Chris Renecle, MD of Renprop, says that the emergence of new rental scams where potential renters pay deposits to a middleman who then disappears with their money, once again highlights the importance for both renters and landlords to work with an experienced, professional and reputable rental agent.
Renecle says the scammers market legitimate properties that they copy from popular property listing websites and place on other well known and widely used buy/sell websites. “They use the correct images and property description but change the contact details and pretend to be the landlord. When people contact them about the property, they set up an appointment with the proper agent pretending to be the interested party, and tell the renter they have an appointment with the agent. When the actual renter has seen the property with the real agent, the scammer then follows up with the potential renter, and if they are interested in renting out the property, requests that they pay the deposit directly into their account as the landlord”.
Renecle points out that rental agents charge the landlord a fee, therefore, the rental deposit will never be paid directly to a landlord if an agent is involved in the transaction – even just showing the property to potential candidates.
“In order to avoid being scammed and losing money, those paying deposits on a rental unit should only make payments into a reputable real estate agency’s trust account,” says Renecle. Furthermore, he cautions renters against dealing directly with landlords unless they know them or have dealt with them before and know that they are legitimate.
“Both renters and landlords can protect themselves from falling prey to these kinds of scams by working through a reputable and experienced rental agent,” says Renecle. “The benefit of making use of a professional, reputable rental agent for landlords in particular is ensuring the protection of their asset through proper tenant vetting. This works even more in the landlords favour when the rental agent is from the same company that manages the sectional title complex or apartment block as they know the kind of tenant that would best suit the complex and be able to adhere to its rules.”
Benefits for tenants dealing with a professional rental agent include deposit security as it’s is paid into a trust account, protection through the lease which will have been professionally drafted, as well as ensuring that all legal requirements are met. Rental agents are also regulated, and professional ones will belong to a number of industry bodies with codes of conduct that need to be adhered to.
Renecle concludes by saying that both tenants and landlords should take whatever measures they can to protect themselves as it can be financially detrimental, especially for tenants, to fall prey to rental scams such as these. “Working with an agent is just one step tenants and landlords can take to protect themselves. But bear in mind that not all rental agents are created equal – both tenants and landlords need to do their homework and check the agent’s credentials and references to ensure they are the best candidate for the job.”