As demand for rental property continues, with strong competition in some locations, it’s easy to understand why some tenants might try alternative routes to find a property, perhaps bypassing the more traditional method of registering with a letting agent, and instead try to find something themselves.
Contacting a landlord that you trust and know well, or one that you’ve received good, reliable recommendations about, might result in a property being secured but, warns Reeds Rains, posting a general plea on social media is definitely something to avoid. Not only could you miss out on getting a property but, worst still, lose your much needed deposit to criminals. It’s what nearly happened to Jade who was looking to rent in Preston, as she explains:
“I had been looking for a property for a while and, whilst I found some that were available, I was often in competition with other tenants and so decided to post a note on Facebook to ask if anyone knew of one to rent?
I soon received a response from a person who led me to believe that he was working on behalf of a landlord who had a letting agent, but didn’t like them. He questioned what sort of property I was looking for, how many bedrooms I needed and what rent I could afford, He seemed genuinely interested in helping me and I, in turn, assumed he must have a portfolio of properties available.
He asked me to start corresponding via WhatsApp and was very quick to respond to each answer I gave (which, in hindsight, seemed a bit strange) but then soon presented me with photos and details of a property in Fulwood which seemed really nice. He talked informatively about the rent and deposit which he claimed would be refundable. He then went on to say that he had the keys to the property (because he didn’t trust the agent with them) and if I wanted to view it I’d just need to send some information to him so he could prepare the tenancy agreement. He said no-one else had shown interest in it and claimed he was in Dublin, with family, due to Covid-19, but that he’d send the keys from there - all with the assurance that they could be tracked during transit. It was very, very convincing.
Luckily I’d already seen the property on the Reeds Rains website and, because I was then thinking seriously about renting it, I approached them to gain their opinion on it and to question why no-one was showing an interest in it? I’m so glad I did.
It immediately came to light that the person claiming to be acting for the landlord had nothing to do with the property at all. It was a scam to get me to part with money under the guise that I was securing the property with the landlord directly.
I’m so pleased I checked it out and would definitely recommend not posting social media posts to find a property. I know that, whilst it can be frustrating and sometimes a lengthy process to find one (and to go through the referencing process), using a reputable letting agent is always the best option. You get immediate peace of mind and reassurance that you’ve got someone ‘on your side’ and it should lead you to securing a good, compliant rental property and, importantly, a legitimate landlord that you can trust. I know that I wasn’t the only tenant that evening that the person was contacting and just hope that others didn’t part with their money, because it’s unlikely they will see it again.”
If you think you have been/are being affected by a rental scam, please gain support from Action Fraud via its website https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/rental-fraud or by phoning 0300 123 2040. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland contact Citizens Advice via https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/consumer/scams/reporting-a-scam/ or by phoning 0808 164 6000