For many people, renting a house is a great way to live. There are no large deposits to pay, no hassle of buying and selling, and minimal commitment. If you move around a lot it is the only option. However, there are a few bad property rental agents out there who spoil it for the good ones, and sadly it is easy to get scammed by them as they always have new tricks up their sleeves.
If you are interested in renting a property then it’s vital that you pick an estate agent that you know and trust. The large majority are absolutely fine, so always go with someone on recommendation if you can. There are a few typical scams that are run, and here are some of the more common ones:
Houses That Don’t Exist
You may be amazed to learn that some people sign rental agreements without even seeing a property. This is usually because they are living overseas and they trust the agent to send them photos of the house in question. When they arrive, they go to pick up the keys to find no office, and then discover that there is no house. In the meantime they have parted with a big deposit. Being unable to catch up with the people who scammed them, there is very little comeback and the money has to be written off.
Shady people acting as estate agents know that people who come to view flats may well have a wad of cash in their pockets just in case they like the house enough to commit to it then and there. It has been known for people go to view properties, only to find when they get home that they have been relieved of all their cash. Even if they don’t have cash on them, they find that their smartphones have disappeared, or satnavs and stereos have been lifted from their cars parked outside. Always have your wits about you when viewing houses, and don’t automatically trust someone just because they are wearing a suit and clutching a folder.
Some less professional estate agents find loads of different opportunities to make charges. You will generally have to pay fees for admin, fees for the itinerary, fees for referencing and several other charges, however if you begin to feel suspicious about the amount of fees there are, or the cost of them, then start asking questions. Don’t just hand the cash over – you’ll never see it again.
It has been known for an agent to take a deposit, and then turn down the application due to ‘bad referencing’ or ‘bad credit’ – both of which could be completely made up. Then the deposit is never returned. Of course there are laws set up to protect people from these scams, but the agents always know how to stay one step ahead.
The important thing to remember if you are looking for a new rental property is to check the agent’s credentials first. Find out if they are legit, look online to see what others are saying about them, and visit their offices to see if it looks like a professional set up.