Be careful when scouting short-term rentals online.

How to Avoid Getting Scammed by Short Term Rentals in NYC

Short-term rentals are an essential part of the rental market. They can benefit landlords and agencies who want to minimize time without tenants, and they’re incredibly useful for people who are visiting for an extended period of time, or are perhaps waiting for a new lease to start.

However, short-term rentals are often targeted by scammers who seek to take advantage of people who are desperate for short-term rentals. In order to avoid these scams and secure an apartment, be on the lookout for the following red flags:

The Rent Is Suspiciously Low

When looking for an apartment, be sure to compare its rent with the rent of similar apartments in the neighborhood. In order to do so, you can use trusted websites such as StreetEasy or Zillow. If the rent seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Listing Does Not Include An Address

Scammers often try to avoid using websites that require real addresses. This is because if there is an address, potential renters have the freedom to do their own search on the address if they please. This could easily lead to renters coming to the realization that the apartment listed is not actually available.

Landlords, management companies, and doormen will also have useful insight on the availability of an apartment. Before proceeding on a website, be sure to speak to an employee of the building to confirm the listing is real.

There’s A Sketchy Address Or Brokerage Affiliation

If there is a real estate agent listed, ensure that the email provided is a company email rather than a personal one. Additionally, you should ensure that the broker is employed by the brokerage listed and that they are licensed by the state.

You Can’t See The Apartment In Person

Before proceeding in the rental process, you should request that you or a trusted friend/family member view the apartment in person. If the potential scammer, for whatever reason, tells you that you are not able to view the apartment, then you should move on immediately. It is not worth the risk.

They Create A False Sense Of Security

Scammers will often attempt to gain your trust through constant communication. They will find ways to make you feel comfortable with them, so you are more likely to look the other way at any red flags on the listing.

Also, remember that any website could have scammers, not only the free ones. At the end of the day, scammers will make more money off of scamming renters than the costs of posting and featuring listings. Additionally, posting their listings on paid sites gives them credibility. It is worth their time and money to use paid sites as well as free ones, so be sure to not let your guard down.

They Are Constantly Pressuring You

Scammers will attempt to pressure you into giving them a deposit for the apartment by claiming they have other interested parties. They will attempt to make you feel rushed and place you in a position where you are vulnerable and more likely to look past any red flags, especially in a competitive market like New York. You should always proceed with caution if there is any sort of pressure put on you by the potential scammer.

They Are Unable To Show You A Lease

You should always review the lease to the apartment before signing—no matter what. When reviewing the lease, you should be checking to confirm the following:

  • Who owns the building?

  • Does the building permit short term leases?

  • Does the current lease permit subleases?

If the lease permits subleasing, be sure to check if this requires the landlord’s approval beforehand. If so, request to see the written approval.

Even if you are provided with a lease, remember that it is possible to create fake leases. In order to ensure you are being given a real one, you should check directly with the landlord of the building to confirm the legitimacy of the lease.

It’s possible that you’ll come across a renter who simply does not know the rules regarding subletting their apartment. Although they are not intentionally scamming you, they may be subletting their apartment in a way that can get you evicted. For this reason, it is important to be educated, know the rules, and confirm their ability to sublet beforehand.

The Abrupt Appearance Of A Real Estate Agent Even Though The Apartment Is Listed By The Owner Or Landlord

If you find yourself somehow dealing with a broker although the apartment was not listed by one, this should raise some suspicion. After all, why would the landlord or owner go through the hassle of listing the apartment themselves if they are already paying a broker?

These brokers will also usually have a common name. This way, you are likely to find a licensed broker with this name. This can be a tactic used by scammers to help their listing gain credibility.

Where Can You Find Trustworthy Short-Term Rentals?

Now, if you’re looking for a short-term rental, don’t let these signs discourage you. There are many bad actors in the short-term rental space, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to find a great place to stay.

First, it is recommended that you hire a real estate agent who specializes in finding short-term rentals. You may also want to use a reputable short term rental agency or listing site, as they screen for buildings where landlords permit short-term rentals.

It is important to keep in mind that in a legal short-term rental, potential renters are screened in the same way a long-term tenant would be. This is especially true due to the updated rent laws that prohibit security deposits greater than the equivalent of one month’s rent. Landlords are no longer able to charge higher deposit fees to make up for a tenant who may not fit all the requirements, such as having poor credit history.

Another option to consider is an extended stay. This is where you choose to live in a spare bedroom in an occupied apartment through a vacation rental site, such as Airbnb. You may also be able to find options through one of New York City’s co-living companies.

Short term rentals are often difficult for landlords as they may come with additional costs. If a person chooses to rent a unit for less than 90 days, the landlord may be considered a hotel operator. This means they would be required to pay a hotel tax along with a daily hotel unit fee to the city.

Outerbridge Law Protects Renters

Finding a short-term rental can be a stressful process, and navigating a sea of fraudulent listings doesn’t make the process any easier. Always be sure to do your due diligence when looking into short-term rentals, and trust your gut when things feel fishy.

If you’ve been a victim of a scammer, or have been evicted from a sublet, understand that you have rights. Outerbridge Law is focused on resolving landlord-tenant issues and may be able to help you. To learn if you have a case, contact Outerbridge Law today.