The web is a great place to find rental properties, but renters need to watch out for online scammers. Prospective tenants keen to find accommodation in the current tight rental market are increasingly being targeted by dishonest people seeking to take advantage of their circumstances.
Rents are escalating, vacancy rates are low and some people who rent often are forced to do so, either because they are still studying or are simply unable to afford to purchase a property outright. This makes it especially disconcerting that they would fall prey to greedy scammers who want to feed off others like parasites.
There are a number of common scams in the market but they can easily be avoided.
Scammers pose as landlords using community websites and say you can’t meet with them to view the property for various reasons. Often they say they are overseas, then demand a payment to secure the keys to inspect a rental property that is always under-priced and seems too good to be true, which usually means it is.
They ask that the money be sent via money transfer, even though you have yet to set eyes on the property in person, let alone view or inspect it. Once the money is transferred, it’s gone and so is the property and the scammer.
There are some simple rules to follow to avoid being taken advantage of, the first one being to use the services of a reputable third party such as a real estate agency.
Going through an agency means you are dealing directly with the landlord’s official representative. If you can’t rent from a real estate agency and must deal with the landlord online, make sure you do not pay any money to gain access to the property for an inspection, and, make certain the landlord intends to comply with the NSW rental legislation. If you’re unsure about anything, contact an agent or the Real Estate Institute of NSW.
Other simple ways to avoid a rental scam are to:
•Never wire money
•Always meet the landlord or property manager in person before signing any rental documents
•Even if you are overseas, contact a reputable third party, such as a friend or an agent if you don’t know of anyone in the area, and ask them to view the property on your behalf
•Never give out bank account information or personal details, especially over the phone or online
•Do a web search of the landlord’s name to see if there is any other available information on the person.
Potential renters should watch out for properties where:
•the rental amount is unusually low, compared to similar properties in the same area
•the landlord is unable to show you the property
•they request payment via wiring, cashier’s check, money order, escrow service, Western Union or MoneyGram,
•rental applications or reference checks are not requested, and
•email is from a free email provider such as yahoo, gmail, Hotmail, etc.
Another dead giveaway is a lot of spelling mistakes in their email communications, the grammar is not good, or, there is an excessive use of capitalisation.
To see the available rental properties we currently have on the market see here (https://davidhaggarty.com.au/residential/lease) but make sure you are quick to get all of your rental application paperwork in as properties are in high demand in this COVID climate and are leasing quickly.