How To Avoid Rental Scams

Dated: April 23 2024

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Need to Know: How to Avoid Rental Scams

How to Avoid Rental Scams

Sadly, rental scams across the U.S. have become more and more common as rental prices grow and inventory becomes harder to find. As the number of rental scams grows, even the local news has become accustomed to reporting on folks who have been scammed when looking for a rental, sometimes for thousands of dollars they’ll never get back. To help our readers avoid falling victim to a rental scam, we’ve put together a list of red flags to look out for and the best ways to search for a great rental property…if you’re not ready to buy a home yet. Read below to find out more…

Red Flags to Look Out For When it Comes to Rental Scams:

  • An advertised price that is much lower than market value or seems ‘too good to be true.’

  • A ‘landlord’ that asks you to pay any sort of fee before you see the house or asks you to ‘register on their app or website’ with personal info (including bank accounts, social security numbers, credit card info and more). No matter how large or small the initial ask for money is, legit landlords will never ask for money before you even see the property.

  • The owner or rental agents isn’t able to let you into the property in advance of signing a lease and asks for a fee or deposit to see the property.

  • Being asked to sign an incomplete lease agreement

  • Uncommon language or spelling of words in correspondence, for example, using ‘kindly’ as a greeting or as part of a signature in an email. Other red flags include odd English spellings of words, such as spelling the word favor as ‘favour’ and using language that is more formal than someone fluent in English would normally use.

  • High pressure sales tactics to urge you to provide money or a deposit before ‘someone else gets the property.’

  • Being asked to move in immediately before you meet the landlord or property manager, and often before you even preview the property in person.

  • A landlord that says they are out of the country on business travel and cannot meet you in person.

  • Being told you can only pay with a wire or cash

  • The listing photos have an MLS watermark (Scammers love to look for vacant listings that are for sale in the MLS, not for rent, and copy the photos from the listing to scam would-be renters)

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Ways to Avoid a Rental Scam:

  • Vet the property management company that’s advertising the listing

  • Meet the landlord or property manager in person at the property that’s being advertised for rent

  • Do not pay any fees until you see the property in person and meet the landlord or property manager.

  • Ask for their business card

  • Ask the owner (or property manager) who the main point of contact would be for maintenance issues, if renter’s insurance is required, if pets are allowed, and if lease renewal will be an option. A true landlord should be able to easily answer these questions.

  • Ask for proof of homeownership from the landlord or property manager

  • Ask for references from previous tenants or other current tenants that reside in other properties the landlord owns

The Best Way to Find a Great Rental Property:

  • Call local property management companies and ask them if they have any available inventory

  • Drive around neighborhoods you love and look for ‘For Rent’ signs in the yard (then follow our other steps above to avoid a scam)

  • Ask friends and family who they know that might be renting a home or room

  • Check on and for 30-day plus rentals if you need something for less than a 12-month period

  • Avoid renting from Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or other sites where scammers can easily list properties without providing any legitimate details or paying a fee for their listing

  • Have a licensed Realtor that specializes in rentals check the MLS for you

Hopefully the tips above will make you feel confident in finding the perfect rental in Pinellas County and the Greater Tampa Bay area!

Questions about the home buying process vs. renting?

Call us at (727) 400-3315 or message us by clicking HERE to find out how we can help you with your home purchase plans whether it's now or in the future.

The Sandy Hartmann Real Estate Group

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10 Ways to Prepare Your Home to Sell for More Money

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Andrea Hartmann

Andrea is the Managing Partner of The Sandy Hartmann Group and runs the team alongside Sandy Hartmann. She would love to talk to you about real estate! Andrea was born and raised in the Tampa Bay a....

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