BY: COURTNEY GILSTRAP LEVINUS
Finding the perfect rental home can take a lot of time and looking. When renters are searching for a new place from a distance or have to move quickly, that can cause added stress and maybe even make you more vulnerable to online rental scams.
If you are looking online for a place to live using online forums and websites, there are a number of tips you can use to protect yourself. The best rule of thumb is this: if you find a place that sound too good to be true, it may be. You need to take precautions and protect yourself from online scams.
Never hand over deposits or payments without a signed lease Some scammers will try to get potential renters to hand over money based on the images they post online, without an in-person visit. A deposit to a company may not “hold” the unit for you. If the management company is legitimate, they will find a way to show you the apartment in person and won’t require money to hold the apartment in that time.
Never move into a home on a “handshake” deal. Some units posted online are essentially sublets where someone wants a new renter to take over their lease. This has lots of challenges too it. Even when you are moving into a friend’s apartment or home, or taking over a lease, it’s best to get a signed document so you know what the rent costs are, and you know the terms of the lease. Without a signed lease, a renter has no real recourse. It can be tempting to move into an apartment or a room without legal documents, but nothing ruins friendships faster than money issues. Some property owners will not allow the apartment or home to be leased to another party, ask to see the original lease to make sure that subletting is acceptable to the property owner.
A legitimate property owner or management company will also want a signed lease. Anyone online or in person who says you can move in without a lease should be suspect.
Credit screenings and background checks help you too.
Scammers may skip the credit screenings and background checks to get you to commit to renting and sending them money. Those reports cost money and time. Beware of any apartment manager that doesn’t ask for any documentation of your work or credit history. This will protect you too.
Online forums with rentals can be a great place to find a home, but there are lots of scams found there too. Take the time to protect yourself and do the additional research to save your identity and your money!
The Arizona Multihousing Association is the statewide trade association for the apartment industry, representing more than 2,000 members in legislative, legal and regulatory matters.
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