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How to watch out for rental fraud when searching for your next apartment

It’s a wonderful time to be a renter as technology has made it easier than ever to find options, but it’s not all a bed of roses. When it comes to finding a new apartment, fraudsters are lurking around every corner, ready and waiting to scam you. But there’s hope! You don’t have to play the fool, you can learn from other’s mistakes and identify rental fraud before it tricks you. Here are some major red flags to watch out for in order to avoid rental fraud. Steer clear of them to safely find your next apartment with help from Panoramic Properties Inc.

The price seems too low

When something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for any property that is priced below market value in its area. To determine if the price is right, you can do your own research on average rental cost in the area. Look at units in comparable properties that are similar in size and amenities. A low-priced property can be the real deal, but may have undisclosed factors that contribute to its low price that you’re unaware of. Think next to a sewage treatment plant or beside train tracks or on the highway. Get the scoop from the landlord or rental agent if the price looks fishy.

Use creditable rental listing websites

Avoid searching for apartments on websites where anyone can post listings for free such as Craigslist. There may be some legitimate rentals posted on these websites but you should do your research before reaching out.

An easy tip to notice fake listings is to google search the address to see if it is listed on other websites and make sure the pricing is consistent across listing sites. If you are unsure, send the listing to someone you trust and ask their opinion about the source.

If you notice the listing is only posted on one site you should proceed with caution and never send money before seeing the place in person or through a virtual tour.

The most popular rental websites are Rentals.ca, Padmapper, Zumper, and Rentboard. Most property management companies will post their listings on these sites and individual landlords may post on free sites such as Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace.

The landlord/rental agent/renter doesn’t want to show you the property

Always insist on seeing the property you plan to rent or lease before you sign an agreement or pay a cent to the so-called landlord, renter or rental agent. You need to ensure that the unit is actually available and that the individual has the authority to rent it to you. At the very minimum request a virtual tour so you know the landlord has access to the property.

The landlord/rental agent/renter doesn’t want to meet you

A big red flag is when the renter/landlord/rental agent does not want to meet you, the prospective tenant, in person. You need to feel confident and secure as a new renter and your landlord will typically want to get to know you as well. Fraudsters prefer to remain anonymous so that you can’t identify them, so this is a big red flag to watch out for.

The landlord/rental agent/renter has no screening process for tenants

Landlords want to feel confident renting to their tenants as well, so screenings are standard in the industry — especially for high profile property management companies. These often include rental applications and credit and background checks. If no screening is required for a unit you are interested in, consider it a red flag. The landlord should be asking for proof of ID at the very least and proof of income from you, if they are not interested in collecting your information – do not proceed.
The landlord/rental agent/renter has requested rent or a security deposit before the lease signing

This is another huge warning sign. Never give money to a landlord, rental agent or renter before you sign a lease. The only exception to this rule is application fees, which generally cover the costs of a background check. A lease agreement should be required, if the landlord does not have any paperwork for you to sign, this is a warning sign. A lease agreement helps protect the landlord as well as the tenant and highlights any rules for the property, payment options and length of stay.

What to do if you encounter a scam or were scammed

Contact the police if you suspect that you have encountered a rental scam. They can investigate and potentially press charges against the fraudster. If you were scammed, they can potentially help you recoup any money you handed over. Keep any emails and messages exchanged between you and the fraudulent landlord to help aid the investigation.

You don’t want others to have the same experience, so be sure to contact the listing website management team as well. They’ll want to know so they can remove the rental listing from their platform.

Your home should be a safe sanctuary, not a place to be scammed. We hope these tips for watching out for rental fraud help you safely find and rent your next apartment.

A Property Management Company You Can Trust

Panoramic Properties owns properties across Niagara including St. Catharines, Welland, Thorold and Niagara Falls. Find your next apartment or townhome for rent with a company that cares about every tenant.

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