The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team is appealing to the industry to be eagle-eyed for scams.
This follows the shocking case which has hit Base Property Specialists, the London firm run by well known agent Kristjan Byfield.
He has complained to NTSELAT regarding a company calling itself Base Property (London) Limited. This ‘other’ Base property company has established accounts with the Property Redress Scheme redress service, the Tenancy Deposit Service and Zoopla; it has also stolen listings from several agencies and tried to pass them off as their own.
NTSELAT cannot comment on that case as it is currently under investigation but Alison Farrar, its operations manager, has told Letting Agent Today: “Lettings scams have been an issue for a number of years and can have a devastating effect on consumers and businesses.
“Criminals often place fake adverts for properties to let, or they respond to flat-hunters’ posts, claiming they have the perfect property.
“The criminals pose as landlords or letting agents and offer properties to rent, taking holding deposits, security deposits and other fees up front without allowing the prospective tenant to see the property, often stealing photos and property details from unsuspecting genuine agents’ webites.
“This can cause a number of problems for the genuine businesses who have suffered harm to their identity and reputation, as well as costing thousands to unsuspecting potential tenants.
“Before the pandemic made this easier for them, criminals would use a variety of excuses to explain why the property could not be viewed, claiming they were out of the country, or that a tenant was in the process of moving out.
“The victims would then pay monies up front via bank transfers or untraceable money transfer services, and often don’t realise the property does not exist until the point at which they expect to move in.
“The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team would urge all tenants to research any letting agency, landlord and property before agreeing to hand over any money.
“It’s advisable to research the agent on lots of review sites and use the internet if possible to check the property is genuine. It’s also important to check whether the agent needs to have redress or client money protection membership, with different requirements in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
Farrar urges any agent, landlord or consumer to report any suspicious advertisements and get advice here:
In England and Wales;
In Northern Ireland.