Top apartment & house rental scams

Discover the common examples of fraud affecting apartment tenants and landlords (and how to avoid them).

Editorial Team

By Editorial Team

woman holding a paper staring at a man explaining a rental scam

Moving into a new rental is exciting, but let’s not forget all of the legwork required to get you there. That’s not always as simple as it seems. Not only do you have to spend time looking for a location that you can afford and that is in the location that you want to live, but you also have to watch out for rental scams.

There are many scams going around that con-artists use to try and get renters to hand over money for no reason. As a savvy renter looking for a new place to live, it’s up to you to avoid these common scams so you can get into a quality property.

How to avoid rental scams? Read on to learn about the most common tricks and how to spot them early on.

The out of town owner

There’s a very common scam going around where a con-artist finds a vacant home and acts as the owner of the place. This person will put up an ad for the building and they will tell an interested renter that they are currently out of town. These apartments and house rental scams work for the con artist because they then ask the interested renter for a deposit, or for all the money needed to secure the rental.

Even if you are visiting the apartment on an open house, the con artist could be the rightful renter currently.

However, doesn’t have the right to rent out as if they are the true owner. The con artist will likely draw up some official-looking paperwork and have you wire the money to them to secure your spot.

There is no “spot” to secure. Don’t make the mistake of giving money over for a rental property that you haven’t seen in person.

Instead, insist on seeing the home and talking in person.

Not only will you have the chance to build up trust with your future landlord or landlady, but you’ll have the chance to note any damages or quirks hidden from the online listing.

Property search services or memberships

If you’re desperately searching for high-quality properties you’re likely looking for every available tool to do the job.

There are plenty of good free resources, but there are scam artists that will try and charge you to use their property search services (not to be confused with legitimate real estate agents that can be of real value when searching for properties.

These services will supposedly help connect you with exclusive properties that other people don’t have access to. These rental scams work well in markets with high rental demands, but you aren’t doing yourself a favor by paying these fees.

Instead, you are paying for low-quality listing options or for different listings that are already up on free sites. Save your money, rely on free property search tools, or contact a professional realtor who has the early scoop on properties before they hit the market.

The low priced property

There are many different rental scams out there, but one of the most common that you will see is the low-priced property. These fake apartment listings are often copies of legitimate listings, so they look very believable.

The only change that is made to the listing is the contact information and the price of the property. The asking price is dropped way down to impressively low levels to generate a very high amount of interest.

Above all, the scammer will talk with all the different interested renters and take deposit payments from each of them to hold this fictitious apartment.

After collecting enough deposits the con-artist will disappear and everyone involved with the scam will be out of money for nothing.

Inform yourself on the market average rates for renting and buying in your interested area to easily identify phony ads.

The deposit hold

Finally, there is the deposit hold scam. This happens after you’re about to move out of a rental and you go to get your security deposit back.

In some instances, the landlord will look for any excuse possible to keep that security deposit.

Whether the landlord lists off property damage around the space, or they talk about other issues with rental payments or anything else that has to do with your tenancy.

If there isn’t significant damage to the apartment you should get your security deposit back completely, and even with minor damage, you should get a portion of that deposit back.

Always ask for a list of costs to repair the home when moving out so that you know what your security deposit is going toward if you don’t get it all back.

rental scams deposit withheld check being exchanged

You can avoid this issue by walking around with the landlord and recording any and all damage that you see at the time of move-in. Take the time to fill out a damage report and get the landlord to sign off on it.

Also take photos of any damage you see, to avoid taking the blame for it.

How to avoid rental scams

  • Search the landlord and property address online to see if there are any fishy duplicates or poor reviews
  • Never pay in cash in advance and without receiving a receipt
  • Make an appointment to speak with the landlord either over the phone or ideally, in person
  • Know the true market value of the apartment and filter out suspiciously low ball prices

Always ask

Before paying any money for a property always make sure you’ve done all of the following things and you have the necessary paperwork in hand.

  • Tour the property
  • Review the rental contract
  • Meet the landlord or broker directly
  • View and sign the lease agreement
  • Make payments by transfer or check, and be issued a receipt

As long as you can check off each item on the list above, chances are good that you aren’t dealing with one of the rental scams out there.

There’s something very invigorating about finding a new place to live, exploring a new city, and starting off fresh in a new location.

Unfortunately, the different apartment and house rental scams out there can tarnish this experience. Partnering with a real estate professional or renting from a trusted apartment provider like Blueground will give you peace of mind.

For renters who need to secure a home before arriving in a new city, Blueground guarantees your exclusive tenancy of the apartment with a signed contract and deposit. No keys are sent ahead of time, instead, a member of their team can be made available to greet you on arrival with your sets of keys.

How to report a rental scam or fraudster

  • File a report with the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, or the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) in case of an internet scam
  • Reach out to your local authorities to report the name and contact details of the scammer
  • Contact the listing service or site to block the account and remove similar listings
  • Notify other prospective renters under the existing post to help others from suffering a similar fate
Editorial Team

Editorial Team

The Blueground editorial team covers the best things to see, do, and experience in our cities around the world.