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Check for Signs of Criminal Activity

Check public records for civil or criminal suits brought against the landlord, especially suits by tenants. You can check for this information in the county courthouse or research online by visiting the county court’s website for the county where the property is located. Search the online database of criminal court records by typing in the landlord’s full name. Check for other documents that could provide helpful information about the landlord’s character.

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7. Meet Your Landlord in Person

Yes, we are the platform that makes it possible to eSign the lease, pay rent and collect rent online, and even schedule the house tour online. However, once the tour is arranged and you come to see the apartment, you should meet the actual landlord — the homeowner and the person who has all the rights to rent out this place.

Any potential scammer will avoid a chance to show you the place and skip any kind of standard interactions, including property tours and lease signing, that a legitimate landlord usually prefers.

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6. Speak to the neighbours

You might end up living next to these people, knock on their doors, ask them what the place is like to live in. What’s the neighbourhood like? Get a sense for what the surrounding area might be like to live in.

12. Check Whether the Renting Platform Verifies Its Users

There is a huge difference between renting a place on a simple advertisements website or a platform that ensures transparency and security and verifies its users.

When you stumble upon a website that offers you to deal with landlords or tenants who are not verified in any way, no one will be able to ensure the security of your transactions as well.

Rentberry puts transparency at the very core of the entire renting process. All rental payments, lease agreements, and any transactions that take place while you rent a property are encrypted and perfectly secure.

There is nothing more comforting than knowing that the apartment you find on the platform is just one click away from visiting and having a tour. Is there a reason why someone still wants to use classifieds or other stone-age websites today?

2. Search public records

There’s a wealth of information about properties and landlords available via your local government agencies, and you’re usually able to check your landlord for free. Consider it your landlord background check!

Your county courthouse should have ownership records searchable by address, so you can find the legal name of the person or company that owns the property — it may not be your landlord directly.

You can also search for code violations, foreclosure proceedings, evictions and small claims court settlements, all of which should be red flags for renters.

Check Out Online Apartment Ratings

The comprehensive website apartmentratings.com has over one and a half million reviews of individual apartments and property managers nationwide. It includes other useful information, such as the proximity of registered sex offenders.

Another site, CheckYourLandlord. com, provides information (for free) about the property, such as whether a notice of default has been filed against it. More comprehensive reports (not free) provide information about liens; defaults on other properties owned by the landlord; and judgments, bankruptcies, and court judgments lodged against the property owner.

If a property management firm is handling rentals in the building, check out Yelp ratings of the firm.

4. Be the interviewer

Landlords ask you questions when you apply to live in their property, so why shouldn’t you ask them questions too?

Ask them how they handle repair requests. Find out if the landlord lives on-site, nearby or in a different state. Ask how the move-in and move-out process goes. Learn more about their process for requesting entry to your unit.

They should be able to easily answer your questions and address all of your concerns.

How to avoid rental scams

Avoiding rental scams will save you time, energy and money. Here are a few tips for how to avoid these deceptive listings.

Search the company online

Rental properties can be owned by companies or individuals. When you find a listing, research the owner to see what the online reviews say. If there aren’t any or if they have a bad reputation, you’ll want to steer clear.

Verify the address listed on rental sites

Verify the address listed on rental sites

All listings should have an address associated with them. Copy and paste this address into your preferred search engine to see what the street view of the home looks like. If there isn’t one or it looks different than the photos listed, the posting is probably fraudulent.

In addition, it’s not a good sign if the landlord is withholding the address. Don’t give away any personal information in exchange for a property address.

Be sure the listing is complete

Rental scams often have missing information. This may include typos throughout the post, a lack of property photos or no address. If the listing looks incomplete and sketchy, it probably is.

Is the price reasonable?

While we all like to find a deal, rentals don’t come half off. The property is likely to be a rental scam if the rent is well below the average in the area. Be sure to do research on what rentals in the area are going for so you can have that in mind when looking at properties.

Tour the property

Tour the property

Many scammers will refuse to show you the property until you pay a deposit. This is because they don’t have a legitimate property to show you in the first place.

Some excuses for why they can’t show you the property include being out of town or dealing with a family emergency. Regardless of what their scenario is, you should never put down a deposit without first having a real or virtual tour of the property.

Meet the landlord

If the landlord isn’t the one showing the property, inquire about who they are and how they can be contacted. If the person doesn’t have these details, it’s likely they are involved in a renting-for-the-owner scam.

Don’t feel pressured

A scammer may try to put you in a time crunch. They will tell you the property has had a lot of interest and that you need to put down a deposit immediately to claim the property. While properties do move fast, don’t let this pressure keep you from making rational decisions.

Take a thorough look at the lease

Take a thorough look at the lease

Once you’ve viewed the property and your application is accepted, you’ll be asked to sign a lease. It’s important to look over all the components of the lease to ensure it includes everything that you’ve agreed on. If you have any concerns, be sure to bring these to the attention of your landlord before signing.

Never pay cash

Whether you are paying for an application fee, deposit or rent, be sure you don’t pay in cash. There needs to be a way to track the money you’ve sent and get it back if needed. Also, if you are wiring money or disclosing bank information, be sure that you’ve verified it as a legitimate company.

9. Look for recent repairs to walls

Are there any gaping holes? Any bits of wall that look like they’ve been recently covered up, replastered, or repainted? If the rental flat or house has recently been redecorated, ask the landlord when and why it happened.

How Rental Scams Work

Scammers know that finding the right apartment or vacation rental can be hard work, and a seemingly good deal is hard to pass up. They’ve been known to game some vacation rental websites and bulletin boards. The take-away: when you’re looking for a rental, it’s caveat renter — renter beware. 

Hijacked Ads

Some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, scammers have hijacked the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.

Phantom Rentals

Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out.

Some frauds are more sophisticated than others

The most simplistic frauds involve people copying legitimate apartment ads off the internet and re-posting them with their own contact information. When a potential tenant contacts the poster, he makes excuses for not having access to the property and asks the tenant to rent it sight-unseen or at least to pay a deposit to reserve the unit. Once the scammer gets money from the tenant, he disappears.

More complicated scams involve criminals that actually have access to the apartment. The huge rash of foreclosures has led to many vacant buildings that are primed for fraudulent schemes. The criminal simply breaks into the building, changes the locks, and is actually able to show the building to potential renters. There have even been cases where the tenant moved in, only to later be told by a bank or real estate agent that the property does not belong to the scammer.

Check for Any Notices of Default

If you’re concerned about the landlord’s financial stability, find out whether the property you’re considering is the subject of a notice of default (the first public step toward foreclosure). Banks and other lenders must file these notices, in the courthouse of the county in which the property is located, when the owner has failed to make payments on a loan or mortgage for a specified number of months (two is common). Obviously, renting a property that’s liable to be foreclosed upon during your tenancy is not a good idea—even if you get to stay, you may end up with an owner (especially if it’s the bank itself) who will not be a conscientious landlord.

The first UK landlord checking service

RentProfile is a new free service tenants can use to check their landlord on the go, using their mobile phone or the property address. The website just got launched but already has 1000+ landlords on record, growing every day.

If you go ahead and search your landlord, it’s likely that it wont turn up a result, but in the near future, this may become the to go resource for checking your landlord. Alternatively, the company provides a thorough background check on any landlord, regardless if they are included in the directory or not, for just £9. This is typically the same price your landlord will pay to get you credit checked. (or make you pay)

If you’re pleased with your landlord, you can suggest them to sign up right now. As a landlord, everybody should aim to be cleared on as many services as they can possibly find. RentProfile is free and aims to become a major tenant resource in the near future, so really, why not ?

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