How To Avoid Rental Home Scams

With the real estate market the way it is, the door has been left wide open to scam artists who rent out homes that do not belong to them. It happens all over the country, and you sometimes even hear about it in the news. If a house is empty for a long period of time, either because it is in foreclosure and the owners moved or the owners are on an extended vacation, scammers may try to rent the house to unsuspecting people looking for a home. Sometimes, they get away with it for a long period of time before the scam is discovered. Other times, the owners of the home are alerted by neighbors that someone is moving in. In these cases, the renter has to leave, and is left without the deposit and move-in money they paid the scammer (who has usually long disappeared by this time).

If you're looking for homes for rent, you can take steps to protect yourself from rental scams. Here's what you can do to ensure you are moving into a legitimate rental home whenever you go looking for homes for lease.

1. Don't Send Any "Landlord" Money by Wire Service, Especially If You Haven't Even Seen the House Yet

One of the hallmarks of a rental scammer is conveying a sense of urgency to you about securing the house with money right away. A scammer will want you to send them the deposit money and first month's rent via a wire service before you have even seen the house.

Their excuse will usually be that they have had a lot of interest in the house, and if you want it, you need to pay for it right away, or it is going to go to someone else. If anyone asks you to send them money via a wire service before you've seen the inside of the house, walk away.

2. Don't Rent from Someone Who Won't Show You the House

Another common ploy among scammers is to respond to your email or telephone inquiry by saying they are out of the country. This makes them unavailable to show you the house. They may invite you to drive by the home and look in the windows to decide if you like it. If the scammer has been to the home, they may have even arranged for a door to be unlocked for you to enter and show yourself around.

A real house for rent will have either a landlord or a rental agent who will meet you at the house and show you around. Never rent from someone you've never met in person, or who didn't at least have a legitimate rental representative you could meet with. 

3. Be Cautious of Rental Prices That Seem Too Good to Be True

If the house you're interested in is being advertised at far below the going rental rate of other homes in the area, be cautious. According to Zillow, this is a common rental scam, and the tactic is used to get people interested in the home and willing to send money quickly to secure it at such a good price.

If you come across a house you like while looking for a place to rent, and the price seems well below market value, do some research on the supposed owner. Look up the house at the local courthouse's property records division. If the name of the person who wants to rent to you and the name of the listed owner don't match up, you're probably dealing with a scammer.


There are plenty of legitimate homes for rent out there. Don't fall for a scam and lose a lot of your hard-earned money while being tossed out onto the street. Do your homework on any house you're considering renting, look for the hallmark signs of scammers, and don't send money unless you've seen the house and met the owner or their rental agent. This way, you will know the home you are renting is really yours when you sign the lease.