As students gear up for the start of the university year in the UK, the National Landlords Association (NLA) is reminding would be tenants to be vigilant when looking for somewhere new to live and to avoid getting scammed.
The NLA receive complaints from tenants every year about fraudsters who operate online and the warning comes as many tenants scramble for available listings as the new academic year is about to begin.
Such scams trick people into paying an advance fee to rent a listing and in some instances fraudsters use NLA branding or fake letters from NLA local representatives in order to add legitimacy to the scam and lure their victims in to a false sense of security.
Scammers often target those who are coming from abroad and are securing listing online, particularly those looking for university accommodation. Typically once money has been sent the ‘landlord’ becomes un-contactable leaving the potential tenant defrauded.
The NLA is reissuing guidance about avoiding online rental fraud which was drafted in conjunction with the National Union of Students and the National Crime Agency.
They advise against sending money up front to anyone advertising online and to make sure they are genuine first and view the listing if you can and also 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.
Tenants are also advised to use government approved deposit schemes such as my|deposits and to contact the organisations the landlord claims to be associated with in order to verify their status. Tenants wanting to check whether a prospective landlord is a member of the NLA or accredited should ask them for their membership number, then go to: www.landlords.org.uk/member-verification.
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. Everyone should get paperwork and proof by asking for a copy of the tenancy agreement or safety certificates to confirm that the landlord has a genuine legal connection with listing.
‘Rental fraud is one of the uglier aspects of private renting and it tends to rear its head this time of year as students, particularly those coming from abroad, look to secure rented accommodation for the academic year,’ said Carolyn Uphill, NLA chairman.
‘Tenants, no matter where they are from, should not send payment to advertisers before they are certain it is genuine and should contact their university who will have a list of reputable landlords and letting agents,’ she explained.
‘If you receive official correspondence from a landlord and are worried it might be a scam, often a good clue is that it will be written in poor English. Tenants should also remember they can check if a landlord is an NLA member,’ she pointed out.
She added that any tenant that falls victim to such a scam should contact the relevant authorities in their own country and alert the police in the UK via www.actionfraud.police.uk.
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Source: Property News Spain