You’re exhausted by your search for the perfect rental. Your old lease is up soon, and you’re in a rush to find your new home. Suddenly, the ideal place floats across your screen. The photographs are gorgeous. It has everything you’re looking for and a few things you didn’t dare to include on your list. The location is perfect. It’s actually on the lower end of your budget. Your heart is beating in your ears. What if this was it? You reach out to the landlord and hear right back. They are out of the country on business and in a hurry to fill their space with a responsible party such as you. Would you like to move in next week? Could you please wire $2000.59 to this account based in Nigeria? Your gut tells you this is a scam. But what if it isn’t? You have already pictured yourself floating in the pool and waking up bathed in gorgeous natural light.
Don’t do it. It’s a scam.
At Powell Property Management, our years of property management experience have introduced us to too many smart and hard-working people who have fallen prey to rental scams. We hope you will use our list to protect yourself from falling prey to rental scams by learning about them. Spot the signs early so that your heart doesn’t end up on this roller coaster of too-good-to-be-true rental scams, and your money goes towards your next adventure in a new home.
How Do Common Rental Scams Work?
Unfortunately, scammers are savvy and learn to create attractive listings. Many have learned to duplicate or imitate legitimate listings and weave them into popular local listing platforms. Although listing sites such as Aparments.com, Sublet.com, Zillow, and Craigslist are legit, not every listing is. Most scammers are interested in convincing you to make a one-time payment to them under the guise of a new rental agreement. They do not have access to the property in question, or they aren’t ever planning to give you access. They are likely to disappear after you have paid them.
How to Spot a Rental Scam
Here are some of the top tips to spot a rental scam:
1) They do not want to meet in person
A scammer likely has no access to the property and may reside anywhere. They cannot meet you at the property and will provide any number of creative explanations as to why.
2) There are spelling and grammar errors
Spelling and grammar errors are a red flag because it is a sign that an ad was not written by a native speaker and was instead authored by a scammer across the world. A foreign scammer will usually try to provide a plausible explanation for their request that you transfer funds overseas
3) The price is too good to be true
Scammers lure people in with a property and price that is so appealing some people may be willing to overlook red flags.
4) There is no background check
A scammer will not usually pause to pretend to check your background. This will give you time to think and potentially change your mind. Most legitimate landlords in Seattle will perform a background check to ensure you will be a good steward of their investment.
5) There are unusual fees upfront
In Seatle, initial expenses might include a security deposit, first month’s rent, pet fees, and a small application fee. A scammer may be trying to get the largest one-time payment possible.
How to Avoid Rental Scams
Here are some tips to avoid rental scams when searching for your next home:
1) Visit the property in person
Limiting your search to properties you tour personally will remove many rental scams from your list. It is not enough to drive by a property and view it from the outside. Many scams use photographs from real listings. Meet your landlord or designee in person and tour the property.
2) Thoroughly review your lease
Take time to be sure everything is complete. Ask questions if you are unsure. Review the rent and any extra fees to make sure you understand.
3) Deal locally
Keep in mind that local pages can still include scams. However, local pages are more likely to lead to legitimate deals because it’s more work for scammers to specialize in local markets. Consider searching within a property management firm’s offerings to ensure you will land in a legitimate, professionally managed home.
4) Do not wire money to someone you have not met
Many rental scammers ask you to wire a deposit out of the country and then disappear. A legitimate landlord in Seattle is unlikely to you to wire money out of the country.
5) Do not give out your financial details unless you use a secure platform
Use trusted payment methods to have help if something goes wrong.
6) Listen to your gut
If something feels off, pay attention. Talk things over with a trusted friend or family member to spot potential problems.
Scams that Affect Tenants
Not every rental scam fits the same mold. You might feel scammed by your landlord. Unfortunately, some landlords are bad actors, and some landlords make significant mistakes. Make sure that you aren’t scammed after signing your lease and moving in. Here are some ways that landlords might try to scam their tenants:
1) Incomplete lease
If your landlord leaves blanks in your lease at the time of signing, they may fill them in later with details that don’t benefit you. Be sure to read everything and ensure you don’t leave this option open.
2) Applying pressure
Your landlord should not pressure you to sign a lease or make a quick commitment. You should have time to thoroughly inspect the property and lease. If you feel rushed, it could be because they are hoping you will miss something.
3) There are significant, undisclosed problems with your rental
If you feel your landlord misrepresented your rental, your recourse will be state and situation-specific. Our favorite resource for tenants in the state of Washington is: here.
What Do I Do if I Think I Have Been the Victim of a Rental Scam?
If you have been targeted by a rental scam, contact your payment provider, the website on which the scam ad appeared, your local authorities, and the Federal Trade Commission to report the situation and get help.
Put Yourself in Good Hand With Powell Property Management
At Powell Property management in West Seattle, our years of experience managing commercial and residential rentals makes us experts on a wide array of topics, including bad actors and rental scams. We hope our expertise is helpful to everyone in the rental market. If you are a busy and exhausted landlord in the Seattle area, we would love to talk to you about the changes our services can create for you. Your time is valuable, and our processes are time-tested and streamlined. You and your tenants deserve to benefit from a property management team's scale, professionalism, and experience. Reach out today to talk to the best property management team in West Seattle!