We have talked about online scams before(click here to read the article), but today we focus on those involving renting a home. Then again, it is well known that young, somewhat inexperienced out-of-state students are the perfect target of real or alleged landlords, who unscrupulously try everything to pocket a little extra money.
It has to be said that rent scams, also aided by the historical period in which we live, have decreased significantly in recent years; but one must always be alert: the scam is always around the corner.
The classic scam
Especially in the digital world, it is easy to fall for the most classic real estate scam: you find gorgeous photos of a beautiful house, in one of the most desirable areas of the city and with a decidedly affordable price. At this point, you are asked to make a down payment to receive the keys as a guarantee.
Needless to go on to say, if you actually make the down payment, you will never see that money again and the owner will be untraceable. For this reason, rule number one is always the same: do not pay for a house you have never seen or cannot see. Instead, arrange a visit with the owner, or hire a real estate agency for even more assurance (but beware of brokerage costs!).
How to avoid scams one by one
Here are some tips on how to avoid being scammed, divided by topic
For starters, remember that for off-campus students there is a specific contract, the “university student housing lease,” which varies in length from 6 months to 3 years, and is renewable by the same period. The contract must be registered with theInternal Revenue Service by the owner within 30 days of signing, and you should receive a copy. There, by now you will have shielded yourself from much of the potential scams.
But that’s not enough: also check that the contract is in order. For this, you need to check that there are cadastral data, certificates of compliance of installations and energy certification. If you decide to engage the services of a real estate agent, check that he or she is licensed or do a search with his or her VAT number.
Of course, but this should not even need to be said, it avoids black rents.
The price of rent, for the contract to university students, is set by municipal parameters, so you can request them from the university or the municipality. If the price is higher, eyes open! If it is less, however, no problem. In case the asking price is less than what is calculated, the rent can be set freely by the homeowner.
If your contract does not fall into this category, and you therefore choose a classic rent-free contract, there are no constraints on the rent you will be charged. Therefore, make thorough comparisons to make sure that the monthly fee you are about to pay is in line with market prices. Ask your college classmates, do an Internet search or, with a pinch of nerve, ask some neighbors.
Always pay your rent by wire transfer or check, so you always have a record of what you pay, and don’t fall for the oldest scam in the world, when you give the landlord money in cash and he comes asking for it a few months later, hinting that you never gave it to him. If you need to pay cash, always get a receipt, and don’t forget to have it signed.
Obviously avoid paying with untraced payment methods, such as Postepay reloads, reloads of unknown prepaid cards or money orders; also be wary of methods such as Western Union or MoneyGram. And if your landlord refuses to receive wire transfers, raise your antennae: scams lurk.
As for paying condo fees, they are not all your responsibility. Check with the condominium administrator about the share that the owner is entitled to, and likewise, each time you pay, have a receipt made out testifying that you have paid.
Roommates and equipment
Especially when an apartment is rented to several people, it is easy to be told by the landlord that the house is empty or there is only one person inside. Well, after the first visit verify the exact number of roommates, perhaps showing up by surprise at an unusual hour!
The general state of the house
Likewise, check that equipment and appliances are in good condition. If during the visit you discover a leaky dishwasher, or an excessively noisy boiler, let the landlord know before you even sign the contract, so you don’t risk being held liable and seeing yourself forced to pay for technician, service and parts. If you can, put directly in the contract that the appliances are not part of routine maintenance, so the landlord will have to fix them, at no expense to you.
And as a final measure, check that the house is in good, or at least acceptable, condition. At this point the first hurdle can be said to have been overcome, and you will be ready to enter your new home without the risk of being scammed.
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