School may still be out for a few more weeks, but post-secondary students are already facing the first test of the upcoming semester when it comes to looking for a place to rent. Between scammers posing as landlords and phony online ads, BBB says it's crucial for students to do their homework, and still listen to mom and dad, when looking for their own place.
"Online classified ads have made finding rental properties much more convenient," says Mary O'Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. "Unfortunately though, what is convenient for college students is often just as convenient for scammers, who have found a way to take advantage of unsuspecting, college renters."
So, what does a phony rental posting look like?
- There are no pictures posted with the ad: Though some legitimate landlords and property owners ask prospective tenants to contact them for pictures via email, it could be a red flag.
- Low resolution or professional pictures: Be wary of professional and low-resolution photos. Scammers often use real estate photos and model homes in their ads. Do an online search of the photos used in the listing to make sure they don't appear in other listings.
- There's no address, or the address listed doesn't match local listings: Do an online map search of the address to confirm that it is the actual location of the rental. If your search takes you to a non-residential place, keep looking.
- The ad states that bad credit doesn't matter. As a property owner, asking for references and even proof of employment is understandable. But, if the ad says a credit check is mandatory, and assures you that it's ok even if you have bad credit, it's most likely a red flag.
BBB says do the heavy -lifting beforehand by researching rentals with these tips:
- The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
- The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via e-mail. Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country for a job or missionary work. If they can't meet with you in person, it's time to move on.
- The landlord asks for a deposit upfront. Don't pay any money before inspecting the home, inside and out.
- The landlord asks the renter to wire money. Money sent via wire transfer service is extremely difficult to retrieve and once the scammers have picked it up, there is little recourse-if any-for getting your money back.
- View the property and take your time during the inspection. Take your time to make note of any damage to walls and floors, be sure the windows open smoothly and test all appliances. The landlord will ask you to sign the inspection form, so be sure you agree with all notations before you do so.
- Read the contract carefully. The lease should include any promises or agreements you've discussed with the landlord as well as payment amounts and timelines, the duration of the lease and the lease cancellation policy. This is a good time to discuss your landlord's policy on painting, hanging items on walls, hiring repair people etc...
- Budget for utilities. This includes cable, Internet, gas or electricity, water, trash pickup and pet fees. These things can add up quickly. Find out if any of these are covered by the landlord or apartment complex.
- Know your rights. As a renter, you want to make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Check the Residential Tenancies Act for information about tenant, landlord and rental agency rights before committing to a rental agreement.
For more tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.
Leah Brownridge, Media and Corporate Communications Specialist
Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local,independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay, which was founded in 1954 and garners more than one million instances of service annually.
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