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Rental Scams - Signs Your Potential Landlord Is Shady

Monday, May 29, 2023

You may remember that your friends at Shyft warned you about moving scams, then about the change of address scams, and now rental scams!

Most people tend to assume that other people are good, but unfortunately, that is not the case. There will always be individuals who are looking to take advantage of others.  

The more you know about their methods, the better you will be equipped to deal with them, in this case, particularly with home rental scams. 

This blog post will help renters recognize warning signs that their potential landlord may be untrustworthy or dishonest. From vague or contradictory lease terms to high-pressure sales tactics and poor communication, learn how to spot the rental scams red flags and make informed decisions to protect your rights as a tenant.

A beautiful interior of a cozy house for rent

What Are House Rental Scams

House or apartment rental scams typically aim to steal money from interested renters. This is done in different ways. Scammers may advertise a rental property and try to collect from you the security deposit or rent upfront. They may post a fake listing on a legitimate platform or create a scam website. 

Online home rental scams typically work like this. A vacant house is advertised at a low rent. When you call the number posted in the listing, a scammer tells you that the owner is currently out of town but invites you to drive by the property and look at it. If you like the house and call again, the scammer will ask you to wire a deposit. After you do, you never hear from them again.  

Rental scams include shady designs such as misrepresenting the property, refusing to refund the deposit without a good reason, or acting dishonestly and unfairly.

You may become a victim of a rental scam when looking to rent a house or an apartment on a long-term lease or when you want to rent holiday accommodation for a few weeks.

A retired man looking for rental housing options on his tablet

How to Spot a Rental Scam

When selecting your next rental home, pay attention to rental scam red flags. If anything strikes a discordant note with you, walk away, even if you love the unit, the location, the amenities, and the price. 

Low rent is a big red flag. Landlords rarely rent their property below market price. Always stop and think twice when someone offers you something for next to nothing. Be especially wary if low rent comes with a high deposit.

If a landlord or property manager asks you to pay rent or a security deposit before you visit the unit or sign the lease, simply refuse. Something is fishy there. Asking for cash payments or charging a fee to view a place are also big no-nos.

Vague and unclear terms in the lease agreement and inability or unwillingness to answer your questions indicate that things are not as they should be. Reputable landlords will ensure you understand the contract and answer all relevant questions.

Landlords or their agents who fail to return calls or cancel appointments at the last minute should not be trusted. Unforeseen circumstances can hinder anyone, but if you notice a pattern, it is best to look elsewhere for a place to rent.

False advertising is another dishonest practice and a rental scam red flag. If the place looks great in the pictures but is actually in poor condition, it is not worth your while. The landlord who doesn’t take pains to fix the property when trying to lease it to you won’t be helpful after you move in. Unkept common areas are also a sign that the place is inefficiently run. 

Be wary of landlords if they do not ask you to agree to the tenant screening process. You want to rent from professional landlords who typically require a rental application and a credit check (note that this may entail a small fee).

Sometimes, you just feel something’s not right, though you can’t put your finger on it. Trust your gut and walk away from the deal, no matter how attractive it seems.

How to Avoid Rental Scams

Scams are designed to catch us off guard and can happen to anyone. Be vigilant and learn how to avoid fraudulent and dishonest rental practices. Here’s what to do and what not to do to avoid the rental scams:


  • Research the rental company reviews online. 
  • Try to meet the landlord or the property manager in person.
  • Find out from the local building department whether your landlord should have the certificate of occupancy and then ask to see it. The certificate guarantees the property complies with building regulations.
  • Visit the property and sign the lease before paying.
  • Read the lease carefully, and get your copy with both signatures and initials immediately. Politely say no if the landlord tells you they’ll send you the signed copy later.   
  • Do not let the landlord pressurize you into closing the deal quickly.
  • Do not pay in cash, by wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or with gift cards. Such payment methods are almost impossible to trace. 

If you find yourself the target of a rental scam, report it to your local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission.

Know Your Right as a Renter

Two primary federal laws that regulate landlords and property managers are Fair Housing Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act. State and local authorities have different regulations governing relations between landlords and renters. In general, these rules apply nationwide:

  • Landlords have to provide you with a lease agreement and other legal paperwork. The written agreement must abide by all laws and include details like leasing periods, monthly rental rates, and tenant names. 
  • Some state or local authorities limit the security deposit, so be sure to check relevant regulations.
  • Your landlord can withhold a portion of the security deposit to cover unpaid rent or to fix property damage. However, they must give you an itemized list of deductions and return the balance. To protect yourself, take photos of the unit when you move in, noting any damages. Also, report your findings in writing to the landlord. That way, the landlord can not unfairly keep a portion of your security deposit.
  • The maintenance of the rented house or apartments falls on the landlord (provided you did not cause the problem). So does pest control, but landlords may specify in the rental agreement that this is your responsibility.  
  • Landlords may not charge you extra for a roommate, but some shady ones could try to do it. However, if you intend to sublet the unit, ask your landlord for permission first.
  • You have a right to privacy. Your landlord should give you advance notice if they need to enter your apartment. Of course, emergencies are an exception.

It also does not hurt to familiarize yourself with local tenant eviction regulations and processes to avoid rental scams. Most states stipulate that landlords must give tenants a termination notice and that tenants can be removed only by court order. 

Learn more about your rights as a tenant.

 A smiling retired lady giving a thumbs-up after successfully avoiding rental scams

Your Relocation is Safe and Secure With Shyft

You will have a lot of bases to cover when looking for a place to rent. Fortunately, you will not need to worry about getting your belongings to your new home. Shyft is there to take care of the entire relocation process, from taking stock of your inventory to generating moving quotes and ensuring your precious possessions arrive safely.

What's more, AARP members get an exclusive discount of up to $250 when they book their move at AARP® Moving Services powered by Shyft.

What is Shyft?

Shyft connects people who plan to move with professional moving companies in a contactless manner. By integrating technology into providing moving services, Shyft improves customer experience and makes relocation as stress-free as possible. 

Customers do not need to search for the right moving company, request quotes from several service providers, or have movers come and survey the inventory.

Instead, the moving process is organized with the help of Shyft’s highly accurate state-of-art technology. The process is significantly streamlined, saving customers time and money. 

Each customer is assigned a dedicated Move Coach who organizes and oversees the relocation from start to finish. This adds a personal touch and guarantees peace of mind.  

How Can I Book My Move With Shyft?

It is simple to book your move with Shyft. 

Download the Shyft Next app for iPhone or Android. Then schedule a video call online or at 1-888-501-3181. Your Move Coach will contact you at the exact time you requested.

During the 30-minute video call, point the camera on your device at the items you want to move to your new home and ask all the questions you can think of. Have Shyft’s moving checklist at hand. It provides many details relevant to relocation and may inspire you to discuss some points. Your Move Coach will inform you about your options and the approximate costs. 

After the video call, you will receive your moving inventory list. The list is typically 95% accurate. Make necessary changes and send it to your Move Coach.

The inventory list you approved then goes to the secure Shyft bidding platform. This is where vetted professional movers compete for your moving project, each offering the best pricing. Shyft has a network of moving companies that can provide any service you require, from a DIY move to a full-service move. 

Your Move Coach will send you at least three top quotes from different companies. The quote you select becomes locked. The pricing can’t change unless you alter important factors (shipment size, moving distance, or level of services) or fail to book the move before the quote expires.

Whichever company handles the move, Shyft remains involved during the whole process. Your Shyft Move Coach will oversee the relocation process from start to finish. You can contact Shyft 24/7 to enquire about anything relevant to your relocation.

Book your stress-free moving experience with Shyft now and get up to $250 off!

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