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Students: Beware of Rental Fraud

September 5, 2015 | Students  

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Looking for a place to live can be stressful, especially for first-year students, or students who live overseas, who are unfamiliar with the area into which they are moving. We all know we shouldn’t leave important things, like dissertations and finding a home, to the last minute, but quite often we do. This urgency can lead to mistakes being made, such as not being careful enough in selecting a landlord or letting agent to rent from.

The National Landlords’ Association says it receives complaints every year from tenants who have fallen victim to online fraudsters. These criminals who pose as landlords or letting agents demand tenants pay advanced fees to rent a property, sometimes using fake branding and documentation to make them seem legitimate.

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The scammers typically target overseas students who are looking for university accommodation, as they have to sort it all out online. Once they have been duped into sending the money, the fake agent or fake landlord vanishes and becomes impossible to contact. This would not make for a good start to the year!

Therefore, the NLA has reissued its guidance on how to avoid online rental fraud, which is as follows:

–        Do not send money up front to anyone advertising online, make sure 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 one of the three government approved deposit schemes;

–        Contact the organisations the landlord claims to be associated with in order to verify their status;

–        Overseas applicants needing to secure accommodation before they arrive in the UK should first seek the help of the employer or university they are coming to;

–        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, it probably is.

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