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Ask Curbed: Renting On the Level?

Back to the Ask Curbed mailbag, this time for a rental query from a reader:

I'm sure this question has been asked before, but how do you protect yourself against people who list and rent apartments that aren't theirs to list and rent? I just looked at an apartment and the woman who was showing it was (supposedly) from the building's management office. She didn't say she'd need to do a credit check on us, just asked for landlord references. The whole thing just seems too casual to me and I'm wondering if she's on the level. How can you determine whether or not this type of thing is legit? I tried googling the company and came up with nothing, though I think that it's her father who owns the building. I've never rented direct from an owner, so I'm unfamiliar with what is normal and what isn't.
Intel, ideas, and wild conjecture to the comment thread, as ever.