Renting a property should be a pain free experience, with letting agencies ensuring the process is as easy and safe as possible. Following reports of scams in the local press, Thomas Quaye, manager of CityWest Homes Residential, a residential sales and lettings agency in the heart of Westminster, has brought together three top tips to help ensure your rental goes smoothly.
When looking for a property, ensure you rent through a lettings agent which is regulated by the Property Ombudsman or the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).
Agents who register with these organisations must follow a code of practise which sets out the standards they must provide for tenants. More importantly, these regulatory organisations ensure that renters are provided with a complaints procedure, support and compensation should they ever require it.
If you are viewing a potential property to rent directly with a landlord, always visit the property in person rather than just viewing the details online to help ensure the property is genuinely available.
The internet has made looking for property easier and unsuspecting renters may reply to false advertisements online. Fraudsters then pretend to be a landlord or letting agent and ask prospective tenants to send money to ‘the landlord’ without them having viewed the property for themselves. Once the unsuspecting prospective tenant has sent the money and then attempts to make contact with the landlord or collect the keys to the property, ‘the landlord’ cannot be contacted. In some cases, these fraudulent landlords claim to be members of the National Landlords Association (NLA). You can find out whether a prospective landlord is a member of the NLA at www.landlords.org.uk.
If you are attempting to rent through the landlord directly, never pay money up front unless the landlord has proved they are who they say they are, has the correct tenancy agreement, can prove they own the flat (this can be checked on the Land Registry) and you are confident that they are genuine.
Make sure that you can sign the agreement in the property and collect the keys at the property at the time you exchange the monies. There have recently been some scams where a person will rent a property and then show prospective renters around it fraudulently, pretending to be the landlord. They will collect the first month's rent, security deposits and other fees from the viewer before disappearing with the money. Under current legislation, if you rent your home on an assured short hold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007, your landlord must place your deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) scheme. You can find out more about the process at www.gov.uk/browse/housing.
To avoid these potential pitfalls we recommend that you always use a registered lettings agency.