Rental Scams: Don’t Get Caught Out

Did you know that 4,800 rental scams were reported by the public in 2021, costing a total of £7 million?

How can rental scams impact landlords and tenants? What signs should you look out for? Have you fallen foul of a con-artist? Get in touch via the comments below and tell us all about it!

Because, unfortunately, when times get tough (like they are now), con-artists get creative…

Property Listing Scams

71% of fraud reported in the UK is property-related, and it’s estimated that 5% of all rental properties in the UK are being rented to fraudsters.

There are several rental scams out there at the moment, from property listing scams to faking abandonment – we’ll look at some of the ones you might not have heard of. 

When it comes to property listing scams, there’s a few ways this can play out, affecting both landlords and tenants, but let’s look at how it impacts tenants first because they’ll take their money… without there being a home to move into.

The scam here is pretty obvious – you’re tricked into fronting up a deposit, but the person supposedly renting out the property doesn’t have anything to give you.

The good news is you can spot this scam fairly easily. If the price seems too good to be true – it probably is! Gorgeous looking property at a bargain basement price? That’s just to catch your attention.

If there’s push back on viewing the property, that’s another big red flag! If you’re based overseas and looking for a property to move into once you get to the UK, it’s harder to spot because you can’t get over to check out the property. In this instance, if you do have someone based in the UK who can do some viewing for you – we heartily recommend this! 

You should also be worried if there’s no discussion about referencing you or you’re being pressured to sign on the dotted line.

However, it’s not just tenants that can get hit by this scam. Landlords could also find themselves stung by this one, if they’ve got a troublesome tenant who is using their rental as the base for this scam. This gives the scammer a place to show off for viewings, but they could very quickly do a disappearing act – leaving the landlord with not just rent arrears, but several unhappy ‘new tenants’ who are sure they’ve secured the property.

Scam Mortgages

That’s right, landlords, a tenant could move in and take out a mortgage on your property – leaving them with a stash of cash to scarper with and you with a ton of legal wrangling to sort out.

Usually this happens because the tenant is able to intercept Land Registry letters and documents that come to the property – so they can fake ownership of the property. 

Fake Abandonment

Eviction is a tricky business – we’ve talked before about how no landlord really wants to evict because it’s a time-consuming and stressful process. For many landlords, this is very much a last resort.

So, you can understand why if a landlord sees a property has been abandoned, they may simply change the locks and re-let it. HOWEVER! It is illegal to evict someone from a property without first obtaining a court order under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. So if you do think that your property has been abandoned – you cannot go in and change the locks – you still have to take all legal eviction steps.

Some people are very much aware of this and aim to trick landlords into thinking that the property has been abandoned, only to claim compensation for unlawful eviction once the locks have been changed. 

While it might be tempting to sort this out yourself because the property looks abandoned – it’s really not worth it! Make sure you know the law and you stick to it!

How can you protect yourself against rental scams?

As we’ve demonstrated, both tenants and landlords can fall foul of these schemes, but there are ways to protect yourself.

If you’re a tenant:

  • Beware of too good to be true offers. We’re all looking for the best bargain we can at the moment, with the cost of living ever rising. But if you’ve spotted an apparently perfect place for significantly less than others in the area – ask yourself why that might be?
  • Do your due diligence. We say this for landlords, but it works both ways! Aim to meet your letting agent or landlord in person; be wary if they don’t seem keen to reference you; NEVER settle for anything less than a watertight tenancy agreement
  • Look up your landlord. If your landlord is legit, they should be part of a registered tenancy deposit scheme. You are totally within your rights to ask the landlord or letting agent which scheme they’re registered with and then check they actually are registered. 

If you’re a landlord:

  • Register your property. Make sure you have your property registered on the Land Registry and – most importantly – make sure that your correspondence address if YOUR residential home and not the registered property. This way, no one can intercept any documents
  • Know your rights and responsibilities. It’s key to understand the laws that govern you as a landlord and what you can and can’t do. Stick closely to the law and it will be on your side in the event of an issue in the future

So there you go – while times are tough, you ALSO have to watch your backs for potential scammers trying to take advantage and both landlords AND tenants are potential victims. 

Tenancy deposit
Money shield
Local heroes
Approved code
Property ombudsman
Open banking
Mashroom is an appointed representative of Adelphi Insurance Brokers Ltd. Adelphi Insurance Brokers Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Their Financial Services Register number is 594620, with permitted business activities being introducing, advising, arranging, dealing as agent, assisting in the administration and performance of general insurance contracts and credit broking in relation to insurance instalment facilities. You may check this on the Financial Services Register by visiting the FCA’s website, or by contacting the FCA on 0800 111 6768