Renters in the West at risk of scams

Leitrim Observer reporter

Reporter:

Leitrim Observer reporter

Email:

editor@leitrimobserver.ie

Renters in the West at risk of scams

Warning issued by Threshold

National housing charity Threshold has warned that it has seen an increase in the occurrence of rent-related scams in the west of Ireland in recent weeks, with a particular concentration in Galway.

Karina Timothy, Western Regional Services Manager, Threshold said: “Our Galway office has seen a marked increase in the number of rental scams being reported by our clients over the last few weeks. Our advisors have been dealing with a number of cases in which those seeking rented accommodation have come into contact with people purporting to be landlords, but whose claims are ultimately exposed as illegitimate.”

By way of a recent example, one such client, Nadine, has been living in Galway for the last 10 months and is looking for a new place to rent for her family. She responded to an advert on daft.ie for a property advertised for rent, including bills, at €1,140 per month. The property was also advertised on other commonly-used sites Rent.ie and Property.ie. “This rent would be approximately €400 less than current market rate, so it stands to reason that there would have been a large number of applications or expressions of interest for this particular property,” said Timothy.

Nadine received a strange reply from the prospective landlord, informing her that he was based in Spain and had a lovely wife and daughter. The nature of the reply appeared odd to Nadine and prompted her to investigate further.  She then found that the images on the daft.ie advert varied greatly from those contained in a link the “landlord” supplied in follow-up emails.

Another, similar case in the Galway area recently involved a mother, Leanne*, also searching for accommodation in Galway City, for herself and her young child. Leanne responded to an advert on daft.ie for an alleged property in Salthill with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, which was advertised at €700 per month – far below market rates.

Leanne received a response to her expression of interest and from that point the supposed landlord communicated with her via WhatsApp, seeking a fee of over €70 for Leanne to come and view the property.

“We would be very concerned that should our client not have become suspicious, she may have proceeded and inadvertently given the scammer access to her bank account,” explained Ms Timothy. “These circumstances – a landlord who lives out of the country and exceptionally cheap rent for a standard property – are classic red flags, but tenants are often under a huge amount of pressure to secure accommodation in tight timescales, and can even be faced with the risk of becoming homeless if they don’t find a new place to rent. In their desperation to secure a property – any property – it is understandable that they might overlook signs such as these. Threshold’s proposed property-specific Rent Register would allow prospective tenants, like Nadine or Leanne, to check the properties’ rent and registration history to determine their legitimacy.

“An important rule of thumb for renters to remember is that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is to say that renters need to approach all property adverts and correspondence from prospective landlords with vigilance and suspicion. If something seems off, do not provide any additional personal details, especially bank details. Review the materials and information that has already been supplied and try to spot inconsistencies. If in doubt, call Threshold and we can advise you on the next steps to take.”

In Cork last year, Threshold, together with An Garda Síochána and UCC Students’ Union released a checklist for renters as part of the organisations’ Scamwatch campaign. Their advice to renters on how to avoid scams applies equally to Galway and is as follows:

- Be aware of offers that appear to be too good to be true – if rent seems like a bargain, do more research by checking rental rates for similar properties in the area.
- Use Google maps to verify that the property exists. 
- Never agree to rent a property without having properly viewed it and making sure you are happy with the terms and conditions of the letting.
- Avoid paying in cash and always get a proper receipt.
- Never transfer funds – in person, via bank transfer or through a company – to someone claiming to be an agent or landlord of a prospective property without verifying their bona fides.
- Ensure the keys work and that you get proper contact details for the landlord/agent.
 

*Client’s name has been changed to protect anonymity