Rental scam alert! New twist on an old favourite
You’ve met with the agent and landlord, and viewed the property. All that’s left for you to secure the rental property is for you to pay the deposit. The landlord has requested that you pay the deposit directly into his account, so you do, and never hear from the landlord again.
Chris Renecle, MD of Renprop, warns potential tenants of the emergence of this new spin on the classic rental scam. Scammers market legitimate properties that they copy from popular property listing websites and place on other well-known and widely used buy and sell websites.
The scammer uses the correct images and property description but changes the contact details and then pretends to be the landlord. When people contact them about the property, they set up an appointment with the proper agent pretending to be the interested party, and tell the renter they have an appointment with the agent
When the actual renter has seen the property with the real agent, the scammer then follows up with the potential renter, and if they are interested in renting out the property, requests that they pay the deposit directly into their account as the landlord.
Rental agents charge the landlord a fee, therefore, the rental deposit will never be paid directly to a landlord if an agent is involved in the transaction – even just showing the property to potential candidates. To avoid being scammed and losing money, you as the potential tenant should never make a deposit into a landlord’s account directly if an agent is involved. And when dealing with the landlord directly always make sure the person is legitimate before making any payments.
Renecle believes that there is a degree of increased security for the tenant as well as the landlord when working through a rental agent, and that this is the best defence against these kinds of rental scams. In addition to being more secure against scams tenants also benefit in a variety of other ways. “When dealing with a professional rental agent the tenant enjoys deposit security as the deposit is paid into a trust account,” explains Renecle. “The lease will have been professionally drafted, with all legal requirements met, providing the tenant with the required protection through the lease.”
It is important that you, as a tenant, take all possible measures to protect yourself as falling prey to a rental scam can be financially devastating. Working with a rental agent is one way of protecting yourself. He does warn, however, that it is still a good idea to look into the credentials and references of rental agents before working with them.