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My First Place


BBB advice for finding apartments, rental properties

Key chain with a blue house logo, green tag, and silver house key

Do your homework and watch out for scams

Warmer temperatures are here, students are moving out of dorms and people of all ages have begun the process of searching for new apartments or

rental properties. Whether you’re a student, relocating for work or simply looking for a new living space that better accommodates your needs, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) reminds people it’s important to consider a wide variety of factors.

“The Internet makes it very easy to search for rental properties today,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “However, we still suggest onsite visits, to see apartments firsthand and weed out bogus rental ads created solely to defraud people.”

In an effort to help tenants avoid rental scams and narrow down their searches, BBB has compiled some helpful information and tips as a starting point for those that are in the market for a new place to live:

Do your research. Start with apartments or rentals that are centrally located by assessing how far your commute to work or school will be. A shorter commute will save you time and money. You can always research rental companies for free at and go over customer reviews. According to Apartment Finder, 96 percent of apartment hunters said that online reviews influenced their decision when it came to choosing an apartment.

Review the lease before signing. It pays to be thorough when you’re reading a lease. Put a mark next to anything that you have questions about. If there’s something you wish to change in your lease agreement, it never hurts to ask. If there is an issue with the apartment that the landlord agrees to fix before you move in, be sure to get it in writing – including a date by which the repair or repairs will be completed.

Be careful on craigslist. If you take your apartment hunt to craigslist, some ads might ask the potential leaser to wire money in order to secure the rental. Never wire or forward funds to someone you don’t know and never agree to a rental without first inspecting the property in person.

Be aware that scammers will go to rental websites, copy the rental listing – including photos – and repost them to craigslist at a much lower cost. Renters should be wary of deals that sound too good to be true.

Budget for utilities. This includes cable, Internet, gas or electricity, water, trash pickup and pet fees. These things can add up quickly. Find out if any of these are covered by the landlord or apartment complex.

Take additional costs into consideration. Some rental properties might require an application fee upfront. This covers a background check – including your credit score, criminal record and rental history. These fees are usually nonrefundable, even if you’re not approved. If you are approved, you will likely be asked to pay a security deposit. Make sure you’re clear about the conditions under which that deposit is refundable.

In an effort to help apartment hunters steer clear of rental scams, BBB warns renters to watch out for situations where:

  • The deal sounds too good to be true. Scammers will often list a rental for a very low price to lure in victims. Find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away.
  • The landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate solely through email. If the landlord claims they are unable to show you the apartment because they are traveling - or recently relocated due to work - this is often a sign it’s a scam.
  • The listing contains misspellings or grammatical errors. In most cases, this means the ad was created by a scammer overseas, one who isn’t familiar with the nuances of the English language.
  • High-pressure tactics are being used. Though the rental market is tight, there are always places for rent. Don’t be afraid to walk away you if you feel pressured to sign a lease. Ask for a copy of the lease agreement and give yourself enough time to review it in detail, including the fine print.

#MyFirstPlace Apartment Hunting Checklist

Searching for your first place can be stressful and keeping track of the places you see can be even more challenging. Is location important? Close to public transit or within walking distance of campus? How about bedrooms or bathrooms? Our apartment hunting checklist can help you keep track of each place you see and help you eliminate places that do not fit your criteria. Remember too keep your budget in mind so you do not get in over your head and commit to something you cannot afford.