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Tenants warned over fraudster landlords

12 May 2014

Fraudsters operating under the guise of legitimate landlords in some parts of the UK are fleecing hopeful tenants out of huge sums in a range of scams, according to a new report. In some cases, victims hand over deposit money or pay rent up front then find that their ‘landlord’ didn’t own the property and has disappeared, says online lettings agency Lets Rent. In other ploys, tenants fall prey to identity theft after handing over passports and other personal and financial details as part of a ‘reference check’. With home ownership in England falling to its lowest percentage in nearly a quarter of a century, a huge spike in private tenants is driving up demand, particularly in large cities. The firm says that con artists are taking advantage of a booming market, where demand outstrips supply in some areas. According to Lets Rent, an increasing rental property shortage in the UK, particularly in London and the South East, means that in some areas applicants are competing for every property that there is to rent.   ‘Since the 2007, credit crunch mortgages have been harder to secure, pushing many prospective homeowners to stay in rented accommodation longer. With house prices rocketing, there is now an overwhelming national shortage of rental properties,’ said Oliver Fitzpatrick, director and co founder of Lets Rent. ‘This is giving criminals easy pickings. Often a tenant is fobbed off by excuses about why they can’t be given access to a property in advance and are pressured into paying a holding deposit to someone who then disappears. What’s more, too many would-be tenants hand over money to landlords when all they know is a first name and a mobile number from an online advert,’ he pointed out. ‘It is down to the industry to educate tenants about avoiding scams like this. Tenants should be encouraged to use an established lettings agency which has systems in place to ensure money is being handled legally and deposits are being registered with the correct schemes. Tenants should also be advised to use an agent that is a member of a trade body such as the Association of Residential Lettings Agents, the National Landlords Association, or the Property Ombudsman,’ he added.   Source - Property Wire

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