5 Ways to Avoid Housing Scams for Short-Term Rentals and Subleases


October 8 2022 by Transplant Housing
sublease scam

It’s no secret that subletting, or renting someone else’s space short term, can be a great way to find affordable housing in a new city. This is especially true for a travel nurse or other travel professional that only needs a rental for 3 to 6 months.

However, it’s also important to be aware of the risks involved in subletting or short-term renting, especially when it comes to housing scams.

In this blog post, we will discuss five red flags to watch out for when renting. We’ll also provide some tips on how to protect yourself from scammers. So, whether you want to rent your space to a traveler or are looking for an apartment for your next assignment, read on.

5 Signs That Your Short-Term Rental is a Scam

There are entire Facebook groups and forums filled with travelers looking for decent housing. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see horror stories related to lost money, false advertising, and other rental woes.

What is a travel nurse to do? Keep an eye out for these 5 signs of fraud and scams.

1. A Request to Wire Funds

When subletting, you will likely be asked to send or wire funds for the first and last month’s rent, as well as a security deposit. This is not inherently suspicious but should raise a red flag if the owner requests that you wire the funds to them directly.

A better option would be to use a third-party platform like Airbnb, Transplant Housing, or VRBO that offers subletting protection. These platforms will hold the funds until you have moved in and confirmed that the space is as advertised.

If you are renting directly from an owner, consider using a service like PayPal or Venmo that offers some buyer protection. Or, better yet, pay with a credit card so that you can dispute the charges if necessary.

Bottom line: Be wary of any requests to wire funds, especially if you are dealing with an owner directly.

2. Promises That Are Too Good to Be True

A common scam for both renters and “pretend” landlords is to overpromise. What this looks like can vary, such as:

  • Great amenities or location at an unheard-of rate, whether it’s nightly, weekly, or monthly
  • Offering a huge discount on a security deposit, or no deposit at all
  • Offering the first month free
  • The listing photos look like they’re straight from a stock photo website
  • The landlord has no anxiety over a background check or credit check

Note: Background or credit checks are not often utilized with short-term rentals for health care professionals. While it is important to be wary, it is up to you to use your best judgment. 

3. Renting Sight Unseen

Another scam that is becoming more common is renting an apartment or house sight unseen (where there is either no actual apartment or it is not as it seems). The “landlord” may send you photos of the property, but they are often either fake or stolen from another listing.

If you are considering subletting, it is always best to visit the property in person before making any decisions. This way, you can see the space for yourself and meet the owner or property manager in person.

If you are unable to visit the rental property in person, consider asking a friend or family member to check it out for you.

Or, see if the owner is willing to FaceTime or Skype with you so that you can take a virtual tour. This is actually quite common for travel nurses since they aren’t usually in the area before they arrive for an assignment. Typically, scammers will not want to go through the trouble of staging a fake video walkthrough.

In short, be very wary of any rental that you cannot visit in person before signing a lease.

4. They Want A Lot of Info But Don’t Offer Much in Return

When subletting, the owner or property manager should be able to answer any questions that you have about the rental. They should also be willing to provide you with their contact information, as well as the name and contact info for their company (if applicable).

If the person you are dealing with is evasive or refuses to answer your questions, that is a major red flag.

Another thing to watch out for is when the owner or property manager asks for a lot of personal information but doesn’t offer any in return. This includes things like your full name, birth date, social security number, and credit score. While some of this information may be required for a sublet, you should never give it out without double-checking that the rental listing is legitimate first.

5. Something Feels Off

This is a bit harder to quantify, but you should always trust your gut. If something feels off about the rental listing or the owner, it probably is.

There are a lot of scammers out there, and they are getting more clever all the time. So, it is important to be vigilant and do your research before subletting.

If you take the time to do your due diligence, you should be able to avoid most housing scams. And, if you do happen to run into one, you will be glad that you did your homework!

How to Protect Yourself from a Scam

Whether you’re renting a property or subleasing your own property, there are some ways to protect yourself from unnecessary damage, lost money, and general hardship.

  • Ask for a tour: Whether virtual or in-person, at least see the property you’re subleasing.
  • Use a third-party payment system: If possible, use a payment platform like PayPal or Venmo to sublease your property. This will create a paper trail in the event that something goes wrong.
  • Do a little research yourself: Take some time to Google the property address, the owner/property manager, and any other relevant information. This can help you spot red flags or complaints that have been filed again the owner or property.
  • Check reviews: If you’re subleasing through a site like Airbnb, Transplant Housing, or VRBO, be sure to check the reviews of both the owner and the property.
  • Use a third-party rental platform: In general, it is safer to sublease your property or find a property through a third-party rental platform like Transplant Housing. This way, you have some protection in the event that something goes wrong. Plus, since landlords are required to pay an annual fee to list their properties, this keeps a lot of scammers at bay who turn to free options like Facebook, forums, and Craig’s List. 
  • Listen to your intuition: At the end of the day, if something feels off about a potential sublease or sublessor, it probably is. Trust your gut and move on to another option. As a travel nurse, it’s better to stay in a hotel for a while and look for that perfect apartment, rather than to get scammed out of money or find yourself in a bad rental.

Stay Safe and Travel On

There are a lot of scammers out there looking to take advantage of unsuspecting renters. But, by following these simple tips, you can protect yourself from most housing scams. So, do your research, trust your gut, and happy renting!