The National Landlords Association (NLA) is reminding potential tenants to be vigilant when looking for a new place to live, to help avoid rental fraud.
Several people who have been the target of rental fraud have contacted the organisation. Such scams trick potential tenants into paying an advance fee to rent a property – fraudsters have even used NLA branding and fake letters from NLA local representatives to add legitimacy to the scam and lure their victims into a false sense of security.
Scammers often target those who are coming to the UK from abroad and are securing property online. Typically, once money has been sent, the fake landlord becomes uncontactable, leaving the tenant defrauded.
The NLA is reissuing guidance about avoiding online rental fraud, which was drafted in conjunction with the NUS and National Crime Agency:
- Do not send money upfront to anyone advertising online – make sure that 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 protection schemes
- Contact the organisations that the landlord claims to be associated with in order to verify their status
- Overseas applicants needing to secure accommodation before arriving in the UK should seek the help of their new employer or university
- 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 the property
- Remember, if the offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is
Richard Lambert, the CEO of the NLA, says: “Rental fraud is one of the uglier aspects of private renting. Tenants, no matter where they are from, should not send payment to advertisers before they are certain it is genuine, and should contact their university, who will have a list of reputable landlords and letting agents.
“If you receive official correspondence from a landlord and are worried it might be a scam, often a good clue is that it will be written in poor English. Tenants should also remember they can check if a landlord is an NLA member or accredited by visiting www.landlords.org.uk/member-verification”
He advises: “Any tenant that falls victim to such a scam should contact the relevant authorities in their own country and alert the police in the UK via www.actionfraud.police.uk.”