Some of the most contentious issues between landlords and their tenants are disputes over rent deposits, and thankfully legislation to protect those who rent has since been introduced. Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous landlords who employ other rental scams designed to fleece tenants of their hard earned money so it is important to know what to look out for before you sign any contracts.
In this post we’ll take a look at how to avoid the rental pitfalls that can have the potential to not only inconvenience you, but end up costing you your time and money. There are many scams that come to light after unsuspecting potential tenants find to their dismay that they have been cheated. Some scammers simply copy existing property adverts and add their own contact details in an attempt to get prospective renters to pay dubious ‘fees’ before they vanish. Others may use even more sophisticated schemes to defraud genuine tenants of even bigger amounts of cash.
The good news is that the law is on the side of those who may be unfortunate enough to fall victim to these scams, but there is no compensating for the distress, inconvenience and time demands of such an event. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure, so as a guide for navigating the rental housing market, here are five tips to help you avoid landlord and rental scams:
1. Keep a Record of all Transactions
Regardless of how much you may have lost in a rental scam, it is difficult to recover anything if there is no record of any transactions having taken place. That is why it is important to keep a record of any transactions between you and your landlord. A good way to ensure this is to never pay for anything in cash; -bank transfers and credit or debit card payments have automatic electronic records which can be consulted in the event of a dispute later on.
At best, landlords who ask you for cash may prove to be difficult to deal with, and at worst they may be trying to scam you. In this modern day economy alternative payments that are hard to trace such as bitcoin should be avoided just as much as cash. Lastly, another advantage of ensuring there is a record of any transaction is the fact that this acts like a deterrent in itself to any would-be scammer landlords.
2. Find your Rental Property Through an Established agent
A sure way of guaranteeing a hassle-free tenancy is to use a reputable estate agent when looking for a rental property. Not only do estate agents vet prospective tenants for landlords, reputable agents will also do their due diligence on the homeowners they represent. This reduces the likelihood of disputes arising, and if they do, everything can be resolved using the accepted official channels.
3. Get Your Lease Agreement in Writing
Once you have viewed a property and have agreed the lease terms, always get the agreement in writing. The reason for this is that oral agreements are hard to prove so putting everything in writing and then having both parties sign it is the best way to commence your tenancy. This includes a copy signed by the landlord for your records. For tenants, an important thing to remember before committing to a lease is to read through the agreement carefully to avoid being caught out by any unreasonable or expensive terms. In addition, resources such as our Generation Rent: Landlords Vs Millennials graphic is an invaluable source of information that tenants can use to pinpoint and stay ahead of the scammers.
4. Avoid Sub-Leasing
Sub-leasing occurs when one tenant decides to lease a room or the entire rental property they are living in to someone else. The problem with sub-leasing is that most landlords frown upon the practise and therefore most times it occurs without the homeowner’s knowledge. This means that if any disputes arise the sub-tenant may not have much legal ground to stand on. If a sub-lease is for an entire property, the best way to deal with such a situation is to try and identify the real landlord of the property and establish a new lease contract with them directly.
5. Learn To Spot Rogue Landlords
A good of way of avoiding rental scams from affecting you is by knowing how to spot rogue landlords before they trick you out of your money or commit you to an unreasonable contract. Things to look out for include home owners who post misleading photos in their advertisements, your alarm bells should start ringing if the property is in a much worse state than advertised or is in a general state of disrepair. Some landlords may try to keep your deposit based on flimsy claims and others may try to sell the same property you are renting without your knowledge.
To avoid such instances, it is advisable to find out more about your prospective landlord by speaking to their current tenants or looking up feedback and reviews online.
Prospective tenants should keep in mind that landlord and rental scams can be quite sophisticated and look entirely genuine until the perpetrators true colours are revealed. By following the tips above, prospective renters can give themselves a chance of avoiding falling victim to any scams involving rental properties.
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