The rental market is one of the biggest economies in the UK and the majority of us spend the bulk of our money on some sort of property, whether that’s as a rent bill or a mortgage. Of course, the property market is an obvious target for scammers and con-artists who, in a number of instances the world over, are using fake identities to fool landlords into providing housing.
In general, scammers rely on some form of identity theft to make their move. Often false ID is provided for reference checking and, once the checks go through safely, tenants pay a fake deposit and move in. By the time the landlord has realised the cheque has bounced the tenants are safely moved in and are unlikely to budge. It can take some time for eviction proceedings to start and by this time the tenants could have taken several months rent for free and, potentially, a few possessions too.
Keep an Eye out for the Sign
A bounced deposit is the first sign of problems so make sure your tenants have paid and the money has cleared before giving up the keys. Also make sure you check references thoroughly and don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself. Engaging tenants in normal conversation can be very telling and those reluctant to give away too many personal details about their life could possibly be suspicious.
Not many landlords have the cash reserves to stave off a long period without any income, so make sure you are fully protected with rent guarantee insurance. It’s vital that you keep the cash coming in, and if you do end up being conned, you can at least hope to reclaim some of what you are owed. It’s also worth notifying the police if you believe you have been scammed: criminals are often professional, repeat offenders.
The risk of being scammed is minimal in the UK, but it does highlight the importance of proper references and common sense checks. Don’t ever give the keys to your property to someone you don’t trust and if you are concerned make sure you act sooner rather than later: losses will only mount up.