This article originally appeared on the Springs "You're Home Blog."
For most people, housing costs are the single biggest expense in their budgets. Sadly, whenever that type of money is involved, dishonest people are not far behind. Rental scams are a serious pitfall for apartment hunters, and with communication and financial transactions occurring more frequently through digital means, unscrupulous "landlords" have more tools at their disposal to trick you.
When searching for an apartment home, don't allow enthusiasm or impatience to cloud your better judgment. Ask yourself the following questions when evaluating a potential apartment. The answers will help you spot red flags and avoid becoming a victim of these heartless schemes.
Is the "landlord" in a hurry for your decision?
Legitimate landlords are as interested in finding the right resident as you are in finding the right home. If someone is willing to forego credit checks, employment verifications and other screening methods, he is most likely not on the up-and-up. In addition, don't allow yourself to be pressured by talk of another "applicant" who is ready to take the apartment.
Is the landlord reluctant or unwilling to provide identification?
You have as much right to verify a prospective landlord's identity as he does with you. A reputable landlord or leasing agent will have no problem with providing appropriate documentation.
Has there been any discussion of a lease?
Absence of a lease is not in and of itself a warning sign. Many apartments are rented on a month-to-month basis. Regardless of the method, though, in genuine situations the rental terms will be clearly spelled out. If you are currently renting and considering going month-to-month at the end of your current lease, check the lease agreement to see what the terms are for going month-to-month. You may be asked to sign a new lease agreement every month.
Due to distance or other circumstances, do you need to complete the leasing process online?
Sometimes it is impossible to get to see the apartment you’re interested in because you’re a great distance away. If you are looking to complete a lease online, remember the importance of Internet security. Reputable sites will have taken steps to protect your private information. Always make sure the website address starts with “https” in green.
Have you been asked to pay upfront without meeting anyone or seeing the apartment?
Scammers will often claim to be out of town or too busy to meet with you or show the apartment. If nobody will see you or answer your questions, do not hand over any money, period. According to Craigslist, failure to follow this guideline leads to 99 percent of rental scams.
Does it sound too good to be true?
This is a classic rule of thumb that applies any time money is involved. Is the rent significantly lower than average for the area? Is the "landlord" unconcerned about your credit rating? Is he being unusually flexible or casual about standard procedures? These are all reasons to walk away, or at least proceed with caution.
If you should fall victim to a rental scam, don't let pride or embarrassment keep you silent. Reporting your experience to the police, Federal Trade Commission and other agencies can help reduce the possibility of further incidents.
Our team at Springs Apartments wants you to be completely comfortable with your decision to choose one of our apartment homes. We’re so serious about it that we have Our Springs Pledge in which we promise to give great customer service, and will let you out of your lease within the first 30 days if you’re not satisfied. Please don't hesitate to contact us with questions you may have about the rental process or any other issues.