How to spot apartment rental scams


To avoid rental scams, learn what the most common red flags to watch out for are, and use RadPad to reduce the chances of coming across a scam. Never turn over any money without a legitimate, signed lease agreement, and watch out for any landlord demanding a payment up front.

Full Question and Answer

Renter's Question

I recently got a job offer of a lifetime in a new city that started immediately and took it without figuring out where I was going to live. I stayed with an old college buddy for a few nights, but probably overstayed my welcome, so I’ve been in and out of a couple random spots on Airbnb that are within walking distance to the office. It’s been almost two weeks now and I really need to find a permanent spot ASAP so I stop wasting money on short-term rentals.

I’ve found a place that seems almost too good to be true—something about it just feels shady and I feel like the landlord might be trying to scam me. He’s making up excuses as to why he can’t show me the unit and I’m beginning to lose my patience. What can I do to make sure I’m not getting swindled?

RadPad's Answer

Your best bet to avoid falling victim to a rental scam is to use a reliable, trusted third party to help you find a home and close the deal. Luckily for you, you’ve come to the right place! At RadPad, our rental listings go through a proprietary algorithm called “PadRank,” which consists of verification and qualitative processes that vastly reduce the chance of a scam making it into our service. To get straight to the point—use us! We’re awesome at helping people find the perfect pad.

With that said, there is a serious potential to get royally screwed over by some jerk out to make a quick buck off someone merely looking to find a nice place to call home. The best way to avoid a rental scam is to be able to spot red flags. Here’s a few you should definitely keep in mind.

Some of the more common red flags indicating a rental scam include landlords who won’t let you see an apartment before you have made a security deposit or other payment, or a landlord who agrees to let you rent an apartment and takes a payment without a signed lease or a proper deposit receipt. In the first case, it’s quite likely that there’s no apartment even in the picture: this person might have simply pulled random images off the web (or uploaded no pictures at all) and whipped up a bogus ad, for all you know. In the second case, even if you have seen an apartment in person, that doesn’t mean 20 other people haven’t also seen it, loved it, and made their first month’s payment… only to soon join the crowd of victims who just got ripped off.

Other red flags are when “landlords” use services like Google Voice or other VoIPs to keep their real phone number hidden; rentals that are listed well below the average price for the area; landlords claiming they’re on vacation and unable to show the unit in person, but request deposits anyway; or, commonly, a landlord avoiding traceable transactions, relying solely on cash or a service like MoneyGram.

At the end of the day, there’s a ton of ways to potentially get scammed. Stay abreast of the red flags and use RadPad. We got your back.

Now that you can see the finish line with the application process, your landlord wants to call your boss as a reference. Here’s how to deal.

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