June 1, 2021

Rental Scams And How To Avoid Them

With demand for rental properties in the Toowoomba region currently going through the roof, rental scams are on the rise.

So what are rental scams and how can you avoid getting caught out?

Throughout 2020, rental vacancy rates across Queensland plummeted as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Fast-forward to the middle of 2021 and that figure has dropped even further, including in Toowoomba where, as of February, the vacancy rate was just 0.6 per cent.
This means that demand for residential rental properties is high. And with that demand comes the risk of rental scammers – people willing to con innocent parties out of their hard-earned cash.

Rental scams on the rise

Rental scams have been increasing in Australia, with Australians losing over $300,000 to rental scams in 2020 – that’s a 76 per cent rise from the year before.

According to the ACCC, the sharp rise occurs at a time when many people are experiencing financial difficulty due to the economic effects of the pandemic. Scammers know this and are likely preying on people desperate to find cheaper accommodation or any rental accommodation at all given the tight rental conditions right now.

How does a rental scam work?

A fake property is offered for rent, sometimes even on well-known property websites, in an attempt to get unsuspecting renters to hand over money. Scammers may also target people who’ve posted on social media that they are looking for a rental property.

Once the prospective renter responds, the scammer then either asks for a deposit upfront to secure the property, or they will try to get personal details through a fake tenant application form. The scammer might also try to get further money from the person before disappearing.

Scammers can also impersonate real estate agents or pretend to be a landlord who is currently overseas and only offering online inspections before requesting bond payment.

How to avoid a rental scam in seven steps

  1. Always view the property in person. If you’re told the inspection is online only or given another excuse to stop you from seeing the property before outlaying any money, consider this a major red flag.
  2. Don’t always trust the email or phone number given in a listing. Search for the agency’s phone number yourself, then call them and, if the number and agency check out, arrange to meet in person.
  3. If you can, it’s best to phone an agency’s office landline when first dealing with an agent, rather than a private mobile number (which could belong to anyone).
  4. Before making any kind of payment, ensure you are dealing with a licenced real estate agent. To find out if an agency or individual agent is accredited, check the Real Estate Institute of Queensland website.
  5. Familiarise yourself with the legal paperwork required when renting a property, including the types of tenancy agreements and bond lodgement paperwork. Note that you must be given a copy of the tenancy agreement before you are required to pay any money.
  6. Ensure you receive a receipt for any bond paid from the property manager or landlord; better still, pay your bond online via RTA Web Services.
  7. For more information and to find answers to other questions you might have, head to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website.

Check out our current rental properties on our website. And, for expert advice and experienced property management, call our team today.

Article by Katie Knight

Some may say real estate is in Katie’s blood having joined real estate following her father, Ian Knight, into the industry where he had pioneered the path of real estate in Toowoomba in the late ‘80s and opened the ninth regional RE/MAX office… View profile

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