How to avoid fake landlord scams
The NRLA has received reports over the last few months of prospective tenants who have been defrauded out of hundreds of pounds by criminals who have advertised a fake property to rent. In this blog we take a closer look at how the fraud operates, what to do if you think you are a victim of a scam, and the practical steps you can take to avoid being scammed.
A fraudulent landord will typically use a non-mainstream channel to advertise a property. For example they could use a local Facebook Group or Community to find properties in the area they wish to rent.
They pretend to advertise a property which may actually exist, but they do not have the right to let it. They then convince the victim to part with a deposit to secure the property and if successful, try to get the victim to part with rent upfront as well. Naturally, the fraudster then promptly disappears with the money.
How to avoid the scam
- If at all possible, try and view the property with the landlord or agent and gather as much information about them as you can, take a photo of any documentation they show you - do not be talked into paying a deposit before you have seen and inspected the property.
- Always use a reputable agent, or if dealing directly with a landlord, make sure you verify them through obtaining copies of key documents like a driver’s licence, passport, bank statement and utility bills for the property with the landlord’s name on them.
- If using a letting agent, tenants should look for tenants who are members of a trade body such as The UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) or the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).
- If dealing direct look for professional landlords who are members of a professional body like the NRLA
- If you can, get a fixed telephone number to speak to the landlord rather than a mobile or WhatsApp number
- The landlord or agent must protect your deposit in one of 3 Government backed schemes, make sure you know which one they propose to use.
- Where possible, tenants should pay a deposit using a credit card or via a direct debit to gain some protection from the banks - never hand over cash.
- You may be able to validate the landlord’s details by searching the Land Registry for a small fee (usually about £3) or use a service like Rentprofile.co
- Don’t pay over money until you are absolutely sure, if not, call the Trading Standards team at the local Council
- The deposit should be no more than a maximum of 5 weeks’ rent
What to do if you believe you are a victim of a scam?
If you believe that you are dealing with a bogus landlord or are the victim of a fraud of this nature then always call the Police dedicated cyber-crime unit ActionFraud to report the incident.
Common coronavirus related scams
Earlier this year, UK Finance published a list of common financial scams relating to coronavirus for the public to be vigilant for. This includes a scam involving fake council-tax reduction emails, and another purporting to offer access to 'Covid-relief' funds.