Eager tenants caught in cons
SCAMMERS USE FAKE PROPERTIES
with Consumer Protection Commissioner Anne Driscoll WHEN looking for a rental property there are often time pressures that mean you need to find a new home quickly.
It can be quite competitive if it is a really nice option for the price, which adds to the sense of urgency.
Scammers are all too aware of these factors at play and target tenants through online classified advertisements featuring properties that do not exist or are owned by someone else.
Consumer Protection has heard from real estate agents who have had prospective tenants turn up to home open viewings because of scammers stealing the photos and advertising the property as a rental, when in reality it is for sale.
In 2014, around 30 accommodation scam victims contacted WA ScamNet and between them the total monetary loss was almost $43,000 – an average loss per victim of nearly $1500.
Telltale signs that the person offering the property for rent is a scammer include the rent being asked for is quite cheap for the quality of the property and they won’t speak on the phone or meet in person.
They also come up with excuses why you can’t view the property prior to payment or deposit, bond or rent and they may give details about themselves, such as a respected profession or mention of volunteer work, to induce you into thinking they are of good character.
To catch the scammers out when looking for a rental, never solely rely on photos. Google the address given to see if the property is actually up for sale, or being rented out by a legitimate property agent.
Also, only deal with landlords you can meet face-toface or go through a property agency and do not hand over money before any exchange of contract or keys.
iRentWA, a free app for tenants developed by Consumer Protection, can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.
It has a calculator to work out the maximum amount you might have to pay a landlord before moving into a rental property.
Read more about renting a property at www.commerce. wa.gov.au/tenancy
To find out what how to report dodgy rental property adverts and associated email accounts, see the WA ScamNet website at www. scamnet.wa.gov.au
If you have lost money in a rental scam, an investigation may be carried out if the offender can be located in Australia. Call 1300 30 40 54 and ask for WA ScamNet to discuss your case.