When we talk about landlords and tenants, we instantaneously think of the long screening processes which tenants have to go through. It is of great importance to landlords that they source only the best, safest tenants in their flats. However, rarely do we think of tenants screening their landlords.
If you are thinking about moving into a new place, then this is something you should keep in mind for the future. Although it is supremely important to find the right apartment, the right locality, its proximity to the nearest transportation services, etc. it is equally important to research about your landlord.
A tenant’s security is essential, and moving into a seemingly great apartment is not your biggest win. Finding out about your landlord is imperative before you think of moving into a new place.
Why is it essential to research your landlord before moving in?
Well, the most apparent reason would be your safety. As a tenant, you have to be entirely sure about the details of where you plan on shifting. Without knowing enough about your landlord, you never know what kind of situation you could put yourself into. The landlord could be scamming you or could be dangerous. They might also have a criminal record which you don’t know about.
In reality, the percentage of tenants who fall into scams by their landlords is increasing. You may also come across scenarios where the scammers are not even real landlords, but simply fraudsters sitting online. They have the knowledge and skill to go through online listings, find vulnerable potential tenants, and scam them thoroughly.
How can landlords scam potential tenants?
Typically, these ‘landlords’ are not landlords at all. They do not have a property that they wish to rent out.
Instead, they look up online apartment listings where anyone can publish or advertise anything.
Here, they look to trap weak or vulnerable individuals. They use their powers of persuasion, sweet-talking and charm, and trap the individuals in their sweet deals and offers. Then, they ask for a ‘holding deposit’ which the tenant would submit into their bank account.
Of course, after receiving this deposit, the ‘landlord’ is nowhere to be found!
How to find out about your landlord beforehand?
Checking the landlord’s ID
Of course, this doesn’t mean that master forgers cannot create a fake ID or even steal one from another landlord. However, the forgery requires quite some skill, and if you are cautious enough, you might be able to notice some discrepancies.
Asking for references or asking around the neighbourhood
Just like your landlord would ask you for references, you can do the same for them. In no way is this illegal or even unfair.
You should also visit the property yourself before paying any deposit money to your potential landlord. Again, it is still possible to scam you, even if you visit the property. The ‘landlord’ might be a past renter or even someone who has somehow got hold of the keys to an empty property.
While all of this is possible, it is always safer to visit the property yourself first, preferably not alone. When you do visit, you can still walk around the neighbourhood and ask about the property you plan on renting, and even the landlord.
Always ask for a receipt
This is a basic rule for any purchase. However, many tenants still make this common mistake with their landlords.
A receipt will provide you with the proof of the transaction between you and your ‘landlord.’ If the landlord does not offer a receipt themselves, always ask for one. To be even more cautious, you can check the receipt carefully and match the details with the rest of the documentation that you have about the property and the landlord.
Get a copy of all the documents
Several documents are part of the process of renting a property as a tenant. These include HMO license, inventory reports, gas safety receipts, and many more.
Although most of these documents are quite easy to forge and photoshop, most scammers do not usually go into such detail. They tend to target young and vulnerable tenants. They often target students or foreigners who might not always be aware of all these processes.
Before transferring any money or moving into the property, ask for a copy of all of these documents. If it is a scammer and not a genuine landlord, you might notice some inconsistencies in the papers. The scammer might also not be able to provide you with all the necessary paperwork, which should be a clue that something is not right.
Check the land registry and confirm the owner of the property
One of the first things that you should do before checking out the property you want to rent is to visit the Government official land registry service. Here, you can easily find out the name of the property owner.
Now, check the details of the landlord who you want to rent the property from. If you notice inconsistencies in these details, and especially if the landlord insists that they are the owner of the property, then you may assume that something is not right.
Be mentally strong
One of the most natural tricks in the books that scammers use is to apply psychological tricks on the tenants. These fake landlords are often incredibly charming, appear to be sincere and genuine.
They might even tell you that there are many potential offers on the property, and whoever pays up first will be the one to get the property.
You should also be very careful about the kind of account the landlord is asking you to deposit in. Please do not pay any money upfront until and unless you are entirely sure of the authenticity of the landlord as well as their bank account. If anything appears sketchy to you, most probably, it is, and you are able to pick up on a vibe.
When it comes to renting a property for yourself, your safety is in your hands. You need to be super cautious when dealing with potential landlords, as many of them are scammers. Be sure to check out all the details first and ask people around before handing over any money to prospective landlords.