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5 Tips For Avoiding Scams When Searching for an Apartment in NYC

It's important you are cautious and do your research to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable landlord or agent. 

Finding a decent, affordable apartment in New York City is already an incredibly difficult task. The process is even more difficult when you add into the equation the large number of people who try to take advantage of you, as an unsuspecting renter.

Here are some tips to help you keep your money in your pocket and out of the hands of the scammers:

1. Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true:

If an apartment seems significantly cheaper than comparable apartments in the area, it's likely too good to be true. Scammers may try to lure you in with an attractive price, but the apartment may not actually exist or may have hidden defects that you will be responsible for fixing. The bait and switch is also a popular tactic in some of the large apartment complexes. They advertise a two bedroom apartment and tell you that prices “start at” some ridiculously low number. In reality that price may be for a studio apartment, not the two bedroom shown in the ad, or they may say that the apartment has been rented and then try to show you an apartment that is much more expensive.

2. Be careful about  wiring money to a landlord or agent before signing a lease:

Legitimate landlords and agents will not ask you to wire money to them before there is a lease signed. There are some landlords that may require you to give them a deposit to take the apartment off of the market while they review your application, but you should sign a written agreement with them that guarantees the immediate return of your deposit if your application is not accepted. If the landlord or rental agent that you are dealing with seems sketchy, then they probably are, trust your gut.

3. Don't give out personal information:

Scammers may try to obtain your personal information, such as your social security number or bank account information, by asking you to fill out a fake rental application or by offering to run a credit check. Be cautious of anyone who asks for this information and never give out your personal information unless you are certain that the person or company is reputable.

4. Don't sign a lease without seeing the apartment:

In New York City It's important to ALWAYS see an apartment before signing a lease. Scammers may try to convince you to sign a lease without seeing the apartment, but this is a major red flag. Be wary of anyone who tries to rush you into signing a lease without giving you the opportunity to see the apartment in person.

5. Research the landlord or agent:

Before signing a lease or handing over any money, research the landlord or agent to make sure they are reputable. Check online reviews and check that the real estate agent or brokerage is registered with the NY Department of State. You can also check the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to see if the building has complaints or violations. If you have any doubts, it's best to walk away.

It's important you are cautious and do your research to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable landlord or agent. 

By following these tips, you can avoid scams and protect yourself when searching for an apartment in New York City.

Reginald Richardson is a licensed real estate professional in New York City who enjoys reading books by Octavia Butler, listening to Afro-house music and following the Brooklyn Nets. He also is a founding member of the Skybridge Group of VORO Real Estate.