While you search for your perfect place to call home while you study, the last thing you want to encounter is a scam or another type of fraud.
Unfortunately, rental scams are becoming increasingly common due to the high demand for properties and the impact of the pandemic. Scammers are targeting students and they can be difficult to identify.
Here are some tips to reduce your risk of being caught up in a rental scam:
- Be careful with your money: Never pay any money before viewing private rental accommodation in person and be very wary of any requests for up-front payments, particularly in cash, as this is a common technique for scammers.
Because it is difficult to trace and recover, scammers often ask for payment through PayPal or wire transfers such as Western Union.
Always get a receipt for any money paid. If possible, ask them to invoice you first and so you can confirm the details.
- Do your research: Before paying any money, research the property and the owner.
- Search the address online to see if it is listed on a legitimate rental website. Try reverse image searching photos you’ve been sent to see if they have potentially been taken from elsewhere, or if they are from an old sales listing.
- Try searching online for the property with words like ‘review’ or ‘complaint’. If you find a history of negative reviews on the property or on the owner or agent, you may consider looking elsewhere.
- Beware of online classified ads: Although it can seem like a good source of available properties, be very wary of accommodation adverts on Facebook, Gumtree, online forums or other websites that don’t verify their listings.
- Meet in person: If possible, meet the owner or agent in person to view the property and ask any questions you may have. If they won’t talk on the phone or meet in person, this is a red flag. They might tell you that they work away from Perth, or aren’t able to travel due to other commitments.
- Ask questions: Ask some specific questions that only someone familiar with the property would know. Watch for any red flags in their replies – they may not be clear on any details or can’t confirm any information.
- Check the owner’s identity: If you’re dealing with a private owner, verify their identity through photo ID, such as a driver’s license, and take a picture or write down the key details. Legitimate owners will understand you’re just being careful. If you have any suspicions, for a small fee you can also check that the owner’s name matches the ‘Registered Proprietor’ on the Landgate Certificate of Title.
- Check the Property Manager: If you’re viewing a property with a property manager, check they are a Licensed Real Estate Sales Representative using the WA Department of Commerce’s online tool. All you need is their full name (ask them to provide their ID!). You should also look up the company and call the office directly to check they are employed there.
- Read the lease carefully: If you do decide to rent the property, read the lease carefully and ensure that all terms and conditions are clearly outlined. Do not sign anything that does not seem legitimate, or that you do not understand.
The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has produced an essential guide to renting a home in WA, which contains useful information on tenants’ rights and obligations.
- Report any concerns: Don’t let anyone else fall victim to rental scammers. If you suspect a scam, please email report the scam to WA ScamNet, a State Government service helping to combat this ever-increasing problem.
- Trust your instincts: If something seems too good to be true, or if the owner is unwilling to answer your questions, it’s best to move on.
Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It pays off to be diligent in your research and ask questions. Even though you may be stressed and the rental market is tight, don’t be rushed into making a decision and handing over your money.
If you need any more assistance, please get in touch with one of our Accommodation Coaches at Curtin Connect through the webform or email firstname.lastname@example.org.