Gardaí are advising people to be wary of rental scams, particularly at this time of year when students are returning to college. Rental fraud occurs when a victim pays money to rent an accommodation (typically in the form of a deposit) and subsequently discovers that the transaction was fraudulent.
Examples of rental fraud include:
• The fraudster claims to be out of the country and cannot show the renter the property unless they pay a deposit. The victim pays the deposit and is at the loss of the deposit.
• The fraudster is living in the property and shows a number of people the property, gets a deposit from several people and then disappears with the money.
• The transaction appears normal until the renter finds that the property doesn’t exist, is already occupied or the keys do not work and the landlord has disappeared.
Reservation fraud occurs when a person pays for a hotel/guesthouse room and subsequently discovers that the transaction was fraudulent. For example, the property doesn’t exist or staff at the property have no record of the booking.
The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) has issued the following warning signs when looking for rented accommodation:
• If the rent seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
• The accommodation is only advertised through social media advertisements or the person letting the location will only communicate via Messenger or WhatsApp.
• Knowledge of the accommodation came from an unsolicited contact / social media feed / pop-up advertisement or the contact appears to be based in another jurisdiction.
• There is a sense of urgency to secure the accommodation by paying a deposit.
• The listing contains grammar or spelling mistakes and/or there are very limited details or pictures of the property.
• The landlord is unable to meet up to show you the property in person.
• Payment is demanded before signing the lease.
• You are asked to pay cash, cryptocurrency or money via a non-bank transfer.
Advice for people who are looking for accommodation:
• Do your own research.
• Only use recognised letting agencies or deal with bona fide third party agencies, for example the College or Student Union.
• Know your consumer rights.
• If you have decided to take up an offer of accommodation, only use trusted money transfer systems. An Garda Síochána recommends using a credit card where possible.
• Never agree to rent a property without first having the opportunity to view it.
• Ensure that the keys work and you have proper contact details for the landlord/agent.
• Ideally the property would be registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). This can be checked on www.rtb.ie
• Research the locale and what the average asking prices are for accommodation in the area.
• Meet with the landlord for a tour of the accommodation. If this is not possible ask as many verifiable questions as possible such as, what bus routes are nearby? what local facilities are nearby? etc.
• Ask for the exact address and verify the existence of the property. Check Google Maps to see that the property is the same as that advertised. Reverse image search any posted images to see if they appear elsewhere on the internet
• Do not hand over cash; do not transfer money via Revolut; do not pay by cryptocurrency; do not send money to a random PayPal address; do not wire money by Western Union. Pay in a way that is traceable and/or refundable.
• Insist upon a payment receipt and a tenancy agreement.
• Do not enter into off-site communications for a lower cash price.
• Never give personal, financial or security information to persons who are unknown to you.
Always report any incident of suspected fraud to your local Garda station. You should also report suspected fraud to your bank and ask to do a recall as soon as possible.
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) rent index provides students with important benchmark information and is an authoritative guide as to the actual rents being charged by landlords adjacent to all Universities, ITs and other third level colleges.
The following incidents were reported to An Garda Síochána in July 2023.
A 30-year-old male viewed a digital letting agency and was sent what he believed was a contract via email, which he signed and paid a total of €4,000 for a property in Dublin 8. The lease was agreed to start on 1st July 2023. When the man went to the property to meet the landlord, there was nobody there. He was unable to contact the landlord.
A 25-year-old female responded to an advertisement regarding an apartment for rent. The woman was given details of a Revolut account over email and she transferred €1,200 as the first month’s payment and deposit. No keys were provided for the apartment
A 28-year-old female observed a rental property online for a seasonal rental. The woman contacted an agent with a UK registered number via WhatsApp. The agent requested a deposit of €1,236 which was transferred to a bank with a French International Bank Account Number (IBAN). The woman was then unable to make further contact with agent.
A 20-year-old female transferred €7,400 to a landlord in the Netherlands for accommodation. When she went to the Netherlands to obtain keys of the rented property, the landlord failed to meet her, ignored her phone calls and ultimately blocked her phone number. She subsequently learned the property was never up for rent.
A 21-year-old female posted on Facebook that she was seeking student accommodation in Cork. The woman received correspondence from a third party with what she believed was a suitable apartment. The agent requested a deposit of €800 to secure the accommodation. Since making the transfer she has not received keys to apartment or any correspondence from the agent.