Written by Sunny

Modified & Updated: 28 May 2024

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off When Renting a Home

Renting an apartment is tough enough as it is. Prices are extremely high and your options are limited in just about every neighborhood. Getting ripped off or scammed in the process makes it a whole lot worse.

There are many ways landlords take advantage of new renters, as well as many shady people trying to scam you out of your money. As such, you should be prepared to deal with potential red flags.

Here is how you can avoid getting ripped off when renting a home.

Get your own insurance

You do not need to insure the apartment. That is the landlord’s responsibility and only they can do it. If something happens to the place, they’re the person responsible for rebuilding. However, some landlords try to take advantage of renters when something goes wrong. They blame the tenant, whether or not it was the tenant’s fault.

Regardless of who was at fault, you might come out on the losing side. Getting a renters insurance policy is a good way of protecting yourself. Renters insurance is important anyway, as it protects your stuff if it is stolen or destroyed. But since it comes with personal liability cover, it can pay claims that your landlord brings against you.

Know the local security deposit laws

When you start renting, you’ll have to pay a security deposit. This is an amount that you give to your landlord to keep as long as you’re renting. If you cause damage to the apartment, they can keep your deposit when you leave.

What many new renters don’t know is that there are laws regarding security deposits. In most states, there is a limit as to how much a landlord can ask for. Furthermore, your landlord can’t just spend your deposit and pay you back at the end of your lease. They have to keep your money in an interest-bearing account and pay you everything that accrues.

Some states are very lax in their regulations, but there may still be laws that will help you if you know them.

Rent is negotiable

Your potential landlord will tell you how much they expect in rent. Many people will accept that as a given. However, rent is actually negotiable. There is no standard rent that the apartment owner can fall back on. Rather, you should do your research in advance about what similar apartments in the neighborhood are going for.

That being said, in today’s market, with high demand for rental units, you don’t have the luxury of negotiating too much. If you’re not willing to pay what they ask for, someone else probably will.

Sign a written lease

Verbal agreements to rent an apartment are considered valid in a legal sense. But always ask to sign a written lease, even if you trust the owner of the property. A written lease makes clear what is included and what provisions the landlord has to make changes. While this person is unlikely to try to pull the rug from under you and pretend you have no agreement, they may well debate the nuances of what was agreed.

Always see the property before making any agreements

Unfortunately, many people get ripped off long before they find a property to live in. This is because of the many rental scams out there. With so much demand for rental units, scammers have learnt to take advantage of people. They put up convincing adverts for beautiful rental properties, using photos and descriptions they took from real places. When you call to inquire about the place, they act as if it’s in high demand.

It is easy to fall into the trap and make a payment before even seeing the property. These scammers sound really convincing and even the most savvy people can be fooled. Regardless of whether you believe someone is trying to scam you, never make an agreement before seeing the property. Definitely don’t make a payment.

You should also verify the owner of the place before signing any agreements. There have been too many instances in which people rented out apartments they didn’t own, having gained access to the place without the real owner knowing. By verifying the owner, you know that any agreements you sign are valid.

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