When searching for a rental property, the first stop for many renters-to-be are the main property portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation.
Once you delve into the weird and wonderful world of hunting for a property to rent, you realise there are costs involved - administration fees, referencing fees, deposits, moving costs etc. Needless to say, we all want to save as much money as we can when times are tough, especially when starting out on this ‘costly’, emotional and stressful process.
A money saving idea is to simply avoid the Estate & Letting Agents when looking to rent. Why not contact a landlord direct, and avoid this so-called 'money pit' of Letting Agents, by using an online classified ads website instead!
Online classified ads websites are places where landlords advertise their properties for rent at the click of a button without using the services of a Lettings Agent - and there are many genuine Landlords. However ...
CAVEAT EMPTOR - The danger is that such websites can attract bogus landlords, who have mercilessly scammed genuine tenants. People can post properties that look real enough but worryingly are there to trick you into handing over your hard-earned cash without even having a single viewing.
Properties on such websites may be fake or already rented out. We heard a deeply worrying horror story recently whereby a prospective tenant wanted to view a property advertised directly by a 'landlord'. The ‘landlord’ proclaimed in a message via the website that he had been 'messed around' by a previous viewer and was not prepared to do any further viewings without holding the potential tenant’s deposit before letting them view. At this point the viewer involved smelled a rat, and rightly so.
This is a common scam deployed by non-existent landlords, and you're unlikely to get your money back.
NEVER, BUT NEVER hand over any money to view a property. Ensure you receive a tenancy agreement from your Landlord, and ALWAYS make sure your deposit is held within a recognised deposit scheme eg DPS, TDS.
Moving home is not cheap and easy but using an established and regulated, licensed estate agent (licensed to ARLA Propertymark or NAEA Propertymark, with The Property Ombudsman membership) can save you from a world of pain and distress in the long run.
It may cost you more than you hoped but in the long run knowing your deposit is protected, and that you have the protection of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement is key.
It’s honestly better to be safe than sorry!
Oliver Solomons | Callaways Estate & Letting Agents - Brighton & Hove