Renter's Guide

Avoiding Bait & Switch

Table of Contents

Bait & Switch Listings

“Bait & switch” is an illegal tactic prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission in which a real estate agent advertises a suspiciously cheap apartment with the sole intention of persuading rents who use his/her services to rent a more expensive one. This tactic is considered false advertising if the agent is not capable of providing the original advertisement.

A tell-tale sign of a bait & switch is a listing that is “too-good-to-be-true”, usually with a combination of the following:

  • Rent that is much lower than what the average rent for the neighborhood is
  • The location of the apartment is perfect
  • The apartment is in excellent or perfect condition
  • The apartment has more bedrooms or bathrooms that what its price point would usually get you
  • Advertised as a “No-Fee” listing

Essentially, the agent does whatever he/she can do to advertise the apartment so that it incentives renters to reach out. Once someone calls to inquire about the listing, the agent will inform him or her that the listing is no longer available but that they have other listings that are just as good. The gullible renter is then shown several other apartments and in the end may be convinced to rend a completely different apartment.

Avoiding the Trap

Here’s how you can protect yourself from bait & switches:

  • Compare the listing you’ve found across multiple apartment listings sites and agencies. This will help you determine whether or not the listing is real and accurate.
  • Research prior to looking for apartments. By the time you’re clicking through listings, you should have a sense of the average rent for the neighborhood, the kinds of apartments that are usually there, as well as an approximate cost for the number of bedroom you want and the kind of amenities and features you want or need.
  • Instead of heading to the agent’s office directly, you can also call ahead to inquire about the listing. If they tell you it’s no longer available, you won’t feel as much pressure to look at other places with them.

If you think you’ve been the unfortunate victim of a bait & switch:

  • Alert the site where you first found the apartment listing. Apartment listing sites do not tolerate bait & switch tactics and will likely investigate the situation and ban the agent who first posted the apartment.
  • Don’t rent unless you feel comfortable. Regardless of how many apartments you see after the bait & switch do not sign a lease unless you truly feel comfortable doing so.
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