How to Avoid Scams When Searching for Housing

Image: Will Buckner / CC BY 2.0

The following guidance was prepared by Housing Navigation Staff member Mr. Brian Kelley.

  1. Do not make payments to anyone you have not met in person. If a person says they are not able to meet in person, it is likely a scam.
  2. Never wire funds to anybody.
  3. Never give out information like your Social Security Number (SSN), Bank Account Number, or other sensitive information through email or phone. If a landlord wants your social security number go to their office and put it directly onto the application. If they ask for your bank account number, you can ask if they will take a recent bank statement instead. This should also be done in person.
  4. If a landlord sends you a vague email and will not give you specific information about the unit you are hoping to rent, it is likely a scam.
  5. If the landlord immediately tells you that you are ‘guaranteed’ the apartment and/or is rushing the process without getting any information from you or giving you a lease, it is likely a scam.
  6. Never rent without having a tour of the actual apartment.
  7. Always sign a written lease and always get a copy.
  8. Prior to going ahead and signing the lease agreement you should ask for the homeownership documents that prove that you’re dealing with a person who has all the rights to rent out this place. This will help you understand that this whole deal is legit.
  9. Make sure your lease identifies the owner as well.
  10. Avoid anyone who’s telling you that the documents will be sent to you later, a real homeowner doesn’t have any reason to avoid showing you the documents
  11. Sub-leasing is often not a good idea. Do not rent from a tenant without knowing for 100% sure the landlord gave the original tenant the right to sub-lease the place.
  12. If possible, it’s advised to avoid paying with cash.
  13. If something does not feel right to you, do not send money or give personal information until you get a second opinion from a person or organization you trust.

Please be Aware:
If you’ve experienced a housing-related scam or are concerned for housing legitimacy, please contact Housing Navigation Staff at HousingNavigation@ccmadison.org

Comment (1)

  • Alexander Malchow| October 5, 2019

    Housing Navigation, you guys rock! How can I learn more?

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