San Diego

Fake Apartment Listings Flooding Local Rental Market

High rental occupancy rates and costs to rent in San Diego County are leading to a reported rise in online scams.

San Diego County has some of the highest rental occupancy rates in the country, according to Alan Pentico, executive director for the San Diego County Apartment Association.

According to data released by Apartment List, San Diego County is the fifth highest in the country in terms of rental rates for two-bedroom apartments and sixth for one-bedroom rentals.

Pentico said high occupancy rates in combination with the high cost to rent an apartment in San Diego County has resulted in a rise of rental scams on online search engines such as Craigslist.

Shelley Arthur witnessed this first hand. Shelley said she has been trying to find a one-bedroom in Coronado, the most expensive of all the 18-cities in San Diego County.

During her hunt, Shelley tells NBC 7 Responds she has faced multiple scams.

“I found that most of the ads on Craigslist were not legit,” said Shelley during a May 10 interview.

“They don’t have a lot of information about the property. They just want to talk to you about getting the deposit from you and talking about sending keys by mail. Just really out of the ordinary things that kinda didn’t sit right.”

In one case Shelley said she found what was the perfect cottage, for half of what other one-bedroom apartments in Coronado were going for. She called the number on the Craigslist ad and started asking around town for more information. A mutual friend of the owners said that the cottage was available, but not at the $1,200 monthly rent that Shelley had seen online, not even close. It was $2,500 a month.

Not long after, Shelley said the person with the fake ad called her.

“It was this really strange, kind of off-putting voice on the other line, saying like, ‘oh you’d like information on my apartment, like, I can give you that but first let me get some information about you,’” said Shelley. “It didn’t feel right and I said ‘I’m busy and I’ll call you back later’ and he actually got mad at me.”

Shelley said she encountered several other examples.

“They would say, ‘Oh, this place is perfect for you. Why don’t you come and tour it? Give me some of your information.’ They would want like my address and all this other stuff which I thought was completely unnecessary.”

“Then, they were like, ‘oh you bring the deposit with you and all that kind of stuff, that it was just obvious that they only were interested in money.”

Pentico tells NBC 7 Responds San Diego’s rental climate is ripe for scam artists.

“Go into it, protect yourself. Always investigate, and research, research, research,” Pentico said.

There are a few things to look out for to avoid these types of online rental scams. First, be cautious if a landlord tells you they cannot show the unit for rent.

“If someone comes up with excuses for why you can’t tour the unit, there really isn’t one,” Pentico said. “Don’t go there, don’t believe it.”

Typically, even if the landlord is out of town or lives elsewhere, they should be willing to give tours of the rental unit using Skype or Facetime.

Pentico also warns against sending cash or wiring money before any applications are filled out. 

“If it sounds too good to be true than it probably is,” Pentico said.

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