Rental Scams and Find out how to Keep away from Them

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Rental Scams and How to Avoid Them

Q: I'm moving to New York and need to find an apartment. A friend told me to watch out for fraud. What should I look out for and how would I know if a listing is problematic?

ON: The market is flush with inventory as rents continue to fall, creating conditions where it can be difficult to tell a good one from an absurd one. "It's no secret that rents are now down," said Pamela Liebman, Corcoran's president. "It's easy to get excited about good value, but when it's too good to be true, it probably is."

Please note the following:

Decoy tactics. They see a listing, appear in the building and the realtor tells you the apartment is no longer available and then directs you to another apartment on the street that has nothing to do with what you saw online. If that happens, get away.

Characters invisible. You should be able to see an apartment before renting it. If a broker tells you otherwise and is expecting a down payment for a place that you can't visit, don't pay.

The embellished listing. An ad shouldn't describe two bedrooms when there is only one. Before planning a tour, carefully look at photos and floor plans, and ask the agent questions. "Is there a photo of every room or is it just one room taken from 15 different angles?" said Lynne Allaker, Senior Director of Customer Support at StreetEasy.

Check the credentials. Brokers are state licensed. If you are concerned about a broker, check their credentials online. Look for reviews of the broker and the building.

Illegal fees. Brokers can charge tenants a brokerage fee, usually 12 to 15 percent of the annual rent, but no registration fee. The credit check fees are capped at $ 20. You should not be charged any additional fees.

Teaser rent. Many landlords who have difficulty filling vacancies offer a month or two of free rent, with the savings spread over the term. Sometimes the rent stated on the ad will reflect that lower monthly payment, not the actual rent on your lease. When the lease comes up for renewal, you will be charged a much higher rent, with any increase based on that higher amount. Ask the broker to tell you the gross rent and not the effective net rent.

To be too good to be true. Rents are lower than they have been for a long time, but New York apartments are still expensive. If a rent looks suspiciously low, check out similar listings in the building and the neighborhood to get a better understanding of the market. Also, check the apartment's rental history to see what it has been rented for in the past. If you can't find a rental history, this could also be a red flag.

Take your time, do your homework and, as Ms. Liebman said, "don't let your feelings override your common sense."

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