Just like other property related scams such as the ‘we buy any house’ scam, rental scams have been around for a long while and over recent years has proven to be a growing problem. According to the homeless charity shelter, over a quarter of a million people have fallen victim to some kind of rental fraud over the last five years.
The worst part of it is, most of the scams are done in such a way that it makes it very hard to pinpoint or track down a scammer resulting in the majority of victims never being able to recover their hard earned money.
This is why it’s imperative for anyone who is thinking about renting a home to educate themselves about the dangers of renting so they don’t fall victim to any kind of rental scam.
Before getting into the tips on how to avoid rental scams let’s look at a few common rental scams around these days.
1) The Gumtree Scam
This particular scam has been around for what seems like forever, however, there are still unsuspecting tenants out there who get caught up in it. The scam is usually aimed at the overseas crowd (usually students) who are looking for a place to stay while they are in the UK.
The adverts on Gumtree are made to look very professional featuring logo’s from property regulation authorities such as the National Landlords Association. The scammers tell the tenant they have to pay the money up front before moving to the UK and when they arrive the ‘landlord’ is of course long gone and they are left stranded.
2) The Landlord Asks for Too High or Too Little Security Deposit
If the landlord of an apartment or home you’re looking to rent is asking a ridiculously high deposit then you’d be wise to think twice before committing to anything – this is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The scammer will attempt to take as much money as he can from you and then disappear. They will make all manner of excuses on why you need to pay the said amount in order to persuade you to part with your money.
The same can be said if a Landlord is asking for a small deposit. Scammers like to pray on the vulnerable just as much as the wealthy. There are tenants out there who simply cannot afford to pay high deposits so if a property were to come up that asks for a small deposit it suddenly becomes very appealing to them. A general rule of thumb is, if something sounds too good to be true it probably is!
3) The Fake Property Scam
Although the fake property scam is not as common as the others, it still happens quite regularly. In this scenario, the scammer will gain access to a property somehow and pose as the landlord. They will advertise the property and show it to a number of potential targets. Once this is done they will take money from as many of them as possible and disappear. When the time comes to move in, the property is already occupied by the real landlord’s tenant leaving the victims with nowhere to stay!
What can I do to Spot & Avoid Falling for Rental Scams?
Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to avoid falling for the scams mentioned and many others, they include:
- Remember, you have the right to view any kind of property before paying a deposit so be sure to do so before paying anything.
- Free listing websites like Gumtree and Craigslist are often used by scammers. If you don’t want to get scammed avoid using them.
- When viewing rental ads (whether it’s a free listing or not) make sure the ad looks legitimate and reads well. Be sure to avoid ads that have no pictures or have multiple listings with different pictures.
- If you’re really worried about getting scammed, use trusted lettings agents & landlords with a legitimate past history.
- If a landlord claims to be part of the National Association of Landlords be proactive and make sure they’re telling the truth for yourselves by visiting the official NLA website.
- Pushy landlords who are very eager to get you to pay a deposit should be dealt with carefully and with caution, or better yet, avoided completely.
- Property buying specialists Housebuyers 4u say: If you’re getting asked to pay any kind of deposit or fee’s upfront this is a huge red flag and you should leave and move on.
- Check the contact details of the firm you are dealing with are based in the UK. Also, many scam networks only allow contact via email.
- If you’re getting asked to pay online via Western Union or MoneyGram be very careful as these are known payment methods used by scammers. Pay at the lettings agent firm for peace of mind.
We hope our article has been useful and provided renters with the information they need to avoid rental scams and live happier, stress free lives in their rental homes!