How to Avoid Falling Victim to a Rental Scam

By Vincent Hughes posted 05 Jun, 2020 17:51


There are many unscrupulous landlords and property rental scammers out there. Their sole objective is to part you from your hard-earned money. Many people fall prey to their tactics and wind up on the losing end.

Fortunately, we are living in a time where these immoral and corrupt practices can be shared far and wide online to create awareness. However, we also live in a time where people are constantly working on innovative ways to defraud you of your money.

There are pitfalls to renting a property, just as there are with any financial transaction. Here’s how to avoid the worst of them:

Use established agents

Renting through a property agent is far safer than a private rental agreement. The fact that an agency lists the property gives the transaction more veracity. Nevertheless, if the agency is unfamiliar to you, do some research online. Some scammers will go as far as creating a fake property agent to rent out properties.

If you answer a private advertisement to rent a house, take extra precautions. The owner’s behaviour will give you a lot of clues about their intentions. If you find the person evasive, reluctant to meet in person or show you the property and asking for money upfront, exercise caution.

Get a written lease agreement

After meeting with the owner or agent, you need a clear picture of the terms of the lease. Ask about the rental price, deposit and any other expenses you’ll need to cover. When showing you the property, the person doing so has one job, which is to get you to rent the property.

Before you do so, make sure you have a written lease agreement. The agent or homeowner will usually provide you with a lease agreement. Do not sign it until you have read through it to look for any ‘catches’ or unreasonable clauses. At Net Lawman, you can download sample lease agreements to compare with the one you’re being offered. 

If the landlord isn’t forthcoming with a lease agreement, use the editable resources on the site to draw up one on your own. Warning bells should be ringing if the lessor seems unwilling to put anything on paper. Do not move into a house unless you have a signed rental agreement and that you understand all its terms and conditions.

Document transactions

Your lease agreement is not the only paperwork you need to keep filed and available in the event of a dispute. Insist on an invoice or statement of your rental account each month and a receipt as soon as you’ve made payment. If you’re being sent electronic copies, print them out. Keep your hard copies in a safe place in case your computer crashes.

It would be best if you also documented the condition of the property when you move into it. Take photographs of any damages and print the photos out with the date and time on them as proof. This will make it hard for the landlord to keep your deposit in lieu of damages when you move out.

Be on the lookout for scams

Insist on seeing the property before you commit to renting it. Many landlords post misleading photographs, leaving you to move into a home in a state of disrepair. 

A lot of scammers also try to convince you to sub-lease their property. This is a slippery slope, as you could find yourself in violation of the tenant’s lease agreement through no fault of your own. If the person offering you a sub-lease won’t show you a copy of the contract or introduce you to the owner, be wary.

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