Beware of rental scammers

Caron Leslie, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Property Associates, whose offices operate in the Western Seaboard suburbs of Cape Town, warns potential tenants to be careful when paying over a deposit for a rental property as there has been a surge of fraudulent rental properties being advertised in the area recently.

“Many potential tenants are unfortunately falling prey to these conmen as there is a chronic shortage of homes available in the area currently and pent-up demand is reaching desperate levels,” she says.

Leslie explains that these rental fraudsters are mainly advertising on websites and operate from cell phones only. “The supposed landlord asks for a cash deposit to secure the rental and then disappears into the sunset and the tenant is left homeless and a few thousand rand poorer. I have personally reported a number of fake adverts I came across online and they were removed immediately. However, I am sure that there are more fake rental property adverts out there and potential tenants would be wise to investigate all of the rental property options carefully,” says Leslie.

When asked what steps tenants can take to protect themselves against these kinds of scams, Leslie says that no one should ever just pay over a deposit without vetting the validity of both the property for rent and the landlord.

“One way of doing this for the prospective tenant to meet with the landlord in person and physically view the property instead of just working from online or print adverts. Those living up-country looking for holiday or short term accommodation should rather stick to making their bookings through reputable booking agencies or real estate companies.”

Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says that the best protection for tenants would be to work through a reputable, registered estate agency as they have more resources at their disposal to determine the validity of the property for rent and the landlord.

Leslie concludes by saying that if a tenant suspects that the rental property they are interested in or its purported landlord is not legitimate, they should rather err on the side of caution and walk away from the deal instead of losing out on a good chunk of cash.

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