Applicants are advised to take extra care when browsing sites such as Gumtree, and should look to take steps to verify that they are dealing with a legitimate landlord when searching for a property to rent. Sometimes the scammer’s profiles can be very convincing, with legitimate looking business logos and fake affiliations. Professionally taken display photos which can be stolen from another online property listing, make the applicants think that they are close to securing a deal on their ideal rental property.Overseas applicants and young student renters are most likely to fall foul of these scams, due to a general lack of experience in the UK rental market. With competition for property being so high, tenants are more likely to pay upfront fees demanded in order to guarantee a viewing.
In some circumstances, viewings may take place if the property has been rented using false ID, or perhaps broken into, with the scammer pretending to be the landlord. They will then look to secure deposits and administration fees. In other circumstances, take for example, a couple looking for property to rent in Sevenoaks, who see a great property listed and rush to pay a ‘booking fee’ for a viewing. This viewing never takes place and the scammer makes off with a ‘holding fee’, leaving the applicant hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
What to look out for?
- For peace of mind it is best to rent through an established high street letting agency. You can check for membership with The Property Ombudsman at https://www.tpos.co.uk/find-a-member
- If you are dealing with a private landlord, make sure you meet them at the property for rent and ask for identification. If you are looking at starting a tenancy, ask for proof of ownership.
- Avoid any landlord who asks for payment in order to do a viewing. It is common to pay a fee in order to take a property off the market, but charging for viewings is not the norm!
- Always avoid paying cash upfront at a property.
For further information on lettings, property rentals and property management, contact Sunflower Lettings.