you actually go inside for a tour. If you live out of state, ask for a live video tour or, even better, get a friend or colleague to go view the unit and report back.
4. Don’t pay a deposit until you’ve seen the unit. Scammers will often have a rushed timeline and pressure you into paying up front. Don’t share any personal information until you’re sure that the listing and landlord are both legitimate.
5. Compare prices. Is the listing you’re looking at significantly less expensive compared to similar properties? That could be a red flag.
6. Check the landlord or management company’s references. A quick Google search may reveal the landlord’s true identity. You can always search Milwaukee property records to check if they actually own the property. If it’s a property management company, you should be able to easily check their reviews. The company should have a legitimate-looking website. Don’t be afraid to call them and ask a few questions.
7. Trust your gut. Getting bad vibes or have a gut feeling that something just isn’t right? Your instincts are there for a reason and ultimately, you should pass on something that doesn’t sit right with you.
If you have been scammed or spot a potential scam, please report it to law enforcement. If you’re looking for your next home in Milwaukee, you can browse our available properties and have the peace of mind that comes from working with a professional management company.