The rental market in London nowadays is booming, with more people than ever wanting to move to the capital to start a new life.
With the rent prices skyrocketing, everyone is looking for a good deal that will allow them to transition better and have a fresh start.
Such growth allows homeowners to be flexible with their rents and occasionally list a property for cheap just to make sure they fill it as soon as possible, which is great for the market.
Unfortunately, however, not everyone has good intentions. It is not rare to find a property listed for a good price only for it to end up being a scam.
From phantom rentals through already rented apartments to hijacked ads, scammers are getting increasingly creative with getting your hard-earned money. Knowing how to avoid rental scams is vital when looking for a new place.
Avoid Untraceable Paying Methods
The biggest red flag for dishonest properties is when the owner demands a payment that can not be tracked.
Those include, but are not limited to:
- Cash Payment;
- Wire Transfer;
You can use bank cheques or money orders to pay for your rent or deposit. If the other party demands to receive their payment in advance in any method that will be hard to track, chances are that fraudulent activity is involved.
Arrange Property Viewing
Never rent sight-unseen. Ensure that you visit the property in person whenever you plan to rent. By doing this, you can confirm that the accommodation exists in the first place and verify whether the condition and amenities are the same as advertised.
If you are unable to visit the property in person, you should reach out to trusted people such as family, friends, or realtors who can do the viewing on your behalf.
As a last resort, you may request a live virtual viewing of the premises, but keep in mind that there have been cases where a scammer has access to a unit and poses as a landlord.
If at any point you feel that something may be off, trust your gut feeling. You have plenty of options on the market, so you should not take unnecessary risks.
Meet the Landlord or Estate Agent
It is not uncommon for a landlord to be busy and unavailable for a meeting at a specific date and time. Still, if you offer some flexibility, there should not be a reason for them to deny seeing you in person.
After all, renting an apartment is a two-way street. While looking to get what is advertised and what you pay for, landlords are looking to choose the best possible tenant for their property.
If the homeowner or estate agent makes many excuses for not meeting you, you should be wary of their ad.
Avoid Providing Confidential Information
Providing confidential information to an unknown person may cause you a lot of headaches. There are numerous reports of identity theft from scammers posing as landlords. Remember that you are not legally required to submit your Social Insurance Number, nor is it required.
Homeowners may ask for it as a pretext to check for your credit score. However, your name, current address, and birth date are more than sufficient.
If you want to go the extra mile, whenever you start applying for a rental, you can get information about your credit score and add it to your application. This will help avoid getting your identity stolen and show that you are responsible and might move you up the list of potential candidates.
Be Weary of the Rental Rates
The rental market in London is very competitive, so any prices that may look too good to be true probably are
Suppose the advertised rent is far below the average price. In that case, there may be hidden clauses, such as property repairs and maintenance to be covered by the tenants or straight-up scams trying to rob you of your money and personal information.
Make Sure There’s a Lease Agreement
Verbal or email agreements may sound tempting, as that will certainly ease the process for both parties. However, you should never put your trust in them.
A landlord must provide you with a written lease agreement to review, sign and get a copy. If they don’t initiate this, then specifically ask them for one.
Ensure that the rent, price for any amenities, cleaning services, and maintenance responsibilities are included.
Ideally, you and the landlord will have a copy signed in each other’s presence so you can both walk away with a copy of the document.
Document the Property When You Move In
When viewing the property, ensure that you point out and discuss any issues or damages you find with the landlord or real estate agent. Get those areas in writing and have both of you sign them at the end.
The last thing you want is to lose your deposit or pay for items you never used or damaged.
What to Do If You’ve Been a Victim of a Rental Scam
It is always easier to prevent a scam than to recover from one, but if you have fallen for any defrauders’ tricks and got your money stolen, you should immediately call the police and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
After informing the authorities, contact the website where you found the listing. They will be able to get it down as soon as possible to prevent others from getting cheated.
If the scammer used any agency’s name or presented as their representative, let the agency know, as they may assist you with pressing charges against the person.
Questions to Ask Before Renting a Property
Before moving in, some questions are important to ask.
They will help you understand the landlord better and also provide you with much-needed information about the property:
- Who are the neighbours? What do you know about them?
- What’s it like at night?
- How good is the internet connection?
- How’s the water and heating?
- Who is responsible for the end of tenancy cleaning?
- What are my transport options?
There is no guarantee that if the landlord does not have an answer to any of the questions, he is being dishonest or a scammer however, based on the conversation, you will be able to know if the person is serious about renting out their property.
Any odd answers may also raise some red flags, which can help you avoid falling victim to a scammer.
Many rental scams are happening in London nowadays, so you need to be prepared to recognise the red flags.
Ensure that your payment can always be traced to the person you are sending the money to, and never rent before you or someone you know has been able to see the property.
Document as much as possible before you move in, and always get your lease agreement written and signed.