1. Start by looking up the address on Google. If it shows up on Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com or other real estate websites as an active listing, itâ€™s not for rent. RUN.
2. If it has a real estate sign on it, always call the agent listed on the sign to confirm the status.
3. Check to see if it has blue or grey real estate lock boxes â€“ if it does, chances are itâ€™s a listing, not a rental.
4. If you are dealing with a reputable Property Management company, then you should be fine. You can check these companies out with the Better Business Bureau or with local Realtors.
5. You can check out a potential landlord at http://www.CheckYourLandlord.com.
6. You can ask a local realtor to run a tax search on the home to determine who the actual owner is â€“ compare this with whoever is â€œshowingâ€ you the property. If the person showing you the home is different, as for a copy of a letter of authorization or management company agreement.
7. NEVER do keys by mail.
8. NEVER cash money orders or checks from a â€œlandlordâ€ and send money back. NEVER send payments through Western Union, MoneyGram, etc.
9. Ask the neighbors â€“ most neighbors have a very good idea of what is going on with any given property. If it IS a rental, ask how long previous tenants were there and why they left.
10. Make sure you check the keys. Do a thorough property inspection. Take pictures of any issues.
11. Count on the landlord giving you standardized rental/lease agreements, damage deposit agreements and the like.