There seems to be another epidemic in the UK in identity theft and fraud. currently, tenants looking for property ONLINE are being duped. We have found a number of cases throughout the southwest. The system is very simple they find a property that is usually empty and take photos or rip the pictures off from websites and then advertise the properties as if they own them. They complete a title deed search at the land register and then make an email address purporting to be the owner or landlord. Gullible tenants are then completing an online tenancy agreement and paying them online thousands of pounds in rent and deposits. Some of these criminals are breaking into the properties and changing the locks others are just simply collecting the first payments from several tenants and disappearing. The police do not want to get involved and the landlords or owners spend thousands of pounds going to court and evicting the illegal tenants. In the eyes of the police, it is a civil matter and they are simply not interested.
In England, it was always said that your home was your castle but not anymore.
The problem is systemic with the rise of online sites such as Facebook market, Airbnb, and Gumtree. There is no regulation, no controls or balances to keep them in check. The social media sites simply state they are just online shops and its buyer beware (Caveat emptor)! They do not advertise with client money protection, a property redress scheme, or an EPC as we must legally do on our websites.
If you use a property estate agent or a lettings agency they have to fully compliant with 173 laws and regulations. we have to protect both parties and must adhere to anti-money laundering, right to rent, property ombudsman code of conduct, hold client money protection, hold sufficient liability insurance, set up governmental deposit schemes and hold a whole array of licenses to protect the consumer.
The issue is simply that in a hot market people believe they have found a great deal and jump with both feet! The unfortunate consequences are they lose their hard-earned money, worst still they cancel their existing tenancies, book removal trucks, and cannot move in. In effect, they are made homeless! The problem is the police are not interested in these white-collar crimes they state they are undermanned and in Dorset, there are only two people in the fraud squad. The solution of course is simply enforcement. All these foreign-owned social media platforms must comply with the same rules and regulations that govern the UK property marketplace.