With a new school year upon us, many college students are moving from dorms to off-campus housing for the first time. Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) advises students to do their homework when searching for an apartment or rental home to ensure they do not fall victim to a scam.
In today’s market, it’s convenient to use the internet to search for apartments and rental homes. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for scammers to prey on college students, who are often first-time renters and unfamiliar with fees, real estate agents and the entire rental process.
Scammers often pose as real estate agents online and attract students with low rates. These fraudulent agents receive a security deposit from students and then disappear with the money.
Students also have to be mindful of online listings that may contain deceiving pictures. Some websites and advertisements only include pictures taken from the model unit or the cleanest areas of the property.
BBB offers the following tips to students searching for an apartment or rental home:
Research. Always research apartment complexes and real estate companies on bbb.org. BBB Business Profiles include a company’s BBB rating, contact information, complaint history and customer reviews. Also contact the NC Real Estate Commission to ensure any real estate agent you are working with is licensed in the state of NC.
Be wary of very low rates. Scammers often create fraudulent rental listings with very low prices to attract victims. Make sure you compare prices of similar properties in the area to ensure you are not getting involved with a suspicious deal.
Visit. Visit the property in person and search for signs of damage, such as mold, dust or broken appliances from previous renters. If there is any questionable damage, make sure you have in writing that you are not responsible for it. If a landlord or real estate agent asks you to send a security deposit before showing you the property, you should walk away. Never pay a security deposit until you’ve seen the property and fully understand the lease agreement.
Meet landlords or real estate agents in person. Many scammers only want to communicate through email, whereas a legitimate landlord or agent should live close enough to the property that he or she can show you around. If the person advertising the property is out of town, say you’ll wait until he or she is back in town before you see the property and pay any kind of deposit.
Ask Questions. Be sure you fully understand what is covered in your monthly rent, and ask questions about additional costs, such as application fees, pet fees and utilities. Make sure to ask about your responsibilities and the landlord’s responsibilities before signing a lease, and always keep a signed copy of the agreement for your records.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org.