Beware of Rental Fraud
Rental fraud happens when prospective tenants are tricked into paying an upfront fee to rent a property which is either does not exits, has already been rented out, or has been rented to multiple victims at the same time. The most common cases of rental fraud concern ‘phantom flats’. ‘Phantom flats’ are cheap properties advertised in prime locations that either never exist or are owned by someone else. As a result, victims will lose the upfront fee they have paid and never get to rent the property they thought they had secured.
Between April 2014 and March 2018, there were 18,645 reports relating to rental fraud. These reports total £22 million, an average of £1,396 per victim. These figures were taken from ActionFraud. ActionFraud is the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre.
Hopefully, this short article will give you some insights on how to spot the signs of rental fraud when searching for a property to rent.
The fraudsters will often make contact with their victims online. These adverts may seem genuine and are often accompanied by photos and contact information. Sometimes these fraudsters use reputable property renting site like Rightmove to convince their victims to hand over money straight into the bank account of the ‘landlord’ before a viewing. Rightmove or other similar sites will never ask you to directly transfer money to landlord. In some cases, the victim will view the property in person, but in most cases the payment is made without prior viewing. Very often these fraudsters take advantage of victims who are desperate of finding accommodation due to fierce competition. They often prey on college and university students ahead of the new term, taking advantage of the huge demand of vulnerable students who are anxious to secure accommodation for the academic year and are willing to pay fees up front.
How to protect yourself from rental fraud
Trust your gut instinct – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a landlord is asking for a deposit to be transferred before you have even seen the property, you should be skeptical of it. Never pay for a deposit in cash.
Visit the property before you pay – Watch-out for advertisements with no photos or the same photos used in multiple advertisements as they could be fabricated. Do not pay any upfront money until you have visited the property with an agent or the landlord. Also be aware that in some cases, tenants even visit the property in person and are shown around by someone claiming to be the landlord.
Check the landlord’s ID. You should also check the veracity of any safety certificates in particular gas and electric. Never be afraid to ask for such documents. The landlord is legally obliged to present such certificates when asked.
Be cautious about how you send money – The safest way to make a payment is by a credit card in person at the letting agent’s office. Be suspicious if you’re asked to transfer money via a money transfer service like Western Union or paying cash upfront.
Don’t be pressured into transferring large sums of money – Under no circumstances would a genuine bank or another trusted organisation force you to make a financial transaction on the spot. This could be a sign of a desperate fraudster planning to run away with your hard earned cash.
Check owner of the property – Use the Land Registry to check if the landlord is the legal owner of the property.
Check that the owner is on an approved accommodation list – You can normally do this by checking with your student union or accommodation office as many universities and colleges will have an approved housing list. Also check if the landlord is a member of a national recognised body such as National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or Residential Landlord Association (RLA).
Every Report Matters – If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber-crime, please report to the police or Action Fraud online by calling 0300 123 2040.
Need help to look for an accommodation in Peterborough? Why not pick up the phone and give TwoLet Properties Management Ltd a call. We are letting agent registered with RLA, ICO and Property Redress Scheme and, your deposit is protected by Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS). DPS is a UK Government authorised tenancy deposit scheme.