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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Students warned to watch for rental scams ahead of house-hunting season

The USI says people are ‘taking advantage of the housing crisis and accommodation shortage’.

Image: Shutterstock

STUDENTS ARE BEING urged to be vigilant for rental scams that could target them ahead of the new college year.

The warning comes as part of a campaign by gardaí, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the Banking & Payments Federation.

They say that victims could even be conned into paying a deposit for a property that does not exist or has already been rented.

Students who may be house-hunting in the coming weeks are being urged to take several steps to ensure that everything is above-board.

Among the advice being offered to students is to do as much homework as possible about rental prices in different areas.

The three groups say that prospective renters should operate by the maxim that “if the rent is low and seems too good to be true, it usually is”.

Students are also being urged to keep all correspondence between them and the advertiser and to not hand over any money until they have seen the property and are happy with its condition.

Any further payments should only be made after keys have been handed over and a contract has been signed.

“The unfortunate truth is that people are taking advantage of students’ vulnerability when it comes to the housing crisis and accommodation shortage for students,” according to USI president Loran Fitzpatrick.

Always view the property in person before putting down any form of deposit, meet with your potential landlord and find out if they are registered with the RTB.

Before even proceeding to the step of contacting an advertiser, students are being advised to use online maps to confirm that the property being advertised actually exists and is at the stated address.

Another step that can be taken is to check short-term rental sites to ensure that the advertiser isn’t themselves renting the property.

Brian Hayes, CEO of the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, says this is a common problem.

There are many ways in which rental property scams are carried out, however one of the most common ones we see is where the fraudster rents a holiday or short let themselves, they advertise the house for rent and show it to multiple potential tenants with the aim of collecting multiple deposits and then disappear with the money.

“Another common scam is where the fraudster re-advertises listings of actual available rentals with their own email or phone number, they will often refuse to show you the property but may send photos or keys in exchange for payment of rent and a deposit. In both cases the victims only realise they’ve been scammed after the fraudster has left with their money.”

Anyone who has been scammed is being told not to be embarrassed and to report the incident to gardaí and their bank.

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Rónán Duffy

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