Scams impacting landlords: Fake landlords & Rogue Tenants

When you hear the term rental fraud it's usually associated with renters, however landlords are increasingly the victims too. In a survey of 500 landlords across the UK we found that 6% (equivalent of 150,000 in total) had been negatively impacted by rental fraud. In part one we covered rogue letting agents and rent to rent scams. Below we look at more scams impacting landlords, how they work and what you can do to protect yourself.

3 - Fake landlords

It works as follows: an individual pretends to be a landlord to dupe unsuspecting renters into paying deposit and rental money. Due to the high demand for rental properties it's possible to scam multiple victims in a short period of time. Usually ads are posted on free listing sites with students commonly targeted.

In some cases the 'fake landlord' has used the genuine landlords credentials which can lead to complications, such as a criminal investigation or claims for unprotected deposits.

Last year there was a 44% increase in reported online rental scams and the UK government estimates that over £1m is lost each week to fake landlords.

Prevention

By creating a RentProfile landlords help protect themselves from fake landlord scams. This is due to the information within a profile, such as the first name and mobile number, not matching to the 'fake landlord' a prospective tenant is dealing with. We also alert landlords to suspicious activity, such as somebody attempting to impersonate the landlord or sublet the property.

4 - Rogue tenants

A rogue tenant is somebody who, through understanding tenant rights and a bit about the eviction process, is able to live rent free for a prolonged period of time, usually 6-9 months. Rogue tenants are aware of the loopholes in the regulation and exploit this. It can lead to financial trouble for the landlord, including repossession due to mortgage arrears.

It works as follows: the tenant moves in but falls behind with rent payments, making up all manner of excuses to get some sympathy and more time. Eventually the landlord has little choice but to start eviction proceedings and the tenant seeks to do everything they can to stay in the property, including falsifying information.

Landlords do not help themselves when they fail to follow regulations. Ben Reeve-Lewis recently shared in the Landlord Law blog that none of the Section 21 eviction notices he had seen this year were valid, meaning if a tenant were to realise this they could stay in the property for an additional 2 months. A tenant is also perfectly within their right to fight an eviction in this way.

Things become more problematic when a 'rogue tenant' makes claims about the property or the landlord that are untrue. For example that they were not provided with an EPC when they moved in (where's the evidence?), or that the property is in disrepair, and may falsify evidence or deliberately damage the property to 'prove' this. If the tenant defends themselves then as evidenced in the video above it can cause more delays, to the point where the landlord may seek a compromised solution.

Prevention

Disclaimer: this is our opinion and does constitute legal advice(!).

Landlords should be aware of the (increased) rules and regulations when renting a property. There are plenty of resources online for this and we recommend Gov.uk, the NLA and the RLA.

Documented evidence of the state of property through an inventory can help and Richard Blanco of the NLA recently shared that he emails the correct paperwork to the tenants to demonstrate this was provided.

A background check on the tenant may flag previous issues however it is not a guarantee, even if a tenant was previously in rent arrears. A previous landlord's reference can reduce the risk, however a rogue tenant may attempt to use a friend to falsify this. If the previous landlord has a RentProfile this should give greater assurance they are legit (landlords can be searched using the mobile number, rental address or unique profile ID).

Have you been impacted by a fake landlord or a rogue tenant? Are there other scams impacting landlords we're not aware of? Let us know your experiences in the comments below or on facebook or twitter.

Paul Munday

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