Renting in Denver: Tips, Tricks, and Things to Avoid

July 22, 2014

We all know renting in Denver is not for the faint of heart. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article took a look at the hot rental market:

Denver has been one of the strongest housing markets in the country, fueled by a high-tech and startup scene that has launched companies including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Rally Software Development. Denver has seen 2.8% job growth in the year ending in April, compared with 1.7% nationally, according to Green Street Advisors analyst Dave Bragg.

Property prices in Denver are up 23% since 2007, the biggest rise of any U.S. city outside of San Francisco, according to Green Street. Denver's growing job market "bodes very, very well for" its rental market, Mr. Bragg said.

The cost, low supply and competition is enough to incentivize you into saving for that down payment on a house. Throw Craigslist and all that comes with it on the pile, and suddenly looking for apartments appears as attractive as eating questionable sushi.

There are a few ways to look for apartments in Denver, each with their own drawbacks.

Craigslist – Craigslist is the website that started it all. An online version of the classified ads you used to find in the newspaper. Still the go-to for the majority of people scouting out apartments in Denver, and still a relatively trustworthy site, though I use trustworthy loosely.

Padmapper – Padmapper is a search engine that pulls from many rental websites. It has a very handy feature with filters that helps really narrow down what you’re looking for.

Rent.com/Apartments.com/Etc. – Generally, these websites that list apartments mostly owned by companies as opposed to individuals.

When looking for an apartment in Denver, unfortunately not everyone offering help has your best interests in mind.  Below are a few scams to be wary of when looking for apartments.

The landlord who lives overseas/is unable to meet with you

Often times with this type of scam, the ‘landlord’ will ask for a deposit before sending the keys from somewhere in Europe or Africa, where they live or are on an extended vacation. Allegedly. Though their story may appear legit as to why they don’t live in Denver, or why they can’t meet with you, DO NOT send them a deposit or any money before you look at the apartment.

The landlord who won’t give you an address before you pass a background/credit check

Online it looks like a charming two-bedroom house in a great area. But because of the popularity of this house, or because they claim to have been broken into because they published the address in the past, the landlord won’t tell you the address until you pass a background and/or credit check.

On the surface, it makes sense. You aren’t wasting your time or the landlord’s time if you don’t pass a credit check, and you certainly understand why they wouldn’t want a vacant house’s address listed for a bunch of random people on the internet. However, there are multitudes of houses that are listed on Craigslist and the like every day that aren’t hit by criminals. As for the credit check, most landlords don’t care about your credit until you see an apartment and apply for it. If you do give them your information before you see the apartment, chances are you’ve just been scammed by giving thieves your social security number, bank account information, and maybe more.

The landlord/renter leasing their place

This one is perhaps the most nerve-wracking. You go see an apartment. The renter is moving out and subletting the apartment. The apartment is nice, the renter appears trustworthy. You say you want the apartment. The renter goes and gets the ‘landlord’. You sign the appropriate forms and hand over a deposit check. They give you a key, all seems as it should be. When you go to move in, you discover the apartment is occupied with people you don’t know, and the landlord and renter you met didn’t have the authority to rent out the apartment and are long gone with your money. In this case, the best route when going to look at an apartment in an apartment complex is to go to the leasing office and confirm the apartment is for rent and work with the leasing official when filling out forms and writing a deposit check.

Finding a great apartment in Denver is something to be proud of. You might get lucky, but mostly it involves hitting the pavement, being wary of deals that seem too good to be true, and never handing over your money until you have checked that you’re giving it to someone who you can trust.

Good luck out there!