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Friday 28 July 2017

Renters beware: Scam artists advertising unavailable properties on rental websites

*Clam 'AirBnB agent' will handle viewing and payments *Property being advertised actually unavailable

Pictures of the apartment advertised
Pictures of the apartment advertised
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Tenants looking to rent accommodation are being warned to beware of scam artists who are asking for rent to be transferred before the property has even been viewed.

A number of these suspicious advertisements have appeared on rental portal pages for apartments in Dublin city centre.

One prospective tenant who made contact with the purported property owner was informed that the transaction would be carried out through an 'Airbnb agent'.

The 'landlord' claimed he lived in Italy and could not arrange a viewing in person but said the 'Airbnb agent' would handle all the financial transactions.

The bedroom which is being advertised
The bedroom which is being advertised

However, he said a deposit and one month's rent would have to be transferred before the viewing.

Independent.ie visited the apartment in question, which is located on Church Street in Dublin 7.

The pictures in the advertisement portrayed a high-end apartment.

The two-bed apartment was sold in 2016 for €190,000. However, it is not clear who owns it as it is currently not registered with the Land Registry.

When we spoke to a tenant living on the floor below this apartment and showed him pictures of the flat being advertised, he confirmed his apartment looked "nothing like that", saying it looked a lot nicer than his.

The sockets in the pictures advertised also appear to be two-prong which would indicate the property is not based in Ireland.

The person advertising the flat said via email: "Right now I'm currently living in Italy and for the moment I cannot come in person to show you the apartment. I used to come to Ireland every once in a while but for now I am very busy with my work and I really don't have enough time to come there in person to rent it. 

"However, I hope this will not change your intentions to rent my apartment because we can do the transaction through Airbnb (www.airbnb.com). I have used this company in the past and I was very happy with them. You can inspect the apartment in the presence of the Airbnb agent."

He claimed rent would be €1,300 per month and asked for proof of financial stability.

The advertisement initially appeared on Rent.ie but was soon taken down.

Another Independent.ie reader got in touch to say they had been targeted by the same scam.

The property they were interested in was based in Ballsbridge.

They were informed it was a one-bed apartment, however when they looked up the property price register, it was listed as a two-bed apartment.

Martin Clancy of Daft.ie said: "I'd advise that this person ceases all contact with this person and as we suggest in blog posts around security and also our safety tips we recommend that no one transfers money before viewing a property as this sounds very much like a 'long distance' landlord scam."

A spokesperson for Airbnb said that they do not advertise any properties in this manner.

"This website has nothing to do with Airbnb. Airbnb provides a secure platform for people to find, book and list unique accommodation around the world. We encourage users to report fake emails or websites to our trust and safety team on report.phishing@airbnb.com, who will investigate. "

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