How to Avoid Scams When Searching for Housing
After over 20 years of helping people find housing, we have learned a lot. Unfortunately, that includes how to spot a scam. Below, we share some of our best tips to help identify potential red flags during the housing search journey.
Here are a few areas to be extra attentive to when looking for housing:
- A trusted housing provider communicates clearly and appropriately throughout the entire process. They should be willing to talk to you via phone or in person and readily available to show you the property before you commit.
- It is also important to screen the housing provider yourself using online resources. We recommend searching their name, reading reviews of their existing properties, and checking public records. These records allow you to locate any previous complaints, foreclosure statuses, or criminal activity that may not have been disclosed to you beforehand. For Charlotte-specific residencies, we refer to the Mecklenburg County Property Records site for landlord searches.
- Search the property address online – if it is posted on more than one website with different information, the scammer is likely just presenting someone else’s property as their own.
- If someone representing themselves as a landlord will only communicate with you via text, insists on you sending funds via CashApp or similar, pressures you to pay immediately, or tells you to just “drive by the property” because they are out of state, don’t proceed.
Oftentimes, the most substantial scams that can arise from affordable housing searches are related to payments. A landlord should never ask you to:
- Wire money
- Send your payment through an app
- Share your credit card information with them
A valid lease or application should be completed before any payment is submitted; this can protect you from sending money you may never be able to get back.
Trusting Your Instincts
You have your own best interest in mind, so trust yourself when things feel wrong. Visiting a property or communicating with your housing provider should be a secure and pressureless situation. We recommend undergoing research outside of the housing listing to ensure the “deal” you are being offered isn’t too good to be true. If the property is listed on multiple platforms and with different contact information, take extra precautions to ensure the residence and housing provider is legitimate.