Be wary if housing rental deals are too good to be true 

Last year the Northeast Tennessee Association of REALTORS® (NETAR) devoted this space to warning consumers about rental scams. Since then, demand for apartments has continued increasing. Landlords continue jacking up rents, and both local and out of area investors are maneuvering to build more apartments. Local builders who have “build-to-rent” developments are also busy. And so are the con artists.  

Rick Chantry
2022 NETAR President

Social media is ground zero and Craigslist is high on the list where consumers look for deals and scammers troll for the unwary. We’ve all heard the advice that “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Some local consumers can testify to it.  

Craigslist is a favored medium for con artists because its housing section attracts a lot of consumer traffic. Legit landlords and some agents like it because of the traffic volume, and it’s a way to trim marketing expenses. It has a reputation as a place to score a good deal. It’s also a good place to get snared in a scam. 

A recent check of the local Craigslist’s apartment/housing rental section returned a little over 200 hits. That’s down from the 450 when we checked a year ago.  But that’s no reason to let up on being cautious.

When responding to these ads, there are red flags that should send savvy consumers scurrying for the exit. 

One example is the fake landlord responding to an email or a call apologizing that he – or she – has been unexpectedly called out of town and can’t show the property. However, a showing appointment with a third-party agent can be arranged if the consumer makes an up-front deposit.  

There are also cases where an up-front rental agreement is required. 

Another scam – a phishing tactic – requires the consumer to provide personal information like a driver’s license number, social security number, a credit card, or even bank information before an application can be processed and a walk-through planned. 

Either situation is almost a guarantee that the listing is a scam and the person at the other end of the ad is there to steal your money or identity. 

Increasing local rental scams and identifying theft efforts via rental applications are the primary reasons consumers should partner with a professional REALTOR® before any money or personal information is provided for a real estate transaction. REALTORS® are professionals who adhere to a code of ethics and use the Internet for legitimate business. Scammers use the Internet – of Information Superhighway as its sometimes called – as a fast lane to steal unsuspecting consumers’ money and/or identity. 

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,600+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at https://netar.us