Lettings scams on the increase

As a nation, we are conducting more and more of our business online, a trend that has only escalated with the tier restrictions and lockdowns imposed by the pandemic.

Many of us are now aware of fake emails from our banks and high street retailers, encouraging us to enter our details for a free prize draw or to rectify a problem, but do enough alarm bells ring on our bigger purchases?

We have seen a number of reports over recent months in our industry press that have highlighted the increase in lettings scams. These are where images are lifted from individual lettings sites or websites such as Rightmove then ‘agents’ reply to comments on social networking sites to imply they have suitable rental properties available.

These are often very sophisticated operations that can involve fake letting websites, with all the aspects you would expect of a reputable business such as a company registration, membership of trade bodies and in-depth information on the properties they have to let.

This is not a problem centred in the big cities, where the competitive nature of the lettings market encourages tenants to part with a deposit before they’ve had time to conduct enough research. We have learned of recent scams involving properties in our local area, so we would advise all those looking to rent to be on their guard.

How do I avoid being scammed when renting a property?

The National Landlords Association offers the following advice:

1. Do not send any upfront fees to anyone advertising online, make sure they are genuine first and view the property if you can;

2. 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;

3. To use only government-approved deposit schemes;

4. 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;

5. 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 the property.

Naturally, we would always recommend using a reputable local lettings agent as they have already done the checks of ownership required before listing the property and operate through a strict code of conduct. If you are looking to rent please get in touch with our local experts.

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