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Beware online rental rip-off artists

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Online scamming is growing and prospective tenants are urged to be wary of “hijacked ads”.

Mark Burt, rentals manager of Greeff Rentals, says with this scam criminals make use of real properties that have been listed on legitimate sites to trap tenants into paying their deposits to them.

He says the contact information on genuine rental adverts is modified, and the properties then relisted, usually on lesser-known websites. And this is where unsuspecting tenants can fall victim to scams.

He advises prospective tenants to only search for rental properties on well-known property portals, including IOL Property.

“These portals follow a stringent security process, wherein they are required to establish ownership of each property before listing. Finding a property listed on one of these websites is a good indicator of the validity of the rental.

“Consider properties that are listed by a reputable agency.

“Find a brand you or someone you know trust and contact them about the property you are interested in.”

Burt says tenants should be aware of the following red flags:

  • The landlord or agent refuses to meet you in person. A genuine lessor will always meet you at your convenience.
  • An agent or landlord lets out a property without having done a thorough background and credit check.
  • You are asked to pay a deposit, portion of a deposit or your rent without having signed a lease agreement or having had a proper viewing of the property.
  • The agent or landlord does not ask to sign a lease agreement and wants to stick to a verbal agreement. Always insist on signing a lease agreement and going through it thoroughly, as well as keeping a copy
  • Be aware if your agent or landlord asks you to pay your deposit or rent in cash. This is dangerous for many obvious reasons It is also is important to have a paper trail.

Burt adds: “If you have taken the time to ask the right questions, then your risk will be minimised accordingly.

“Don’t be afraid to have an attorney investigate the validity of the owner and contract you have been presented with, if you are not using an agent.

“This will come at an extra cost but will give you peace of mind.”


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