Following a number of rental scams, in particularly those affecting students, whose inexperience of the world outside their parent’s home leaves them vulnerable; the National Landlords’ Association (NLA) has issued some sage advice.
The NLA reminds students and all would-be tenants to be particularly vigilant when looking for somewhere new to live as they say they receive numerous complaints from students and tenants every year about fraudsters who operate online and off.
Clever scams can easily trick vulnerable young people, and old, into paying an advance fee to rent a property that the scammer does not even own.
Online the fraudsters use fake branding and fake letters from landlord associations, giving them an air of legitimacy which lures the unsuspecting would-be tenant into handing over their cash. Students are easy prey to these heartless crooks and they think up more devilish schemes all the time.
Foreign nationals are particularly vulnerable to these scammers as they often try to secure their accommodation from abroad, an ideal scenario for online fraud. In most cases once their money is sent the “landlord” is no longer contactable, leaving the rooky student not only devastated by the experience at the start of their new course, but short of vital funds as well.
The NLA’s advice is:
- Do not send money up front to anyone advertising online, make sure they are genuine first and view the property if you can
- Beware if you are asked to wire any money via a money transfer service, criminals can use details from the receipt to withdraw money from another location
- Use government approved deposit schemes such as my|deposits
- Contact the organisations the landlord claims to be associated with in order to verify their status. Tenants wanting to check whether a prospective landlord is a member of the NLA or accredited should ask them for their membership number, then go to: www.landlords.org.uk/member-verification
- Overseas applicants needing to secure accommodation before they arrive in the UK should first seek the help of the employer or university they are coming to.
- Get paperwork and proof: ask for a copy of the tenancy agreement or safety certificates to confirm that the “landlord” has a genuine legal connection with property.
- Remember, if the offer is too good to be true, it probably is.
Carolyn Uphill, Chairman of the National Landlords Association said:
“Rental fraud is one of the uglier aspects of private renting and it tends to rear its head this time of year as students, particularly those coming from abroad, look to secure rented accommodation for the academic year.
“Tenants, no matter where they are from, should not send payment to advertisers before they are certain it is genuine and should contact their university who will have a list of reputable landlords and letting agents.
“If you receive official correspondence from a ‘landlord’ and are worried it might be a scam, often a good clue is that it will be written in poor English. Tenants should also remember they can check if a landlord is an NLA member or accredited by visiting www.landlords.org.uk/member-verification
“Any tenant that falls victim to such a scam should contact the relevant authorities in their own country and alert the police in the UK via www.actionfraud.police.uk”
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) September 28, 2015