Apartment Searching

4 Apartment Rental Scams You Should Know About


If you’re looking for your next rental home, you should keep a watchful eye out for apartment scams: fraudulent real estate advertising or transactions that could do you harm.

Fortunately, you can protect yourself during your next property search by learning how to spot rental scams and avoid them.

In a market where online property searches are the norm, it’s easier than ever for a rental scammer to post fraudulent listings, get access to your data, advertise amenities that don’t exist, or convince the potential renter to move in without signing a lease. In this guide, we’re breaking down all four of these common rental scam red flags and offering solutions to each one.

#1 Fake or Copied Listings

As you decide when to start looking for apartments, keep an eye out for fraudulent listings. Some examples include listings that are:

  • Copied from another source
  • Made by people who don’t own or manage the property
  • For properties that don’t exist

If you respond to a fraudulent listing with any personal information (like contact or banking information), a rental scammer could use this data for other nefarious purposes.

Solution: Research Properties Carefully

There are a few ways to identify each kind of fraudulent listing above:

  • When you see duplicate listings, check the contact information provided for each one. If there’s a discrepancy between them, one of the listings is likely a rental property scam.
  • Search the address of the property in question to verify who owns the home.
  • Use Google Maps to search for the address in the listing, then use Street View to verify that the listing photos match the building at the address.

#2 Unsecure Data Exchange

Even if a real estate agent, property management company, or property owner isn’t trying to scam you as their potential tenant, their digital systems might not be secure. If this is the case, you could unknowingly expose personal data like:

  • Your Social Security Number (submitted for credit checks)
  • Your credit or debit card number (used to pay for application fees)
  • Your bank account information (used to enroll in autopay for rent payments)

You’ll likely need to submit all of the above at some point during the lease-signing process, but be as vigilant as possible when doing so.

Solution: Use Secure Methods of Communication

Proceed with caution when submitting personal information:

  • Instead of using unencrypted web forms to submit information, ask for hard copies of forms that you can fill out by hand and attach to an email.
  • Instead of sending personal information in the body of an email, create a password-protected document with all of the information your rental company needs and provide the password via phone call.
  • Instead of communicating via text or email, communicate over the phone or in-person to prevent leaks.

Discover private and coliving apartments with Common. Find your home!

#3 Mismatched Properties and Listings

Anytime you’re interested in a property, you’ll need to make sure that all of the information in the rental listing actually matches:

  1. The property at the address on your lease agreement
  2. The amenities listed in your lease agreement

You’re most likely to discover that the rental listing doesn’t match the property in question when:

  • You tour the property for the first time
  • You use Google Maps and Street View to look at the property
  • You sign your lease and notice that some amenities are missing from the agreement

Solution: Tour Properties in Person Before Signing and Read Your Lease Carefully

To prevent signing a lease for a property that doesn’t match the listing, you can:

  • Tour the property – Set up a tour to verify that all listing photos are accurate. During the tour, ask to see amenities like laundry facilities, gyms, or community spaces.
  • Ask for a sample lease agreement – Before or during your tour, ask for a sample lease agreement. You can use this to check that the advertised amenities are, in fact, included and that your rental property address matches your touring location.
  • Read carefully before signing your lease – Check your actual lease agreement against the sample provided, the listing, and your tour observations before signing and returning any documents.

#4 No Lease Required

Let’s say you’ve toured a property that matched the listing down to the last detail, and you’re ready to sign a lease and move into your new home. But the property management company says that you don’t need to sign a lease—that you can just move in after paying your security deposit and first month’s rent.

If this is the first red flag you’ve discovered with this property, you might be tempted to shrug it off. But to avoid a potential scam, you should never make payments without signing a lease agreement as this document confirms your rental rights to the property.

Solution: Ask for a Lease or Choose a Different Home

Instead of offering to pay and move in without signing a lease, ask the property owner, property manager, or real estate agent to provide a lease agreement for you to sign. If they refuse to give you one, it’s time to explore other options.

If you choose to pursue a different rental home, make sure that:

  1. Any funds paid for security deposits or the first month’s rent are returned
  2. Any personal information you submitted is deleted or shredded

Not all property owners who don’t use lease agreements are trying to scam residents. However, leases protect both residents and property owners from potential legal issues, so you should do your best to choose a rental home that requires one.

Find Your Next Home with Common

While apartment scams might seem intimidating, staying vigilant against suspicious listings and behavior can help you protect yourself, your data, and your finances.

And if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind property in a city like New York, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, or San Francisco, explore Common: a new kind of rental lifestyle. Common offers residents competitive rental rates, loads of amenities, access to free community events, and even all-inclusive residential packages.

Finding a home in a new city has never been easier. Explore Common’s available apartments and rooms today to learn more.



  1. Federal Trade Commission. Rental Listing Scams. https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/rental-listing-scams
  2. U.S. News. 8 Red Flags to Help You Spot a Rental Scam. https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/red-flags-to-help-you-spot-a-rental-scam


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