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Looking for an apartment? Many of us start looking online, trusting that the rental sites give us good information. But what if they don’t, and then charge for it? That’s just what the FTC says happened in its most recent case related to housing.

What's the case about? Apartment Hunters, Inc. operates rental listing websites, including WeTakeSection8.com, ApartmentHunterz.com, and FeaturedRentals.com. The sites charge fees, usually around $50, to see their rental listings. They promise that listings are accurate, up-to-date and available—and that you’ll find housing quickly. WeTakeSection8 targets low-income, disabled, and older people looking for affordable housing, while the other websites offer general rental listings—all for a fee.

But, according to the FTC, Apartment Hunters’ claims were false. Not only could people not find housing quickly on any of the sites but, the FTC says, most listings on WeTakeSection8.com were not even available and did not accept Section 8 housing vouchers. That cost people money and time they didn’t have—since those housing vouchers are only good for a short time.

In response to the FTC’s complaint, the Court ordered the company to stop selling subscriptions for Section 8 rental listings and stop lying about what the sites provide.

How can you avoid rental websites that could cost you?

  • Start with free rental listings. You can find them online.
  • Check it out. Before you give money or your information to anyone, do a search on their name plus the word “complaint” or “scam.”
  • For help finding landlords that accept housing vouchers, contact a HUD-certified counselor. The U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) has a list of approved housing counseling agencies that can help you find subsidized rental housing in your area.
  • Spot a scam? Report it to the FTC.

And remember that housing authorities do not charge fees. A housing authority will never ask you to wire money or pay with a prepaid card. Those are sure signs of a scam.

For more information, read Rental Listing Scams and watch our video on renting an apartment.

 

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
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