Johnson Property Group

Landlord scammer alert: How to protect yourself

Investors and tenants must do more to protect themselves from the increasing number of scammers preying on Western Australia’s tight rental market.

Always go through a reputable real estate agent with an experienced property manager. They know the signs to watch out for and can usually tell if the property is “actually” available.

According to the WA Government’s ScamNet, there has been a 320 per cent increase in locals falling victim to rental fraud. Last year 38 West Australians lost $37,560 to rental scams.

Scammers are pretending to be landlords by posting fake advertisements on social media and popular online marketplaces, usually inviting prospective tenants to view the property externally. When asked if they can look at the inside, they are told the owner is overseas or has pandemic-related issues.

There is such desperation in the rental market at the moment that people are far too willing to secure leases sight-unseen by paying a bond via bank transfer. Victims only realise they have been scammed when they turn up at the home to receive the keys.

If you go through a licensed agent, the money you pay for a bond is held in trust and protected by legislation. And you will never be asked to hand over money without being given a lease agreement to sign.

Many WA agents are even reporting that their rental listings are being duplicated on free sites, such as Gumtree. Having an experienced agent manage this scenario always gives landlords peace of mind.

You should always be suspicious of properties advertised for below the current rental median. In this market that won’t happen, so if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!

It’s also a good idea to search the address before responding. You will then know if an agent is listing the property. And don’t just rely on photos emailed to you. Try a Google reverse image search to see if the pictures have been used before.

Owners of WA properties should make sure their investment is looked after by an experienced property management team. Agents will always be aware of landlords’ movements and are wise to the tricks and tactics of scammers.