Renters beware… rental scammers: Part 2

Jo-Anne Oliveri
Jo-Anne Oliveri | 4 min. read
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Published on September 6, 2011

Following on from last week’s blog… Let’s discover what happened to poor Buddy and what our industry must learn from this! Also, how our industry can protect our clients and promote compelling reasons why it is so important to engage the services of a licensed and professional rental agent.

Buddy’s possessions were packed in the moving truck and transported to the property. Buddy had arranged to meet the movers at the property, as he would be following close behind them. Poor Buddy was struck with sheer panic when he pulled into the street and saw over twenty moving trucks lined up. It was a scene of utter confusion.

Of course, the property owner was nowhere to be seen. He had already skipped the country.

The sad story began to unfold as each ‘tenant’ shared his or her story with each other. They all had a ‘legal’ lease on the property and paid around $8,000 or more upfront. The problem – the person they had leased the property from was the tenant, who was himself leasing the property. He had recently taken up residency in the property and still had a four-month lease to run. However, this person had pulled the scam on several occasions. He leases a property himself then rents it out to many unsuspecting tenants. What a scam and far too easy to perpetrate! He made over $200,000 on that one property alone.

Of course, the law will catch up with him eventually. But, again, I believe as an industry we need to wise up about scams!

How sad it is that our world has so many people who are willing to take advantage of others. Therefore, it’s prudent to remember that it doesn’t matter who we are or what we do, scam artists are very crafty and manipulative – they repeatedly drag into their net unsuspecting people who think they would never be caught up in such deceit.

Buddy, whose sad tale was revealed in the last blog, was actually a high-ranking executive working for a global organization. He was under pressure to find somewhere to rent. Scam artists are skilled at reading signs of vulnerability.

We, as property and rental agents, can learn from this example and last week’s…

We must raise awareness of the risk tenants take when leasing a property directly from the property owner. We need to ensure that prospective tenants heed warnings and understand that even if the property owner does provide a legal General Tenancy Agreement it means nothing. These agreements can easily be downloaded online. The tenant risks spending thousands of dollars on leasing a property that doesn’t exist or could in fact be rented by the current tenant who is now pretending to be the property owner.

The internet now makes it easy for scammers, tricksters and swindlers to advertise property simply by downloading photos and descriptions when the actual managing agent or rightful property owner originally advertises the property. The scammer then saves them until the property has been leased and removed from property advertising portals, thereby giving them the opportunity to advertise the property with full descriptions, photos and sometimes even floor plans. So very easy…and just far too easy for professional scammers!

Licensed rental agents should only advertise on property portals that allow only licensed rental agents to advertise. I believe that property portals allowing owner managed properties to advertise on should not be supported by the industry. We need to protect unsuspecting tenants from fraudulent activity and this is one way we can do it.

So, when promoting your services as an agent it’s important to use examples of why clients wishing to lease properties only deal with a licensed rental agent (two reasons have been revealed in my past two blogs). By making property owners aware of this it makes absolute sense that they too use the services of a licensed rental agent as more prospective tenants demand they only lease through a licensed rental agent (much like other professional industries really). We must understand and market the risks clients face by not using the services of a licensed and professional rental agent.

And, just something to think about – these scammers are not only stealing substantial amounts of money from unsuspecting ‘tenants’, the crime continues as, sadly, these people’s identities are stolen too!

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Jo-Anne Oliveri

Jo-Anne Oliveri is Managing Director of ireviloution intelligence in East Brisbane, Australia, which empowers principals and property management teams creating and operating business by design.

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