Avoid the Rental Scammers and Dodgy Letting Agents

Latest landlord News by: Madalena Penny

As residential rental scams reach an all time high, involving elaborate cons costing unsuspecting tenants thousands of pounds in lost deposits and rent, the rise in unethical letting agents riding on the continued wave of tenant-demand is also reaching unprecedented levels.

Last year, the Property Ombudsman (TPO) revealed that over 5000 tenants had been affected by lettings scammers.  Fraudsters demanding money for rental accommodation are charging unsuspecting tenants for deposits and rents for non-existent properties owned by someone else.

Last week, one teenage was given a two-year custodial sentence after admitting to 17 charges of fraud and one attempted fraud.  Cameron Corsie posed as a landlord, taking rent and deposits for property he did not own, mainly from students and having them transfer funds to specific bank accounts, which he purposely established for the scam.

Corsie who posed as a potential tenant was only caught when a landlord he had contacted recognized his name and voice as that of the son of former world champion bowler, Richard Corsie.  Cameron, who also attended the same school as the landlords son first became suspicious due to Corsie’s attempt of concealing his identity by giving a false name.  It was later revealed in court that Corsie had recently been imprisoned for a previous series of frauds, revealing a total scam of £37,000.

Along with the blatant scams, online and off, another breed of fraudster has joined the ranks of rental scamming.  Calls by the TPO to curb ‘hit and run’ letting agents, who are unethically operating in the UK, are still awaiting approval by the Office of Fair Trading.  Currently an unregulated sector, dubious letting agents are raking in tenant deposits and rents without forwarding it onto landlords then closing down only to open elsewhere under another name.

Earlier this year one pair of letting agents where expelled from the TPO’s voluntary Code of Practice scheme for mishandling deposits and failing to pass on rents to landlords.  In an industry that has been thrown into the forefront of the housing sector, it is struggling to keep ahead elaborate criminal targeting and professional monitoring.  To avoid such scams ‘Legal 4 Landlords’ are advising that landlords should administer complete tenant reference checks on all tenants, regardless of any circumstances and that landlords should thoroughly check the status, track record and liability of letting agents to avoid any loss.