Rental property listing scams typically aim to steal money from interested renters. They’ll try to get you to pay for a security deposit or move-in fee without ever seeing the house or rental unit, and they’ll keep the money without any intention of renting a property to you.
1. They Don’t Want to Meet You in Person
It’s never a good sign if the person who posted a rental listing says that they are not able to or don’t want to meet you in person. Even if you’re not able to meet in person, you should always be able to request a real-time video walkthrough of the rental so you know that the property exists.
A good landlord will make sure that they can meet you either digitally or in person so that they can feel comfortable trusting you as a renter. Plus, a landlord should want to meet you in person to make sure you’re legitimate as well. On the flip side, scammers typically don’t want to meet you, since they don’t want you to be able to report them.
2. They Want You to Move in Immediately
Even if you meet someone in person who claims to be the landlord, you should always see the property before signing a lease or sending any money. It’s easy for someone to say they have a property and fake an online listing, so it’s best to see the property in person and make sure the place is available.
In most rental scams, the individual advertising the property doesn’t actually have any way to access the inside of the property. If a landlord instructs you to inspect the property by walking around the outside at your convenience, this is almost certainly a scam.
3. They Ask for Rent Before Signing a Lease
An apparent sign that the apartment or house you’re looking at is a scam is if the property manager, landlord, or realtor asks for rent or a security deposit before signing a lease.
As a potential renter, you should never be asked to give a large sum of money before seeing and having all parties sign a lease. Application fees, which are used to cover the cost of background checks, are an acceptable fee to pay before signing a lease. The first month’s rent or a security deposit, however, is not.
You should never mail or wire money to anyone if you have not signed a lease. In some cases, a scammer will tell you they live overseas and need you to forward the money to them in return for the keys or booking.
4. The Price is too good.
Whenever you see a price that looks too good to be true, it probably is. A property that is priced well below the going market rate in your area should be an immediate red flag.
So how can you determine if a unit is at fair market value and not a scam? You should always do your own research on rent prices for units of comparable location, size, and amenities to get a good idea of what rentals in a certain area are being rented for.
5. There Is No Tenant Screening Process
As a tenant, you’ll want to rent from a high-quality, responsive landlord who does things the “right” way. Professional landlords almost always have a set tenant screening process that they follow to ensure they choose tenants who are going to be able to pay rent and take care of their property.
The landlord is either unconcerned about picking a good tenant because it’s a scam, or unconcerned because they are inexperienced. In both scenarios, you should be a bit suspicious.
Tips to Avoid Rental Scams
Research, verifying the property, and trusting your guts are crucial to avoiding rental scams. Here are other measures to ensure you don’t waste money, energy, and time.
- Vetting the rental listing: Using the tips above, make sure the rental listing you’re considering looks legitimate. If there are any red flags or scam-like qualities, skip it.
- Meet the landlord in person: You need to meet the person you are renting from. Will you work well together? Do they seem friendly and motivated to rent the unit to you? And most importantly, are they a legitimate landlord or property manager?
- See the property in person: This can be a time-consuming step, but seeing a rental unit in person will let you know the property exists and give you a good idea as to whether or not you want to live there before signing the lease.
If you are on the lookout to rent a house or apartment in Kigali, or you know someone who is, you should read and share this post to stay abreast of popular rental scams. On the other hand, if you seek to own a house of your own, you are welcome to look through some of the best rental and sale properties in Rwanda on our website.