Flickr photos by Bosc d'Anjou

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Whether you're looking for a Sandy-related short-term rental, or a garden-variety one- or two-year lease, here are a few pointers to avoid getting scammed.

What are the most common rental scams in NYC?

  • The scammer tries to sublet or rent out a place that doesn't belong to them -- it could be a friend's, or an apartment they rented temporarily from a site like airbnb. 
  • The scammer purloins listing information from another random apartment listing and tries to get you to rent it sight unseen.
  • Scammer poses as a real estate agent, holding an open house and collecting multiple non-refundable application fees.

What are some signs that this could be a scam?

  • You're asked to wire funds or give cash.
  • The landlord or broker negotiates too easily, is too eager, or seems too casual. For example, the landlord doesn't seem to care about giving you a lease or checking your credit.
  • High pressure tactics.
  • Does this person seem crazy, nervous, sleazy etc? Trust your gut.
  • The apartment is too good to be true (price, quality, size etc) for the money. This is the #1 sign you are being scammed...besides being asked to rent something sight unseen.

How can you protect yourself from scams?

  • Never rent or sublet sight unseen.
  • Never hand over money without getting & trying keys first (though this is not foolproof).
  • Don't give more than one month's rent in advance.
  • If subletting, ask to see the lease and confirm that the name matches the sublettor's ID. However, this won't pick up someone who might be on the verge of eviction for overdue payments. Ideally, get the landlord's permission. This may not always be possible -- especially if the lease is very short term or the landlord doesn't permit subletting.
  • Google all names and addresses involved--checking for complaints by other people who've been scammed by the same person or anything at all suspicious.
  • Get to know the market so you can easily spot something that's too good to be true.

Related posts:

What now? A post-Sandy guide to your rights as a refugee renter or owner

8 tips for NYC Airbnb hosts, from a pair of Airbnb junkies

Craigslist scam buster: Check airbnb.com before handing over the cash

Best of Brick: Anatomy of a Craigslist scam

11 reasons why that apartment is too good to be true

"Sophisticated business people" falling for $21,000 NYC sublet scam

Ask an Expert: A few safeguards for furnished sublets

 

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