As younger generations - Millennials, Generation Y, Generation Next, and Sugar Free Crystal Pepsi (oops, one of those is wrong) - find it more difficult to put together the money for a down payment to buy a home, many of you are renting instead. It’s important to be careful, though, as tech-savvy as most people under the age of 30 are, you’re very prone to some common and easily avoided rental scams. Here are a few ways to protect yourself when looking for rental property:

Step One: Check the listing carefully.

Before spending any time looking at the home or apartment, review the listing details and the photos meticulously. Does the listing have enough information, or does it feel overly vague? Does it leave out important details or information or sound highly generic? Those can be some signs that it may not be legitimate. Are the photos good quality, or are they TOO GOOD? Scammers will sometimes use stock photos or pull photos from real estate websites - if you see an MLS watermark, it’s definitely worth avoiding.

Step Two: Ask to see the property.

If you’re getting a runaround about seeing your potential new home before paying any type of deposit or application fee, that’s a bad sign. If the person with the ad doesn’t immediately suggest that you come by and see it, and if they try to pressure you into signing something before you see the place, that’s a huge risk. One common scam is to convince a renter to sign a lease for an apartment or home that’s different from the ad, and while you’d have some legal protection from being defrauded, it could be your word against theirs and cause quite a bit of difficulty.

Step Three: Trust your gut.

Let’s say you see an ad for a great property and when you call the number, the person on the other end tells you that it’s available and you can sign a lease immediately with no application fee and no background check. Pop quiz, hot shot - what do you do? Answer: You run. You want someone who wants reliable tenants, not an anonymous person on the other end of the phone who’s willing to sign a lease without any verifying information. That’s a huge indication that your deposit will vanish into thin air without a home to show for it.

You should never pay any amount beyond a basic application fee before you have managed to confirm that the space is available, you’ve confirmed that the person you’re dealing with is officially associated with the property and able to make decisions on its behalf, and you’ve signed a contract that makes you the legal tenant of the exact apartment or home you’ve seen.

Step Four: Look for these other red flags.

  • Is the person you’re talking to out of the country so they can’t meet in person or show you the place? Red flag.
  • Do they want you to pay a finder’s fee regardless of the apartment you find? Red flag.
  • Is the rent they’re asking for way too cheap for the area? Red flag.
  • Do they want you to wire money? Big ol’ honking red flag.
  • Do they keep asking you to visit your grandmother? Those are just your parents. May or may not be a red flag.

Renting a home can be an easy process if you use a little common sense, avoid anything that sounds too good to be true, and especially if you use a reputable Realtor like Meridian Realty Group. Look through our website for our most current rental listings, always available for a viewing at your convenience!