We are often contacted by tenants asking for advice for how they can check a landlord as they are unsure about transferring a large sum of money to what is a stranger. The Office of National Statistics and Action Fraud report there has been 20% increase in fake landlord scams in the past year with over £9.6m reported as stolen, with the actual figure, included cases that go as unreported, expected to be significantly higher.
As part of our work RentProfile provides a way for landlords to demonstrate their credentials and prevent impersonation by a fake landlord or illegal subletting by creating a free Landlord Profile. The Landlord Profile can be shared with prospective tenants easily using a link and can be used to verify information such as Property Ownership and Bank Details, meaning the tenant can transfer money with confidence. Here is an Example Landlord Profile and thank you to the 2000+ landlords who have created a profile to date.
4 Practical steps to avoid being the victim of a rental scam
We know not all landlords will create a profile so here is our practical advice for would-be tenants so they can avoid becoming the victim of a rental scam and potentially losing thousands of pounds.
- Be very careful of listings that appear too good to be true, as very likely they are. When possible take a viewing of the rental. This helps ensure the landlord or agent has access and that the photos or videos in the listing match the property and its condition.
- Request the landlord’s name and address if it hasn’t been provided already (you will learn why in the next two steps). Usually the landlords name can be found in the Tenancy Agreement. Under Section 1 of the Landlord & Tenant Act, 1985 tenants have an absolute right to request the name and address of their landlord.
- Using GOV.UK & Land Registry data check the name on ownership record of the rental address matches to the landlord's whose details you have been provided. There is a £3 charge to check the property ownership record on GOV.UK. If the property is owned by a company then use Companies House to search for the company and verify that the landlord is listed as a Director.
- Transfer Deposit and Initial Rent money by Bank Transfer ensuring that the name you are transferring money to matches that of the landlord. Most online banks now have a feature to match name of recipient and use this to have confidence in who you are dealing with.
As we shared you could also ask the landlord if they would setup a free landlord profile with RentProfile. The landlord could also use RentProfile to check the tenant so each side has trust.
Some further steps tenants can take to avoid rental scams or rogue landlords
Whilst not always to find there are public registers of landlords available online. In many parts of the UK it is a requirement for the landlord to be registered. Information about landlord prosecutions can also be found online.
- Search if the address requires a license to be offered as a rental property. Whilst not always easy to find there are publicly accessible registers of landlords For example in Wales all landlords are required to be registered. Many boroughs in England have introduced Selective Licensing schemes for example in Liverpool 16 wards require the landlord to register, and the landlords details can be verified on the Liverpool City Council website.
- Check landlord prosecution records. In London a register of landlords that have been prosecuted for offences are searchable on the Mayor of Londons website. You can also check public records of Residential Property Tribunals in England on GOV.UK
If there are further resources that you feel are helpful to prospective tenants to avoid being scammed then feel free to get in touch with us as we will gladly update this blog post.