There are several reasons people choose a rental property rather than buying a home. Some want the convenience of having a management company take care of maintenance. Others might be saving for their first home and need a temporary place to live, or are new to a city and want to rent until they decide what neighborhood they like most.
Regardless of their reasons, renters have one thing in common - they all face scams and the potential for ending up with a lease on an apartment or home that isn't at all what they expected. It is important to understand these potential pitfalls so you can run away before it's too late.
- An Apartment or Home That Looks a Little Too Familiar - When you are looking to rent, it is smart to visit several websites in order to identify the largest potential pool of properties. One thing you might notice during this process is several listings for the same home, with the same pictures, but identified as in different parts of town or at different prices. When you see the same property more than once, it is very likely a scam using pictures stolen from a real estate or other website.
- If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is - Everybody loves a good bargain, but when it comes to renting a home it is a good idea to be cautious when you find that dream apartment or house at a price that is unbelievable. No one rents property in an attempt to actually lose money, so that five-bedroom home with a pool for $400 per month likely does not actually belong to the person who ran the ad.
- A Tricky Location - If you live in an area where commuting can be a nightmare, make sure to go visit a potential rental during rush hour in the morning or evening. A rental might be a great deal and exactly what you're looking for, but are you willing to commute two hours each way to work when it turns out traffic is horrible there? Also check for access to public transportation and shopping centers. You don't want to spend an hour getting to the store for just a few items.
- A Sign Of Criminal Behavior Or Neglect - If you're parking near a potential rental property and notice that someone has posted signs warning of break-ins, get back in the car and take off. You should also visit a property at night before you agree to rent it, to look for signs of people gathering and harassing others. Look all around the building and make sure it looks well taken care of. An overgrown lawn or peeling paint is a sign that management or the landlord aren't responsive to tenant's needs.
- A Request To Transfer Money - One of the surest signs of a rental scam is a potential landlord who wants you to transfer money to him or to another party. In some cases, this request is made before you have actually met them in person. There is no legitimate reason for this type of request, and you should end the conversation right then and there.
By taking a few precautions, people who rent rather than buy can be very happy in their new homes. Keep an eye out for scams, and make sure your new place wouldn't put you outside your comfort zone. If you're still on the fence about a property after considering everything you need to know, trust your instincts.