Avoiding Rental Scams and Dishonest Landlords

Don’t get scammed! Watch out for these warning signs that are often used by scammers.

  • Landlord tells you to ignore the property management company and instead work with them directly
  • Landlord asks for security deposit in cash, or payable to a personal name, rather than a business name
  • Landlord rushes you to pay the deposit or else someone else will get it, or if they ask you to pay security deposit before you sign the lease
  • If you see the property advertised on different sites by different people or different management companies
  • They want you to move in immediately, without seeing the property
  • The price is too good to be true, check Zillow zestimate to compare
  • Listing has typos, poor grammar, or excessive punctuation
  • If the property has a for rent sign and the phone number on the sign isn’t the same as the landlords
  • If the landlord lives out of state and doesn’t have a local management company with whom you can have regular contact
  • If landlord will not provide their office or home address
  • Landlord asks for money up front to help you find or see a property
  • Landlord doesn't have an official Rental Application form for you to complete
  • Landlord does not require that you sign a legally binding lease and give you a fully executed copy
  • Landlord name does not have the same name that appears on public tax records of who owns the home (personal name)
  • Never wire, transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency to pay application fee, deposit, or first month’s rent.

Questions to ask your potential landlord:

What criteria do they accept or deny a rental application?

  • They should have specific criteria to tell you

Will you hold my security deposit in an escrow account until my lease is up?

  • Your deposit should be held in a security deposit escrow account

Are you the owner or do you represent the owner?

  • If it is not the owner, then it should be a licensed real estate agent (verify on ADRE)

How quickly will my security deposit be returned after I move out?

  • It should be returned in no more than 14 business days from your move-out date

How do you assess damage to the home regarding the security deposit refund?

  • You should have a move-in sheet/photos to document any damage prior to your move-in. You should take pictures of the entire home for your sake of documentation

When/How/Who do I contact for maintenance items?

  • There should be someone to call or a portal to place maintenance requests 24/7

How many methods of payment are available for my monthly rent?

  • Online payments options should be made available

When is rent due and what are the late fees?

  • Make sure you know how much to pay, when you’ll get assessed a late fee and how much those late fees will be

Can I have time to read the lease in full?

  • The most important thing to do is read your lease agreement and know what it says. Ask questions and do not make any verbal agreements

Steps to take if you are a victim of a rental scam

  • Call the police so they can help find the scammer and possibly get your money back.
  • Contact the publisher of the listing so they can remove it from the site.
  • Notify the Federal Trade Commission which is responsible for protecting consumers.
  • File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center which allows people to report crime that happens online.
  • Think about sharing your story to warn others of what happened to you. Don't lose hope! You'll find the perfect property.