Another year, another group of victims of rental fraud; sadly it is that time of the year again where many have their excitement of coming to the UK to study or work turned into stomach-churning dread at the realisation of having been scammed at the hands of fraudsters when searching for a place to live.
Each year we receive reports of students being tricked out of their rent and deposits by criminals when looking on the internet for property to rent. Some have paid hundreds, sometimes thousand for accommodation which either doesn’t exist or does but doesn’t belong to the person you gave your money to.
Rental fraud happens when would-be tenants are tricked into paying an advance fee to rent a property. The victim loses the fee they have paid and is not able to rent the property they thought they had paid for in advance. It is well known that scammers often target students who are looking for university accommodation, particularly those coming from abroad securing property online, and use tactics such as NLA branding or fake letters from NLA Local Representatives to support their demands in order to lure their victims in to a false sense of security.
Tips to avoid being scammed
The National Landlords Association (NLA) is warning students and other would be victims to beware of rental fraud. We, in partnership with National Union of Students (NUS) and National Crime Agency, came up with some top tips which can help anyone who is not familiar with the rental market in the UK.
Never take things for face value, make sure you have your wits about you, and if your gut is telling you something, listen to it.
Here are our top tips to ensure you can protect yourself from scams:
- 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 as they will have an approved list of trusted accommodation providers.
- Do not send money in advance or upfront to anyone advertising rental properties online until you are certain the advertiser is genuine and have viewed the property
- 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.
- Get paperwork. Ask for a copy of the tenancy agreement or safety certificates to confirm that the “landlord” has a genuine legal connection with property.
- Contact the organisations the landlord says they are associated with 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: landlords.org.uk/member-verification
- Use government approved deposit schemes such as my|deposits
- DO NOT be pressurised into transferring money. Transfer funds to a bank account after you have obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent directly, but only after the above steps have been followed.
- Remember, if the offer is too good to be true, it probably is! Use your common sense.
Remember to report it
Finally, any tenants who fall 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