What you need to know before you rent a property
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) is warning students to watch out for potential scams when looking for rental properties.
Some scams work by offering property to let in prime areas at below market rents. Students are asked for deposits and/or rent upfront. They are told this is in order to secure the property prior to visiting it, or to prove they have the money to pay the rent.
Prospective tenants are convinced to part with either credit card details, cheques or cash before seeing the property. Payments are then not returned, and the student cannot get in contact with the supposed “landlord”.
There have also been occasions whereby fraudsters gain access to properties and show prospective tenants around, portraying the property to be vacant and under their control.
In both the ‘payment up front’ and ‘fraudulent access’ scams, many properties turn out not to exist; to already be rented out, or to have been ‘rented’ to multiple victims at the same time.
- Do not send money upfront - Make sure you are certain the person and property exist, and that the person has control of the property. Deposits are standard in renting; paying money upfront to secure a room is not
- Protect your deposit – When a security deposit is taken the money must be paid into a deposit scheme approved by the Scottish Government. For more information about Tenancy Deposit Schemes check out the Shelter Scotland website
- Use your common sense – If the property is too cheap and looks fantastic then it’s probably too good to be true
- Visit the house you intend to rent - Make sure you visit the property with the landlord to confirm if the house rental/share is bona fide. Be very suspicious of anyone who refuses to let you visit the property
- Ask for ID from the Landlord - Check the landlord’s driving licence and/or passport to establish if they are who they say they are. Prospective tenants should also check that the landlord is registered with the local council by checking the Scottish Government's Landlord Registration website
- Check that the owner is on an approved accommodation list - Check with the University Accommodation office as they may have an approved housing list. Also look for accreditation membership such as National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
- Ask for evidence that the property exists - Ask for copies of tenancy agreements and any safety certificates such as Gas, Electricity or HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) Licence
- Be aware of adverts with no telephone numbers or where the only email address is a free one (i.e. Hotmail, Gmail etc) when you’re not sure who you are dealing with – Look for telephone numbers that are based in the UK but be wary of phone numbers beginning with 070 (or +4470) which are nongeographic business numbers. Check that the numbers work as they are often fax numbers that fraudsters find on the internet
- Check the legitimacy of the advert – Avoid adverts with no photographs or where multiple adverts have the same photographs. (Be aware that seeing photos of a property is no substitute for visiting the property)
- Be cautious on how you send money - The safest way to make a payment is by a credit card in person at the letting agent’s office. A formal contract should also be signed before any money has changed hands
- Be skeptical if you are asked to transfer money via money transfer agents such as Western Union or Money Gram – Their advice is clear: "only use these money transfers to send money to people that you know and trust". Also do not respond to a “Proof of funds” scam whereby you are asked to send money to a friend and then send the details of the transaction to the “landlord”. The funds can be withdrawn using forged identification and allows scammers to access the funds
- Be very wary of using sites like Gumtree or social media sites such as Facebook to either find accommodation or advertise to say you’re looking for a flat – follow the guidelines above