A leading Irish housing charity Threshold is warning would-be tenants to “exercise particular caution” when responding to ads for rentals if they are to avoid falling victim to a rental scam.
As reported by Extra.ie, vulnerable tenants, particularly students and young inexperienced tenants, are particularly vulnerable to this type of fraud when attempting to secure suitable rented accommodation. The scammers are playing on the fact that good rental accommodation is in short supply in Ireland as well as the rest of Europe and in the UK.
These scams are a particular problem for foreign students wishing to secure accommodation before arriving in a country. Scammers use false websites and online ads. showing genuine properties they do not own, at very attractive prices, to entice applicants into paying money up-front, only to discover they have been duped when they arrive.
Scamwatch is an initiative set-up by Threshold in collaboration with the Irish Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and agents Daft.ie, to raise awareness for those searching for accommodation to identify potential rental scams before they can fall victim.
As part of the campaign, Threshold is to liaise with student unions throughout the Irish Republic to provide assistance for students who have problems with their rented accommodation during the coming academic year.
The Scamwatch campaign is warning would-be tenents to:
- Be aware of offers that appear to be too good to be true — if rent seems like a bargain, do more research by checking rental rates for similar properties in the area, using Google maps to verify that the property exists, and checking the Register of Landlords on the Residential Tenancies Board website.
- Never agree to rent a property without having properly viewed it and making sure you are happy with the terms and conditions of the letting.
- Avoid paying in cash; and always get a proper receipt.
- Never transfer funds via Western Union, Moneybookers or other Electronic Fund Transfer services to someone claiming to be an agent or landlord of a prospective property without verifying their bona fides.
- Ensure the keys work and you have proper contact details for the landlord/agent.
The chief executive of Threshold, John-Mark McCafferty has said:
People should “exercise particular caution at this time of year, when there is a spike due to a new generation of third-level students looking for somewhere to live.
“We strongly advise people to be cautious of a landlord who claims to be out of the country and can’t show you the property and requests a deposit.
There have been instances where scammers are tenants themselves, living at a property and showing numbers of people around, taking multiple deposits and then disappearing with the money.
Tenants turn-up to find that keys don’t open the door and the so called “landlord” is no longer contactable.
Students should start looking for accommodation early, take along someone with more experience of property if they lack this, check the credentials of private landlords with their university or college, use accredited landlords or agents wherever possible, and always follow the above advice.