Beware if a rental deal sounds too good to be true  

Jan Stapleton - 2023 NETAR President

Using this space to intermittently shine a spotlight on rental scams has become a staple for the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors® (NETAR). Consumers are urged to be extra careful when shopping for a rental. Often those searches are made when someone doesn’t have the leisure of expansively checking of the market. Scams have increased because the local housing shortage and higher prices have driven demand for apartments and single-family rentals to new highs.  

2023 NETAR President
Association Spokesperson

Some of the crunch has eased with more competition 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.  

But according to several studies, the Northeast Tennessee market has the second-highest occupancy rental rates in East Tennessee. The most recent single-family rental vacancy rate was just under 3 percent. The apartment vacancy rate was at 3 percent.  

Everyone in the real estate industry has reacted to the new rental demand in one way or another. And so have the con artists.  

Ground zero is Craigslist 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 isn’t the only medium where scam ads can be found. But it is one of the favored mediums 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 also 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 almost 900 hits. Many are legit. But it’s also a given that some are not. 

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, 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 it’s 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 1,800+ 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