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22 Aug 23

New figures suggest soaring numbers of tenants are at risk from criminals taking advantage of the tough rental market.

Scammers place fake listing adverts on sites such as Facebook and Gumtree that seem identical to ads for genuine properties from letting agents and landlords l.

They change the contact details and, when contacted, pretend to be the agent or landlord. But after securing a deposit, they usually disappear.

Figures from Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, show there were 5,751 reports of rental scams last year, a 23 per cent rise on 2021. 

Total losses were £9.4m, about £1,600 per victim.

One property industry commentator – Jonathan Rolande of the National Association of Property Buyers – says: “With up to 20 applicants for every rental home, tenants find themselves at the very sharpest end of the housing crisis. 

“Those that don’t tick all the right boxes for landlords and letting agents – receiving benefits, pets, adverse credit history, children – will find themselves the most vulnerable. 

“Those that can least afford to lose money are ironically the most likely to do so as they desperately seek out a new home away from the regulated sector, relying on personal contacts, Facebook and Gumtree.”

He says giveaway characteristics of these frauds include fake links on adverts and requests for a deposit ahead of a viewing.

Rolande continues: “The problem is being driven by  a shortage of rental properties and tenants are having to act quickly to avoid bidding wars. 

The average monthly rent rose to an all-time high of £1,273 in June, a third higher than the £951 in June 2021. 

“There were almost 66,000 rental properties listed on Gumtree, the online classifieds advertising site, between January and June. These had more than a million replies.”

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