The housing market on Aquidneck Island, both sales and rentals, is as competitive as it’s ever been. Unfortunately, scammers and con-artists have seen this as an opportunity to capitalize on renters who are struggling to find adequate housing.
“They took me for first, last and security deposit. It all seemed legit at the time, they even had a third-party website that did a formal application process. When I showed up to the house to move in, it was occupied.” A local resident (who asked to remain anonymous) recently told WhatsUpNewp.
“It’s unfortunate. A lot of people are having a really hard time finding housing and when your back is against the wall, you tend to not think as clearly or logically as you would if you weren’t under so much duress.”
With rent rates continuing to climb statewide, many scammers are taking legitimate listings off the internet and re-posting them at different prices on third-party sites, such as apartments.com, Craigslist, and Facebook marketplace.
Not only are rental listings being re-posted, but recent sales are also being re-posted online with rental terms advertised. A client of mine who recently purchased a condominium experienced this unfortunate reality just this week and we took the necessary steps to report this listing to the page’s administrator.
Here are three tips to avoid being scammed when apartment hunting.
1. Work with a licensed real estate agent.
Connecting with a local professional is beneficial in several different ways. Working with a realtor comes at no cost to the renter. Unlike metropolitan areas, the landlord pays the commission for any transaction, so working with a licensed agent won’t cost you anything. They are also more likely to be more familiar with rental listings in the area and can make sure that any potential opportunity is in fact a viable option.
2. If the landlord doesn’t want to meet in person, if they say that they are currently “overseas,” or ask you to mail or wire money…it’s likely a scam.
This is a standard red flag. If the ‘landlord’ isn’t available for a showing, can’t FaceTime or Zoom with you and ask you to mail money, it’s likely a scam. A good landlord will make sure that they make themselves available to meet you.
I always like to meet my tenants in person to make sure they’re just as legitimate of a tenant as I am a landlord. Although sight-unseen rentals have become more common, especially on Aquidneck Island where there is a high contingent of Navy renters, it’s important to vet the listing and the owner to make sure that it is in fact legitimate. If you are in town and able to see the place in person, make it your prerogative to do so.
Also, always be sure to be weary of listings and posts on Craigslist, as this site is very loosely regulated and a perfect place for con-artists to take advantage of potential renters browsing on this platform.
3. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
This is an unfortunate reality today. A property that is priced below the going market rate in this area should be an immediate red flag. These listings will warrant a lot of interest from potential renters because they are so budget savvy and scammers will try to capitalize as quickly as possible before the post is reported.
If you’ve been a victim of a rental scam, contact your local authorities immediately. If they can find the scammer, you may be able to recoup any money that you have lost. Keep in mind, most rental scammers are not necessarily local, and the internet is a very difficult place to track down these types of criminals. Be sure to contact the listing website so that the post is flagged and will be taken off their website. You can also make formal complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Rental scams are becoming more and more prevalent. Ensuring that rental listings are legitimate is more important than ever. Be smart, stay safe and make sure you are protecting yourself and your money.
In the event that you’re having a problem finding a local rental, The Fitzpatrick Team at RE/Max Professionals of Newport have licensed agents that specialize in leasing and have a strong pulse on the rental market. Please feel free to contact the office at 401-848-7827.
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