The rental property market is booming and with that the chance of getting scammed increases. So, what can you do to ensure you don't fall for a slick property rental scam? By simply doing some homework and looking out for a few red flags, you could save yourself a few thousand and prevent having to endure the heartbreak of losing your dream rental home.
- Even if a property is listed on a trusted site, always do your homework. Rental scammers often use the identities of legitimate property agents and use photos from other property listings to win you over.
- If an agent claims to work for a specific company, give that company a call and ask whether the person is employed by them.
- Also, do some research on lesser-known companies. While there are many genuine smaller realty companies out there, not all of them are legit.
- Listings with vague information are often a scam, so best to avoid them. Legitimate listings always have all the info you might need about the property and the various fees such as maintenance levies, special levies, etc.
- If the monthly rent is far below that of similar listings, it’s probably a scam. Remember: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
- Always organise a viewing and in-person meeting with the agent or landlord before making any payments. Don’t make any payments (whether it’s for so-called admin or viewing fees) before seeing the actual property. Legitimate property agents don’t require you to pay upfront before viewing a listing.
- If a property agent or landlord keeps making excuses not to meet, walk away from the deal.
IMPORTANT! If you are able to meet the agent and view the property, take someone with you.
- If you’re working through a rental agent, ask them for their Fidelity Fund Certificate. If they cannot provide one, they’re not a registered agent.
- Some scammers will meet you for a viewing, but then say they’ve forgotten or misplaced the rental property’s keys. If you are unable to view a unit in full, the property likely isn’t that alleged agent’s listing to begin with.
- Be on alert should a landlord or agent request excessive deposits or other fees before you’ve received the keys to the property.
- Often, dodgy agents and landlords refuse to provide new tenants with a lease agreement. This is a vital document that protects both the tenant and the agent/landlord and failure to provide one should be a big red flag.
- An above-board agent or landlord will allow you time to take a lease agreement home, read through it, and propose any changes before signing it. Also, if you’re not sure what exactly the lease agreement means, it’s important to ask someone you trust to provide guidance.
IMPORTANT! Never sign any agreement you don’t fully understand, and never allow anyone to pressure you into signing an agreement.
- Before signing the agreement, request to see the utility bill. This will not only show you who the property owner is, but you’ll also be able to see whether the utilities have been paid in full. If the agent or landlord is reluctant to provide this info, walk away.
Sources: RealNet Properties | Institute of Estate Agents of South Africa