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Deciding where to rent can be stressful and competitive rental markets often leave consumers with little time to give significant consideration to such an important decision. While it is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of affordable units one may come across during an apartment search, consumers should make sure to be thorough in their search and use common sense to avoid getting scammed.

The most important tip for apartment-hunters is to never sign a lease agreement for a unit you have not yet seen. Visiting the apartment in person is the only sure way to confirm not only that it is in livable condition, but also that it’s for rent, or that it even exists. If you are communicating with an owner or property manager who always has an excuse as to why they cannot show you the unit, you should be skeptical of moving forward with them. This is often an indication of a scam listing. A quick search online can reveal a fraudulent listing as well. One consumer told us that she looked up her listing on the realty sites Redfin and Zillow. Not only did the square footage not match what she was told, but it appeared that the unit was not even for sale.

Another red flag of a rental scam is an offer that is too good to be true. If you come across a very low monthly rent, compare it to other units with similar qualities in the same area. There is probably a reason that the two-bedroom apartment you are looking at is half the cost of most others on the market. Although you may want to act fast with a great deal in front of you, you should research exhaustively to make sure the offer is legitimate.

Using common sense throughout your apartment search will help weed out illegitimate listings from the rest. A four-bedroom apartment being advertised with the square footage of a standard living room should set off alarms. Even looking closely at emails that are sent by the property manager can help you distinguish a rental scam. Emails with grammatical mistakes or suspicious links may be the first indication of a fraudulent listing. Looking for small details such as this can help you spot a scam early in its tracks.

Like any other transaction, you should be careful about who you are giving your money to when you are renting an apartment. Visit our website to learn more information about finding an apartment and renting in Massachusetts.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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