Landlord Tips Tenant Tips

Fool Me Once

David Rutland
Written by David Rutland

Criminals are taking advantage of landlords and tenants. Don’t be a victim.

Spotting a scam isn’t always as easy as looking for a shady guy selling watches from the back of a truck. This is the 21st century, and as our access to information, hoverboards, and the latest celebrity gossip has improved, so have the means available to nefarious individuals looking to part you from your hard earned cash.  

You may think you’ve an eagle eye for scams, and won’t be fooled, but as PT Barnum used to say, there’s a sucker born every minute.

Here are three scams targeting landlord and tenants today:

The Fake Landlord

An oldie but a goody. You see a property listed online, make a viewing appointment and show up. Everything looks good. The house is perfect condition, and the rent is well below the market value. What a bargain! After checking your bank balance, you pay the deposit and the first month’s rent, and move in. Everything is rosy until your housewarming party, when uninvited guests arrive in the form of extremely angry people who want to know what the hell you’re doing in their kitchen.

You’ve fallen victim to the fake landlord scam. The supposed landlord managed to get hold of a key, and knew when the genuine householders were away. It wasn’t his house at all! The paperwork means nothing, and now you’re homeless, and the better part of a grand out of pocket.

How to avoid this scam:

Don’t hand over cash. Ever. Bank transfers can be traced. Cheques can be canceled. But cash? Once that greasy envelope is in someone else’s palm, it’s untraceable. If a landlord insists that you pay up front in cash, walk away. Fast.

The Fake Mortgage Application

Do you know how easy it is to get a copy of a land registry entry? How about a birth certificate? Or a passport? Your lovely new tenants can get all of these for under £200, and they can get them sent to the rental address too.  They have your identity documents. Your virtual deeds, from which they can glean whether or not you have a mortgage, and with whom. And they already have a copy of your signature from the tenancy agreement.

In addition to taking out a whole bunch of credit cards, there’s a very real chance that they’ll be able to take out a mortgage on the property too. And if you already have a mortgage, it’s even easier for them to take out a further advance against the property.  They’ll have tens of thousands, and you won’t know a thing about it.

How to avoid this scam:

Never ever have documents sent to your rental property. Ask your mortgage company, the DVLA, and the passport office to add a note to your file to never send documents to the rental address.

The keeping your deposit Scam

Some landlords are out for all they can get from their tenants, whether it’ legal or not. They’ll let out a substandard property, and when the tenancy comes to an end, withhold the security deposit, claiming that the house was pristine when you moved in. They’ll claim that you’ve soiled the sofa. You’ve destroyed the dining room. Corroded the couch.

What are you going to do? You can’t go to court and say they were like that to start with if you don’t have evidence. You’re going to wave goodbye to your deposit, and you have no recourse.

How to avoid this scam:

Inventory everything as soon as you move in. Make lists. Take photos. Don’t worry about a date stamp, the EXIF information embedded in the photo records the time it was taken. Alternatively, you can employ an inventory service to itemise the condition and quantity of everything in the property. If you have to go to court over your deposit, you’ll have the evidence on your side.

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About the author

David Rutland

David Rutland

With a decades long career as a professional writer, David Rutland has worked as a journalist on local, national, and international newspapers, before embarking as a career as a freelancer.

He has ghostwritten several books, as well as producing travel guides, manuals, humour articles, and more internet blogs than you can shake a stick at.

David maintains offices in East London, but spends most of his time in a shed near Liverpool, where he writes, as well as developing apps for Android.

What people say about him:

Arrogant and abrasive - Alan Davis, Editor in Chief North Wales News Group

An absolute liability - Matt Simms, Editor, Vale advertiser

Are you sure this won't get us all arrested? - Mohana Prabhakar, Editor in Chief, Apex News Group

Go and have a shave. You're all prickly - Mrs Donna Rutland.

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