Rental scams have been around for a long time. It usually involves an online rental listing by someone other than the actual owner of a property. Scammers manage to collect security deposits and rents from potential tenants before disappearing into the wind. Tenants sometimes don’t realize they’ve been scammed until moving day approaches. If you’re on the market for a new rental property, here are a few ways to avoid rental scams in MA.

Don’t Hold, Site-Unseen

The rental market in Eastern MA is so competitive right now, especially in and around Boston. Renters are starting to get desperate and are more willing to give money to hold a unit even before they’ve seen it. Unfortunately, this is never a good idea and leaves you vulnerable to being scammed. It’s best never give money to someone for a rental unit that you have not seen in-person. Most legitimate landlords will pick a date to allow showings. They also welcome applications from multiple potential tenants since it gives them an opportunity to review and select the best tenant available.

Don’t Remit Cash

Cash (and cash equivalents such as bitcoins, Western Union, etc.) is not easily traced and will always be preferred by scammers. To protect yourself, avoid giving cash, particularly for security deposits or first month’s rent.

Understand the Market

If you’re searching for a rental, then you already know what the rental rates are in the area. Is the current rental listing far below the market value? That’s usually the sign of a scam. Scammers list properties really low so that multiple buyers will be interested in placing a deposit. After all, who can pass up a great deal. You know the saying about something that is “too good to be true.”

Do Your Research

To avoid rental scams in MA, it’s a good idea to do a little research to find out if the person you are speaking to is the actual owner of the property. How do you do this? First, figure out which county the property is in. Then, visit the website for the Registry of Deeds for that county. A list is available at Search for the property based on address to see who is listed as the owner of record. Does that match the name of the person offering the property for rent?

Speak to Neighbors

Neighbors can really help you avoid rental scams in MA. As you evaluate the neighborhood, say hello to neighbors that you may encounter and ask them whether they like living in the area. Tell them that you are considering renting the nearby property. You may be surprised at what you learn! Neighbors will often know about the rental unit, landlord, etc. They may have information that will alert you to a rental scam.

Best Ways to Avoid Rental Scams

Ultimately, the best ways to avoid rental scams are to follow your instincts! If the person listing a home for rent seems suspicious, is not forthcoming with information, doesn’t know a lot about a property, or is using high-pressure tactics, you will sense that something isn’t right. Don’t ignore those feelings. Do your research and keep the above in mind as well to protect your hard earned money.