What is a property scam?
Generally, a property scam is when prospective tenants are tricked into paying money upfront to rent a property that either does not exist, has already been rented, or has been ‘rented’ to several victims. These scammers pose as landlords or letting agents to unsuspecting prospective tenants.
Where can a property scam take place?
There are various ways you can find a property to rent as a prospective tenant with the most popular being property portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla, and The Letting Web. However, you can also find a property to let on social media, in particular, on Facebook Marketplace.
Facebook Marketplace is commonly used to buy and sell items locally but it can also be used to advertise a property for rent.
In Scotland, a landlord or letting agent must adhere to the Scottish Government legislation when it comes to letting a property, especially when advertising a property to let so let’s get into some of the legislation and how you can better protect yourself from a property scam.
Who regulates private landlords and letting agents in Scotland?
If you own a property and you want to rent it out for someone else to live in then there are several steps you must take to become a landlord. The first step is to register as a landlord with the local council of where the property is located. It’s a criminal offence if you rent out your property without registering as a landlord or a letting agent with the government.
If you’re thinking about renting out your home, you might want to consider hiring a letting agent to help you as they will ensure you are fully compliant with the law at all times. Most letting agents offer a full property management service and other additional landlord services for those who are looking for a hands-off approach.
You can also check a letting agent is registered with The Scottish Government through the Letting Agent Register
What should a property advert include by law?
All rental property listings must have a landlord registration number or state that it is a ‘pending registration’ and it must also include the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
It is normal for a landlord to ask for a deposit on their advert which must be no more than two months of rent. However, a landlord cannot charge a prospective tenant a fee or request a deposit upfront to arrange a physical viewing, reserve the property, or for administration costs (such as setting up a tenancy agreement) as this would be ‘an illegal premium’ in Scotland.
If you are a landlord, read our landlord guide which talks you through the necessary steps on how to be compliant with the law. We have also created a helpful article on ‘What you should look for in a letting agent’.
What does a suspicious property listing look like?
Who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of detective work? It’s so important that you try to protect yourself the best you can and if something doesn’t feel right – it most likely isn’t!
First of all, check:
- Is the landlord registration number missing?
- Is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) missing?
Here are our Top 10 major red flags of a property scam
- The seller is ‘out of the country’
- They are keen to progress to a payment upfront
- They ask for your proof of identity and deposit payment before a viewing
- They don’t ask you to complete an application form
- The process is carried out through Air BnB
- The Property description is vague
- The property interior appears to be in pristine condition or looks too good to be true (show home quality)
- The property building type doesn’t match the interior (victorian period property with modern windows in photos)
- The seller has several similar listings around the UK (click seller details to see their other listings)
- The sellers’ Facebook account is new with very few friends or has thousands of friends
How to protect yourself against a potential property scam
- Ask for their landlord registration number
- Ask what type of tenancy agreement will be used (By law, it should be a ‘Private Residential Tenancy agreement in Scotland)
- Click on ‘Seller details’ on the Facebook Marketplace listing and you will see their other listings (if any)
Why should I report a scam?
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is a UK government organisation that has the power to investigate and take down scam email addresses and websites.
Reporting a scam is free and only takes a minute.
By reporting phishing attempts or scams, you can:
- Reduce the number of scam communications you receive
- Make yourself a harder target for scammers
- Protect others from cyber crime online
How do I report a scam?
If you think or have been affected by a scam:
Report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.
Scam emails should be reported to the National Cyber Security Centre via their new Suspicious Email Reporting Service.
Facebook Marketplace Listing
Report the advert on Facebook Marketplace by clicking on the specific listing where you will then see three dots near the ‘message’ button. Click on the three dots, then click ‘Report listing’ then click “Scam”.
About Bridge Letting
Bridge Letting will NEVER ask you to share your payment card information for anything and we will NEVER ask for payment via social media. If you are ever unsure about whether any contact from us is genuine, please contact a member of our team on 0131 610 6261 or 01382 604416.
Should you be searching for a property to let as a prospective tenant, we recommend that you contact us for support rather than seeking to find a rental property via social media – which could potentially expose you to criminal activity.
We are a Letting Agent & Property Management company covering Edinburgh, Dundee, Fife, and the surrounding areas. We cover all aspects of the letting process and guide you through your landlord responsibilities.
Letting Agent Registration Number: LARN2105006
Council of Letting Agents Membership Number: CLA32562