According to Statista Research Department, there were approximately 43 million housing units occupied by renters in the United States in 2020. However, the search for an apartment or rental home can be an overwhelming process and scammers are waiting to prey on unsuspecting renters. Better Business Bureau offers the following consumer tips to help those interested in renting to find the property that’s right for them and avoid rental scams.
- Do your homework. To help focus your search, have an idea of the amount of rent you can afford, the desired location, and number of bedrooms before you look. Go to BBB.org to check out apartment complexes and property managers you are considering. BBB Business Profiles show a company’s rating, consumer reviews, a history of complaints, as well as an overview of the company’s track record.
- Check your credit score. You can check your credit score for free once a year online at annualcreditreport.com. If you don’t have a credit history and need a co-signer to guarantee your lease, be sure you and your co-signer understand what legal responsibilities might be triggered.
- Get everything in writing. Before signing the lease, make sure you read and understand the rental terms and your responsibilities as a tenant. Do not sign any contract containing blank spaces. Keep a copy for your records in a safe place for future reference.
- Ask questions. When is rent due? Who pays for utilities? Are pets allowed? How accessible is the landlord? Do they have an emergency or cell number?
- Do a walk-through. Before moving in, look over the condition of the apartment in person and document all flaws and defects in both writing and with photos. Keep a copy for yourself.
- Who is responsible for upkeep? Find out how maintenance and repair concerns are handled and within what time frame.
- Know your rights. Remember that you have certain rights when it comes to a livable space, such as heat, water, electricity and clean, safe surroundings. Visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website for information on landlord-tenant rights.
BBB also warns potential renters of the following:
- Never wire money or use a prepaid debit card. If you are asked to pay a security deposit or first month’s rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, it is very likely a scam. Remember, once the money has been sent, there is no way to get it back.
- Never send money overseas. Keep in mind, scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
- Search for duplicate listings. If you find the same ad listed in other cities – that’s a huge red flag – steer clear.
- If the “deal” sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for low rent and great amenities that are not being offered by similar properties.
To find trusted rental housing in your area or to report a scam, visit BBB.org.