With so much of today’s property hunt taking place online, there’s a real opportunity for scammers to capitalise on unsuspecting tenants. Thankfully, users remain vigilant and sham lettings are well documented. If you’re on the property hunt, here are the common rental scams to avoid.
Gumtree Landlord Scam
This trap is aimed at those living overseas who seek accommodation in the UK. A landlord will publish an ad on Gumtree featuring accredited NLA (National Landlords Association) logos. They will discuss the property in question with the individual and request payment before they move to the UK. Upon arrival to the country, the landlord is nowhere to be seen.
This is a popular scam in the lettings sector. It can be entirely dismantled by asking to see the property first. If you’re looking to rent a room or flat, you have the right to view it before paying any kind of deposit. If you’d like to find out whether a landlord is a member of the National Landlords Association, you can do so here.
The Fake Property
This is a dangerous one which is really tough to notice at times. This scam involves the landlord going a step further than just advertising a property. The scammer will have access to an empty property which they’ll show you around. Unfortunately, the building isn’t actually theirs to rent out. By the time you come to move in, the property’s already occupied.
It can be really difficult to actually recognise this until it’s happened. It’s always important to be suspicious if the landlord is pressing for you to pay a security deposit/first month’s rent immediately.
Now this is a clever scam, which again is pretty difficult to spot. A tenant will go through the motions of renting a property and everything will appear legitimate. Coming to the reference check stage, the prospective tenant will sign a contract which says that if the references aren’t acceptable the deposit will be returned minus a fee for reference checks. This sounds reasonable – besides, you’ve got good references so don’t mind signing. Unfortunately, they’ll be deemed as unsatisfactory by the landlord. When you receive the deposit back, it’s a fraction of what you initially paid. If you’ve been bitten by this, it’s illegal and you have a right to be frustrated. Seek assistance immediately.
Going After the Guarantor
This is a particularly nasty one. The landlord will claim there’s no need for a security deposit. It sounds like a perfect situation – you just need to have a guarantor. When the tenancy comes to an end, the guarantor will be hit with a wave of unnecessary charges for repairs. This scam highlights the importance of inventory services.
Dodgy landlords are big fans of adding illegal charges to the tenancy agreement. Be wary of anything you sign your name to. If the charge is in your tenancy agreement and you sign it, you’re agreeing to pay. If you’re unsure whether a charge is necessary, do your research before signing. If a landlord tries to charge you for something which isn’t in the tenancy agreement, you don’t need to pay.
It’s Not All Dodgy Landlords
It’s a two sided coin – tenants can scam landlords too. One of the most common includes a tenant who asks to pay a deposit via Western Union or some other similar service. They pay too much ‘by mistake’ and ask the landlord to send the extra funds back. By this time, the landlord’s made the payment and the original payment has bounced. This leaves the landlord out of pocket and red faced. If you find yourself caught up in this, don’t pay any additional funds back until the initial payment clears/bounces.
What to Look Out For
It’s important to be vigilant when it comes to lettings scams. Here are a few warning signs to look out for:
- Free listings – scammers love sites like Gumtree which allow free listings. Always be extra wary of rentals advertised on these websites.
- Multiple ads for the same property – these can sometimes have slightly different descriptions or pictures.
- Poorly worded ads – does it read like it was written by someone who isn’t fluent in English?
- Unnecessary description of landlord – often scams will make the landlord sound respectable and fair. If this feels a little unnecessary, consider why this information is being communicated to you.
- Lettings agency with little online presence – sometimes scammers will create their own lettings agency to appear legitimate. Google the company and see what’s online about them.
- Very low price – it’s the age old saying; if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Pushy landlord – if the landlord is pushing you to pay money immediately, there’s likely to be an issue.
- Pictures – are the pictures different to the property? Do the pictures look fake or unnatural?
- They ask for money up front – Never pay anything before a viewing!
Unfortunately, scam landlords give the profession a bad name. The truth is, scammers are few and far between though tenants are not always aware of this. This is why it’s even more important to get your inventories right. By turning to No Letting Go for our inventory services, you remove any possibility of deposit disputes and also reassure tenants of your legitimacy. Find out more about our services here.