If rent is too cheap, it is most likely too good to be true. There is always a reason that someone would be asking a lot less than they can possibly ask for a rental. The property most likely needs a lot of hidden repairs. Ask yourself honestly, if you were to own a place and wish to rent it out, why wouldn’t you ask for market value? There would have to be a pretty good reason. Red flag is certainly when you find a rent that is not matching what it should.
On that last note, let’s discuss the converse. What about a landlord wanting too much rent up front? Once again, there has to be a reason. The most likely reason is that the landlord knows that they are going to have a hard time collecting rent from you if they aren’t on the up-and-up. With the large amount of foreclosures and defaulted loans in Southern California, a landlord can easily hide the fact that they are no longer the owner of a property after the bank has foreclosed on it. The bank does not immediately take possession in most cases so the landlord has time to put it up as a rental and collect a deposit and rent from possible tenants. Shady but very common.
The last red flag to discuss is that of the landlord ignoring safety concerns. In every city, there is a legal code that must be followed by landlords who intend to rent out a property. In most cases smoke detectors, self-closing garage doors, carbon monoxide detectors, and working furnaces must be installed in every rental. This is in addition to common sense safety issues like leaky roofs, bare floors, broken windows, exposed wires, and other obvious problems. If you are looking to rent a place, make sure your landlord cares about code and safety. If not now, they never will.
My conclusion is that buying a place is way better. Tax benefits, financial benefits, and pride of ownership are just a few benefits. In California, you are protected by several dosclosures that cover all possible safety situations! Happy hunting.