New student tenants have been urged to be vigilent and not fall victim to fake online letting agents and landlords.
The National Landlords’ Association says it receives complaints from tenants every year about fraudsters who operate online. Typically such scams trick people into paying an advance fee to rent a property and in some instances fraudsters use fake NLA or other legitimate branding and documentation to add legitimacy to the scam.
The NLA says scammers often target those who are coming from abroad and are securing property online, particularly those looking for university accommodation. Typically once money has been sent the fake agent or fake landlord becomes un-contactable leaving the potential tenant defrauded.
The NLA is reissuing guidance about avoiding online rental fraud which was drafted in conjunction with the National Union of Students and the National Crime Agency:
- Do not send money up front to anyone advertising online, make sure they are genuine first and view the property if you can;
- 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;
- Use government approved deposit schemes such as my|deposits;
- Contact the organisations the landlord claims to be associated with in order to verify their status;
- 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;
- Get paperwork and proof - ask for a copy of the tenancy agreement or safety certificates to confirm that the ‘landlord’ has a genuine legal connection with property;
- Remember, if the offer is too good to be true, it probably is.
“Rental fraud is one of the uglier aspects of private renting and it tends to rear its head this time of year as students, particularly those coming from abroad, look to secure rented accommodation for the academic year” says Carolyn Uphill, chairman of the National Landlords Association.
Meanwhile Steffan George, development director of The Master Locksmiths Association, is warning students not to fall victim to thieves if they move in to poorly-secured accommodation.
With their high value laptops, TVs and entertainment equipment, students are one of the most at-risk groups of crime in the country, claims George, who says HMOs with four or more students offer rich pickings for burglars.
“If they are encouraged to take simple measures when they move into their new accommodation and get into good habits, they are far less likely to encounter security issues that can spoil their time at university” he says.