Expats coming to live in the UK and looking to find rental property before they arrive are being warned about a new scam.
The UK’s National Landlords Association (NLA) says it has uncovered a scam on popular classified advertising website Gumtree after being contacted by a number of foreigners seeking rental properties.
Unsuspecting potential tenants, usually from overseas, reply to advertisements on the website for rental accommodation in the UK. After supposed satisfactory e-mails, tenants are asked to send money to the ‘landlord’. Having sent the money, when the tenants attempt to make contact with the ‘landlord’ or, indeed, collect keys to the property, the ‘landlord’ is uncontactable and the potential tenant has been defrauded.
In this latest scam, the ‘landlord’ claims to be a member of the NLA, uses the NLA logo and has even created fake stationary copying that produced by the bona fide NLA Tenant Check service.
‘Tenants, no matter where they are from, should not send payment to advertisers before they are certain that the advertiser is genuine. Overseas applicants needing to secure accommodation before they arrive in the UK would be well advised to first seek the help of the employer or university they are coming to,’ said Richard Price, NLA director of operations.
He added that employers and universities can give advice on standard practices in the UK and often have lists of accredited landlords and local letting agents. Foreigners can also check with the NLA for bone fide landlords.
Although the Internet has made it easier for expats looking for property to rent, it is also a breeding ground for scams. Others include where a scammer will rent a property and then show prospective tenants around it. They will then collect the first month’s rent, security deposits and other fees then vanish with the money.
A similar scam is where the person claims to be helping someone else rent the property, such as a sick relative. In some cases they have even been known to break into a property whilst the owners were away and the property wasn’t for rent at all.
It is not just UK scammers who are around. Foreign scammers also advertise properties on the Internet and ask for deposits then disappear and can’t be contacted. They can be easier to spot as their emails are often in broken English and they ask for money upfront to be paid into an account.