Drive through any college-adjacent neighborhoods this weekend, and you’re sure to see trucks piled high with furniture, students and parents with an endless stream of boxes, and at least one free couch on every corner. It’s moving season for college students.
Some students are moving out into the real world after graduation, but many are still in school. Dorms can be nice, but many students are craving the freedom that comes with living independently off-campus. Most students are so excited, they forget to be cautious when they’re looking for a new place and this can prove to be especially risky since young people are often the targets of scammers.
While there are many variations on apartment rental, the tips for avoiding one are all the same. Here are some ways college students can protect themselves from rental scams this school year:
Always conduct business in person. If your landlord lives in Nigeria, just walk away. Someone who owns and rents a property should be near enough to maintain it, meaning they’re near enough to show you the place in person. You should be able to visit the apartment or house, and physically see all the paperwork before signing a lease. You should NEVER send money to a person you haven’t met, for a place you haven’t seen.
Do a background check on the landlord and the property. Ask to see their website, and run your own searches for the name. You can also look up the address to see if it is listed as available on any other rental site. If you find the same property listed elsewhere, under a different name, be extremely cautious – it is most likely a scam.
Don’t fall for false enticements. In these types of scams, the landlord will sometimes offer to cover a month of your rent and utilities, or let you move in without running any kind of background or credit check. A real landlord needs to protect themselves and be cautious with who they rent to, not to mention they’re running a business - why would they pay for your rent? Statements like this should immediately raise a red flag.
Don’t give out personal information during a rental search. Keep your bank account info, social security number, PayPal info, and any other personal information private while apartment hunting. There’s no reason the landlord will need that before you sign a lease and begin to pay rent (unless they need your social to run your credit check.)
Rental scams are fairly easy to sniff out the majority of the time once you know what clues to look for. If you ever have a question about the legitimacy of a rental claim, call your local BBB serving San Diego, Orange and Imperial Counties at 858-496-2131 or look up the property manager at bbb.org.