The rate of rental scam in the UK has increased significantly. According to the BBC, there has been an increase in the report of rental fraud in England and Wales from 2,216 in 2014 to 3,193 in 2015. Three quarters of these victims are students and most from overseas (independent.co.uk).
These unscrupulous scammers are online, out here in the streets and many are not even in the UK. They attack unsuspecting victims with various methods and strategies. Believe us when we say that these guys can be creative, because they truly are.
We have investigated and researched the various ways these scammers operate and how you can avoid falling a victim to their schemes. Find below 3 types of scams and how to avoid falling for them.
To be safe, bear in mind that the property you want to rent may not exist, has already been rented out or has been rented to multiple people. Have this awareness and it may just be easier to recognize these scams in case one comes your way.
- LET AND RUN – this happens when a con artist breaks into an empty apartment and acts as the landlord. He takes you around and convinces you to pay as soon as you can since he has other people interested in the apartment. He will collect the initial rent and deposit. And once he has your money, he will disappear with no trace. Every contact detail is most probably fake. Another variance of this is when a con artist rents an apartment with Bogus ID and then rents it at a very expensive amount. The con artist disappears once he has received payment.
HOW TO PREVENT IT
- Do not be pressurized to make any form of payment.
- Meet the landlord face to face, show your ID and ask for theirs
- Google the property, landlord and agent
- Don’t pay cash; it is advisable to pay into a bank account.
- Check if the landlord is a member of the National Landlords Association (NLA). If you are dealing with an agent you can verify the agents’ legitimacy at The Association of Residential letting Agents or you can also check who owns the property on the Land Registry
- If you are a student, ask your Student Union or Accommodation office for list of accredited or approved agents.
- Ask the local residents about the apartment, landlord and neighbourhood.
- Request for copies of a tenancy agreement and any safety certificate/license.
- Observe how familiar the ‘landlord’ is with the house.
THE ONLINE ROGUE LANDLORD/AGENT – Most rental scammers online will use free listing sites like Gumtree and Craigslist. They will usually put up pictures of the apartment and with very vague contact details. We are not discrediting the fact that these scams can and have been done through property portals too.
Internet con artist will most times ask you to pay through money transfer systems like Western Union and MoneyGram and will pull a runner once they receive money. Also be wary of adverts and emails without phone numbers with the excuse that the landlord is abroad and cannot receive calls.
HOW TO PREVENT IT
- Be wary of low rents. If it’s lesser than other property within the area, be cautious.
- Don’t make payment if the Landlord claims to be overseas. Ask for his agent’s details and google the agent’s details and firm he represents.
- Be cautious of free email account addresses like hotmail, yahoo, etc.; and also look out for a verifiable address and phone number.
- Do not pay through Money Gram or Western Union.
- Google the contacts and search the pictures and see if they come up somewhere else. Also scrutinize the pictures and make sure they aren’t from a magazine. Note that a magazine picture will look glossy and unnatural.
- Beware of lots of contact calls and email to gain your trust.
- Do not pay for any property when you, an employer, relative or trusted person has not viewed the actual property.
- Most of these scammers are not from the UK so watch out for poor grammar or badly worded descriptions.
- Be suspicious of contact phone numbers that are not from the UK.
FRAUDULENT DEPOSITS AND CHARGES
Another favorite of Rogue Landlords is to extort money from their tenants through fraudulent deposits and charges. It is worthy to note that you can still be scammed after legitimately securing an accommodation. Rogue landlords will conveniently forget to mention other fees like the tenancy inspection which the tenant is not legally obliged to pay, but the tenant will be pressured to pay if he/she is not aware.
There are cases where landlords won’t ask for a deposit but will rather request for a tenant guarantor and when the rent expires, the guarantor will be held responsible for expensive and unnecessary repairs.
Rogue landlords will deliberately avoid putting tenants’ deposits in a Tenancy deposit Scheme and at the end of tenancy will claim the money was for other administration fees.
HOW TO PREVENT IT
- Check and double check the terms and condition of the tenancy Agreement. If you have doubts you can get a trusted second opinion or have a trained professional look at it.
- Ask the landlord for a written confirmation of all fees you are meant to pay during the period of tenancy.
- Always ask and ensure that your deposit is paid into an approved Tenant deposit scheme account.
- Also know that any charges not found in the tenancy agreement contract cannot be enforced without prior written agreement.
As these con artists get more creative in their schemes it is only wise we get smarter. Always inspect before you make payment, check landlords details and house ownership details too. Read thoroughly and be clear before signing any tenancy agreement. Never pay cash or send cash through Money transfers, and always report to the appropriate authority if you have any suspicion.
HAVE YOU HAD A RENTAL SCAM EXPERIENCE? DO YOU HAVE SUGGESTIONS OR OTHER IDEAS TO PREVENT THIS?
Please share your experience and thoughts about this. Who knows, you might just be saving someone.
Source Website: The House Shop