Federal reports over the past few years show that millennials are the biggest target of all sorts of scams around the United States. One area of concern is the housing market, since students and young professionals tend to move around a lot and are always looking for a place.
Good apartments are hard to come by and there are always other potential renters breathing down their necks ready to sign the lease. So, college goers and young people starting their careers jump on a good listing the moment they see it.
Renter scammers are constantly on the prowl for this group and create all sorts of traps to get them to pay up. In the paragraphs that follow, we talk about seven of such scams that cost renters dear savings.
The Worst of Those Scary Traps Targeting Millennials
More and more people are moving to urban areas every year, and the largest chunk of this population consists of college – or university – going students and graduates starting their practical life.
These are young, hopeful individuals, just trying to make life a bit easier by finding a place with a short commute from the campus or work and decent amenities.
As you read about the biggest renter scams that target millennials, you might recognize a scam or two that caused you or a friend to lose money.
The Phantom Apartment
The phantom apartment tops our list. This is the oldest trap that developed over the years on listing websites that do not require posters to pay for the ad (Well, mostly – some scammers are happy to pay a little for a listing with the aim to cash in on the target’s deposit).
Craigslist pops up to mind right away, but it’s not the only one. Other popular listings forums are just as bad.
The story of the phantom apartment is simple. It exists only in the ad, not in reality. The scammer will post an ad, posing as the building owner or a real estate agent, and tell you it’s the cheapest deal you will get. The only thing is they want you to pay a security deposit or some kind of leasing fee right away!
You cannot wait or demand to visit the apartment. Even if they do initially agree to show you the place, some emergency will come up and the visit will never materialize.
Since you haven’t lived long in the city and don’t know about all the neighborhoods, the rent tag comes as a pleasant surprise. You think this is a great offer and agree to sign the lease and pay the up-front sum you were asked.
When the day for your big move comes, and you arrive at your new place with your luggage, you realize it doesn’t exist.
The Ghost Landlord
Alternatively, the ad might come with all the right words and you just fall in love with the apartment the guy showed you (Yes, this happens, especially if it’s a twisted tenant going for a scam behind the owner’s back).
The landlord is a decent guy and understands all about the problems of college goers and young working people. He is happy to hand you over the place next week after some renovation and wants you to pay up-front for the lease and security deposit.
This time, when you bring your belongings to the new apartment, you learn that the landlord is a different person altogether and your money is in the air along with person you paid.
(Note: Both these problems can be avoided with a bit of research. Talking to a commercial real estate expert like the folks at lemaracommercial.com might answer a lot of your questions).
The Laundry Lure
Rental scams really do come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes you just have to marvel at the creativity that goes into some of them.
The laundry lure is the perfect specimen in this way. Scammers know having a laundry in the building can seal the deal for most young tenants who have a lot to do in the day and often a limited wardrobe to get through their week.
They will advertise on-premises laundry and ask for a higher rent than you would expect for the place. Once the lease is signed, the tenant learns that if there is a laundry room in the building, it’s not usable, or there simply isn’t one at all.
These leases often come with unusual terms, which make it hard for the tenant to walk away from the rental for a verbal breach of contract.
The Ultra-Exclusive Listing
Then there is the incredibly cheap, superb looking (in photos) apartment that is advertised on a website with exclusive listing rights. As a desperate young person looking to get as much value for your money as possible, this might sound like a deal of the year, but, when you think about it, there is a reason that listing is not on any other platform.
This is a recent variation of the phantom apartment because that’s exactly what’s going on with this deal. However, the scammers use it once in awhile to trap the most gullible, or desperate, young tenants.
The story goes the same way: you love the ad, call the guy, and try to arrange a visit that will never happen. One way or another, money changes hands and you never see it again.
The Renter Mix-Up
When the scam is set up by somebody posing as the realtor for the property, they charge you a decent commission for greasing the wheels and get things going with the landlord. They make a whole story and you somehow end up paying them a non-refundable fee for one service or another, all during the episode of them trying to convince the landlord that you’re a reliable tenant.
You pay the fee and the next day the realtor tells you the landlord just gave the place away to another applicant because they felt more comfortable doing business with them. The realtor tells you he is sad but it’s all just dumb luck, you know.
He wishes you better luck in future and hangs up on you.
The UnForeseen Foreclosure
When reputable investors sell multi-family units, the buyer is not always the most trustworthy landlord, or the property manager they hire might be a crook.
In any case, a lot of these multi-apartment units become the bait in this particular scam. It works for properties that are about to be foreclosed and the cheating landlord/property manager wants to make some money before the place goes under.
They put up an ad and have a growing professional buy the apartment for a decent price only to be thrown out of the place a few weeks later.
When the dust settles, your money for the place is gone just like the guy who sold the place to you. In addition, you now have to find a new place to live in and pay for it.
The Fridge Fright
The laundry room is not the only amenity these scammers use to make a dishonest buck. When you visit some apartments, you will find them decently furnished, but soon after you move in, something big – often the fridge – breaks down and the landlord takes it away for repairs.
Your rent was already a little steep due to the furnishings but now the fridge isn’t working and has been gone for weeks that turn into months.
Desperation and vulnerability go hand in hand. Students looking for the best deal often skip the due diligence and open themselves to be taken advantage of. We hope this post helps you avoid some of the common pitfalls of renting.