Rental Fraud

Rental Fraud

Are you looking for a property to rent in Exeter?

If so, BEWARE of Fake Landlords

During the Covid 19 pandemic lettings rental fraud is becoming increasingly common as prospective tenants are more willing to take a property based on little or no information.

Online viewings via video is a viable and safe option for professional agents and landlords to offer potential tenants. If videos are being supplied by a so-called landlord always proceed with caution and ensure that the property being shown is the actual property you are intending to rent. Google Street View will help if you have the post code of the property. If in doubt, contact the advertiser and request confirmation of the address and post code of the property and ideally view the property yourself or get a friend or relative to do so if you cannot. 

The most common fraudulent activity starts with properties or rooms being advertised via Gumtree or other online channels. Online channels are becoming the platform of choice for fraudsters. Would-be tenants may be asked to call or email the advertiser to request more details and, in some cases, invited to pay up front before viewing the property. Never pay anything before viewing a property.

These properties are nearly always advertised without the permission of the landlord or owner, and without pictures so would-be tenants, local estate agents and the property owners cannot identify the property if they are researching online.

It is very simple for the fake landlord to set up easily disposable communication channels so tracing can be all but impossible - although all fake landlords should be warned that the police now have very tried and tested ways of tracing communications back to them! 

Inexperienced tenants may feel they need to move fast when seeing properties advertised online as some rents are too good to be true. You are advised not to rush this.

Devon and particularly Exeter are not immune to this criminal activity and we have seen a surge in victims with university students and young single working people being targeted.

So, for all potential tenants searching online for properties or rooms to rent I would offer the following advice if you are not using an authorised lettings agent or an authorised landlord who is known to you:

 

  • Beware of adverts that are incredibly detailed and promise a lot or are very vague and could be describing any room / property in the country
  • Adverts with no pictures should set the warning bells ringing
  • Be suspicious when offers seem a little too attractive
  • See if there is an agent's board outside possibly hidden behind bins. If so, contact the agent to see if they are aware of the landlord 
  • Do not pay ANY money until you have researched and ideally viewed the property
  • Warning bells should sound if you are shown 'an identical' flat in a block rather than the actual property
  • Be suspicious if you are told a flat belongs to a family member or friend who is abroad and cannot meet with you in person 
  • Find out who owns the property as too many would-be tenants’ hand over cash to so called landlords when all they know is a name and a mobile number from an online advert. A reputable landlord will want to check you are a bona fide tenant, so you are entitled to do some checks on them
  • Ask to see the landlord's ID and some proof of ownership or of their right to rent the home. If landlords have a mortgage, you have more rights if the lender knows the property is tenanted.
  • If possible, take a picture of the landlords ID and their car if they have arrived in one
  • Walk away if you are asked to transfer your deposit or rent money on the doorstep
  • Do not give away too much information. Genuine landlords will want to do credit checks, get references from past landlords and employers. But while they may want to see original documents, they should never take them away from you. Have copies available.
  • Demand a proper written tenancy agreement. Assured shorthold tenancies are the norm and give legally binding rights and responsibilities to both sides.
  • Most rental properties should have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Look on the .Gov website at the official register .This will confirm (or not) if it has. 
  • Check where your deposit money will be held. Landlords and agents in England and Wales are legally obliged to use official deposit protection schemes. 
  • Search "tenancy deposit' at https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-deposit-protection for information and details of schemes for other parts of the UK.
  • Rent via a bona fide agent wherever possible

 

I should point out that most agents and landlords are honest, but tenants must protect themselves against the fraudsters. Finally, if you have any doubts or suspect the landlord is fake or you have already been tricked into parting with money report the incident to the police via their 101-telephone service. .

Further information and guidance on rental fraud can be found via the following websites:

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/07/rental-fraud-is-your-new-landlord-a-scammer/

https://www.gov.uk/government/case-studies/landlord-checks-by-rentprofile-help-prevent-rental-fraud

Martin & Co Exeter always have a selection of properties to rent or shortly becoming available to rent so please feel free to contact us on 01392 254488 or view our website at http://exeter.martinco.com