Common Rental Scams

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SmartRenter landlord background screenings can help you avoid the top 5 rentals scams out there today. Many scammers use multiple scams in tandem to lure potential renters to fake opportunities and convince them to provide money without seeing the property. Then the scammers vanish -- with your cash -- before you have a chance to realize the entire transaction was fake.

1. Fake Listings with Lower-Than-Market Prices

Scam artists often copy details from real listings to create their own false posting for the property. Then, they lower the listing price by hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to make it seem like it’s available at an unbeatable price. Providing false names and contact information draws unsuspecting prospective tenants to the opportunity, and once money is transacted, the scammer disappears.

SmartRenter's 3-point Landlord Verification and Confirmation can immediately confirm a property’s rightful owner. We provide full names, email addresses and phone numbers for the documented property owner. If these do not match the listing AND the deal seems too good to be true, you’re likely looking at a false listing.

2. No Lease Signing

Scam artists and shady landlords will ask prospective tenants to rent a property without signing any documents. Verbal agreements are not only uncommon, but they also put tenants at great personal and financial risk without legal recourse in the event of fraud or leasing uninhabitable property. Scammers use this technique to avoid identity tracing, and slumlords use the tactic to skirt taxes and housing laws put in place for tenant safety.

SmartRenter Reports not only confirm the rightful owner of a property, but run additional checks on the landlord’s background to check for criminal history, property liens and foreclosures. If you are being asked to rent without a lease, chances are the arrangement is fake OR the landlord may have a history of unlawful behavior.

3. Renting Homes with Leins or in Foreclosure

Your rental's stability is very much based on how the property is owned or financed. Landlords who default on their mortgages may still attempt to rent properties to garner income while awaiting eviction. This is not only illegal, but it puts renters at great risk. They could become the victims of a sudden eviction if the property they are occupying is being reclaimed by the bank.

SmartRenter Reports reveal all property owned by a landlord, including ones that have liens or are currently in foreclosure. The report will also show prior property foreclosures, bankruptcies, liens and judgements that would indicate a high-risk relationship for the renter.

4. No In-Person Showing

It’s never reasonable for a landlord to refuse to meet a prospective tenant. Scammers will use many different excuses for this to hide their identity: military service, professional reasons for being out of town, illnesses, etc. Usually they can have someone meet you to show you the property. Real property owners refusing to show a property are often hiding major dangerous maintenance or structural problems with the property, attempting to rent distressed properties that aren’t up to code.

SmartRenter Reports can turn up many red flags about landlords that allow renters to match identity and stories with reality. A "landlord" who shares a story that does not align to their current residency or professional background is highly likely to be a scammer. Landlords renting distressed properties often have a history with bankruptcy, foreclosure, liens, judgements or actual criminal activity that will appear in reports.

5. Expensive Background Checks and Surprise Fees

While landlords often run background and credit checks on prospective tenants and pass those costs on to the renter, a frequent scam is for less scrupulous landlords to inflate the prices of those services. Some dishonest landlords will charge tenants $100 or more for the services. Often these landlords will also sneak in additional building fees or up the price at lease signing, hoping the renters will not contest the changes.

SmartRenter Reports examine the financial records, property holdings and criminal backgrounds of landlords to offer insights into unsavory behavior that is commonplace in the industry. A landlord who has had trouble with the law previously and been caught in other criminal activities is likely to be trying them again and again.

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