Tenants in Tasmania, like their counterparts all over the world, are vulnerable when it comes to rental scams. But for those in Hobart, it’s a double-whammy, according to Baxton Property Management, because tenants in Australia’s island state capital might be even more likely to fall for fake rental deals. This is because the number of tenants looking for houses continues to outstrip the available tenant accommodation.
Most Scams Are Internet-Based
Most scams are internet based, with Gumtree and Facebook listings proving particularly popular hunting grounds for scammers. And while your chances of being duped increase in private rentals, you are not immune just because the offer looks professional. Scammers have been known to use clever marketing material, and sometimes even “borrow” legitimate agency names, or create fancy logos with names that sound genuine. “To Let” signs on a vacant house can also be attractive when you’re desperate, but they may not anything more than an attempt to lure you into responding to a fake deal.
Rental scammers have quite a few tricks up their sleeves, when it comes to marketing and “renting” out properties which either don’t exist, or don’t belong to them. They’ll establish a full-on rental agency on line, or handle it more personally through classified listings. Then they’ll disappear as quickly as they appeared once they’ve cheated enough victims out of their hard-earned money –until the next time.
Going After Your Identity
If creating a false identity doesn’t reap in enough benefits in upfront payments, they could “invest” their ingenuity for a possibly hefty ROI, by harvesting your identity and gaining access to your bank accounts. As you have all your paperwork ready in order to apply for a rental, you might not think twice before supplying every detail with an online application. Unfortunately, that is exactly how rental conmen hope you will react. So spoil their day, and don’t.
What to Watch Out For
There are few bargains in a boom town: Go with your gut feelings. Watch out for rents that are surprisingly low considering the location, neighbourhood and ease of access to amenities. In Hobart, where the vacancy levels are very low, and rental property owners aren’t being forced into dropping rents to attract tenants, chances are any special deal isn’t genuine.
Check who you’re dealing with: Classified ads with just a contact number are the biggest minefield when it comes to renting. A large proportion of them are genuine. But don’t take it for granted that they are, any more than accepting that a flyer, business card, or fancy website is the real deal, and evidence that you won’t run into problems. It’s certainly not always the case. Try to check out the information supplied on one of various scam prevention sites, such as the Australian government’s Scamwatch. You may be glad that you did.
Money upfront: The Residential Tenancy Act of 1997 is clear that no application fees or finding fees may be charged. The only up-front entry costs involve a security deposit of up to four weeks rent, and the rent in advance for one payment period. The regulations also allow for a holding fee (which is usually not refundable) if you want the landlord to hold the premises for you for more than a week. However, these fees are all charged subsequent to the signing of an official tenancy agreement, and are cited as part of the agreement.
You can’t get to see inside the house: Be extra careful if the only “viewing” you get is in the form of blurred or unidentifiable photographs, or if you turn up for a viewing all you get to see is from the curb or through a window. Common ruses are to tell you the owner is “out of town” or the “listing” is so newly on the so-called agent’s books that he or she didn’t want to waste time collecting a key, for fear you would lose it to another tenant.
Find a suitable rental is difficult, especially when vacancy levels are as low as they are in Hobart, and the competition is therefore strong. To find out it was a scam after thinking you had found the perfect place, would be a nasty shock. Renting through a rental agent like Baxton Property Management in Hobart could save you a lot of heartache. Visit the Baxton website for more information.
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