Sunday 25 February 2018

Scam warning as 'desperate' students seek homes to rent

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Gavin White

There has been a reported spike in rental scams as a new generation of Third Level students desperately searches for accommodation.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and gardaí have issued a warning to those looking for a place to live in advance of the academic year.

There are three categories of scams which people need to be aware of, say gardaí.

Students are advised to be wary if someone advertising a property claims to be out of the country, and is unable to show interested parties around the apartment or house. If the property owner requests a deposit, students should be aware it could be a scam.

Another common scam occurs when the fraudster is living at the property; they often show a number of people around, get a deposit from several people and then disappear with the money.

Finally, the transaction appears normal until the renter finds the keys don't work and the landlord has disappeared.

"People need to establish the house exists and is available for rent, and the identity of the landlord/agent and that he/she is authorised to rent the property," a Garda spokesperson said.

USI President Michael Kerrigan told the Irish Independent that despite these scams happening all year round, there is a "huge increase" as the new semester approaches.

"With international students in particular, I've seen cases where they have transferred money and gone to the house only to view a family unaware of what's going on," he said.

The USI is advising students to meet the landlord and ask for proof of ID if there is any doubt surrounding the rent or accommodation.

"If you're worried that you're being led into a scam, alert gardaí or your students' union right away. It is always better to be safe," Mr Kerrigan said.

"Don't rush into any arrangement that looks too good to be true.

"Students are getting desperate but they really cannot take any risks in the market."

He said that as well as Dublin, places being targeted by the scammers include Galway, Cork and Dundalk.

A Garda spokesperson told students to approach looking for accommodation with care.

Gardaí have told students to try to only do business with "established bona fide rental agencies" and to meet prospective landlords in the accommodation to be rented.

They want people to ask for identification, and only pay the deposit to the landlord and not to the people leaving the property.

A spokesperson for the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), told the Irish Independent it is "completely unacceptable that a small cohort of landlords would seek to scam tenants".

Tenants may take a case to the RTB and can be awarded damages if it is found that a landlord has breached their obligations.

Irish Independent

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