SCAM ALERT: Fraud in the Lettings Marketplace

You would think, or at least hope, that in times like these, where people are facing financial hardships that, in many cases, they probably never expected to be facing that people would be kind and honest and seek to help others as best they can.

There are certainly people out there that do take that attitude, however, it has come to our attention that there are also a number of people that are finding ways to exploit situations for their own gain and our industry is the latest to be infiltrated by the scammers.

The latest trick employed by these scammers is that they will use free to list sites such as Gumtree, Spare Room, Facebook, etc. to list a property that they purport to own and are looking to let. The property exists, it just isn’t owned by them and is not available to let, suitable for let or they are illegally subletting it!

With demand in the market being at an all-time high and less availability these people have seen an opportunity that they are not afraid to exploit it and in a number of different ways.

As with most scammers, they are sophisticated in their approach. They can provide forged ID and documentation to ‘prove’ ownership of the property should they be questioned!

Some of the scams work as follows; a property is marketed on a free to list or landlord listed property site, a ‘deposit’ will be listed and, invariably, this will be payable in advance of many viewing to secure the property. Do not ever pay anything before you have viewed a property, it is not required.

Another scam is that the fraudster will list a room to let in a shared house, they have indeed let the property themselves, from some unsuspecting landlord and they are going on to sub-let each room individually without consent and without the proper licensing and safety requirements of a House of Multiple Occupation in place. In some cases the contracts offered for these are also merely ‘lodger’ contracts which provide those renting the room with little to no legal protection at all.

Another way that they will also target landlords is to rent a property and then extort money from the landlord by claiming that the house is unfit for human habitation and in breach of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

It’s easy to say ‘oh that wouldn’t happen in our area’, but it is and these problems are very real. The latest reported case is that of Preet-Kaur Johal trying to scam £1,500 in deposit monies out to two unsuspecting  prospective tenants who she met on site at the fake property and it was only fortuitous timing on the part of the real landlord that her cover was blown!

We recommend that all tenants and landlords know their rights, obligations and take the appropriate steps to ensure their own due diligence alongside contacting your local councils Housing or Environmental Health departments.