If you’ve ever heard the saying “it seems too good to be true”, then you’ll understand the frustrations around property rental fraud. Unfortunately, there are people out there who are ready to take advantage of home searchers in order to make a quick buck.
Con artists, scammers and fraudsters use every trick in the book, conjuring up ways to take money from renters looking for their next home. Action Fraud has said it received almost 20,000 reports of rental fraud between 2012 and 2018, with renters losing an average of £1,396 each.
So how can you avoid becoming a victim of rental fraud? In this guide, we’re looking at the warning signs so that you can avoid falling for scams related to a rental home. Read on and discover everything you need to know about rental fraud.
When it’s too good to be true
A growing number of stylish homes appear online with low rental prices, especially on social media and online marketplaces like Gumtree. However, after contacting the apparent landlord, you will usually be presented with a number of excuses for why you can’t see the property.
These include things like “the current renters won’t let anyone view the property”, with the so-called landlord asking for money upfront in order to secure the home instead.
Fortunately, these types of scams are easier ones to spot than others. If a landlord is operating on a social media platform and won’t let you see the property, there’s a good chance they are trying to scam you, and the advertised home doesn’t exist.
The fake property
While not being allowed to view a property is a major red herring, it can be tricker spotting fraud when you’re actually allowed to see the home in person. That’s the case with The Fake Property, where you go on a viewing, pay a deposit and don’t ever hear from the landlord again.
The scammer will have access to a property and take you on a viewing, only to disappear once you’ve paid a deposit. The best way to avoid such a scenario is to rent through a certified platform or letting agent. If, however, you go with a landlord directly, do some research and check things like The Land Registry and The National Landlords Association to see if they're registered.
The fake agent
Unfortunately, it’s not just fake landlords that you need to look out for. There are some cases where a scammer acts as a letting agent and advertises a property on one of the more well-known property websites, creating a phantom property listing.
Again, to avoid these types of scams, you need to look at the entire picture. Properties advertised below the current market average should get the alarm bells ringing. If you’re unsure about an agency, Google them and check with Companies House to see if they’re registered. Always go with your gut feeling.
How to protect yourself against rental fraud
It’s estimated that scammers have made £775 million from rental fraud, with the Local Government Association believing that just five per cent of those who have been scammed come forward. It’s a huge issue, but there are things you can do to avoid being a victim of rental fraud.
- Avoid listings that don’t feature any photographs
- Be extra vigilant when searching for homes on social media platforms
- Be cautious if you’re asked to wire money to services like Western Union
- Ensure that you have viewed a property before paying a deposit, either in person or with a video viewing on a secure platform like Movebubble.
- Don’t pay deposits in cash
- Use the Land Registry to check if the landlord is the legal owner
- Check if letting agents are members of nationally recognised bodies like ARLA or if the landlord is part of National Landlords Association or the Residential Landlords Association
- Most importantly, if something seems dodgy, then it most probably is and should be avoided
Don’t be a victim
Losing thousands of pounds to rental fraud is a hugely stressful, experience but you don’t need to be a victim. Try and use certified rental platforms to find your next home, where everything is legitimate, and you’re afforded safety guarantees.
And if you do go down the route of renting directly from a landlord, make sure that you can view the property and do background checks on the landlord to see if they’re the real deal. Doing your due diligence will reduce the chances of fraud and ensure that you have an enjoyable renting experience.
Avoiding rental fraud with Movebubble
At Movebubble, we take renter fraud very seriously. We verify all of our partners before they list on the platform, which means not just anyone can upload a property – we have a strict process for onboarding partners and closely monitor properties to ensure that all the information is correct and true. Everyone we work with is trustworthy and has our seal of approval.
And when it comes to making payments on the app with our Instant Booking feature, everything is powered by Stripe, which is a trusted payment solution and used by millions of businesses around the world.
We also guarantee your money when you pay your deposit within the app. Therefore, you're 100% protected and your money is refunded if something goes wrong and you don't move into your next home.