Sharon gave a good answer. If a renter does like a house for rent by an individual, then be sure to ask for ID before giving them any money, even if they meet you in person. Check tax records to verify the owner I have also heard of local scams where a scammer sees a vacant house and puts up a rent sign. The scammer also has someone to change the locks. When you meet this person, you would naturally assume they are the owner as they have keys to the house. One more thing, make sure the lease is NC lease and not one the owner drew up. A lot of owners create their own leases and some of the terms violate NC Real Estate law.
As far as negotiating a lease, I do not see much of that going on right now as the rental market here is very strong.