Beware Of Fake Landlords Illegally Letting Properties To Tenants

In the Urban Dictionary, I’m what is known as a “wasteman“:

someone who does nothing with their life (or nothing much).

e.g. Jimmy drops out of skool and has no job and claims benefits for 5 years an still lives at home with his mum an has dirty clothes.

On that note, did anyone else happen to catch episode 8 of series 2 of Fake Britain? It aired on BBC1, Friday morning, 11am. Without prior knowledge of the episode, I was intrigued to discover that there was a feature about “Fake Landlords”

If you missed it, don’t worry about finding out when/where/how because you can watch it below.

What is a fake landlord?

A fake landlord is someone that pretends to have authorisation to let a property when they they actually have no authority over whatsoever.

The typical fake landlord will conduct viewings, take a deposit and usually one month’s rent upfront, give the tenant the keys, and then drive off into the sunset, never to be seen or heard from again.

Shortly after, the real home owners/occupiers will return home and try to use their keys to enter the property, only to find the locks have been changed, and their home has been taken over by strangers.

Sadly, it’s one of the more common scams among the list of scams tenants should be wary of.

How do fake landlords do it?

They usually target properties they know will be empty (e.g. when the legitimate occupants are on holiday). They will then force entry into the property, change the locks, and start marketing the property to prospective tenants as if it’s their own.

It’s an extremely easy trap for tenants to fall into, especially novice tenants that are unfamiliar with the letting process.

When a “fake landlord” has accessible keys to the property, and convincingly conducts viewings, everything appears unsuspecting. What makes the charade more believable is that the snide landlords are known to provide fake letting agent documents.

Fake Britain takes a look into ‘Fake Landlords’

Nasty stuff.

As you saw, the end result leaves tenants in an extremely awkward situation and home-owners left temporarily homeless while their homes were occupied by strangers, who are also victims.

How to avoid the “fake landlord” trap

Unfortunately, the feature on Fake Britain failed to get the story from the tenant’s side. But my gut instincts tell me they didn’t do their due diligence, and made themselves an easy target.

To avoid being an easy target, may I suggest taking the following into consideration if you’re currently in pursuit of a rental property:

  • Ask for photo ID – check to see that the person you’re dealing with is actually who they say they are.
  • Ask for proof of ownership – request to see the landlord’s Land Registry papers to prove ownership! Alternatively, for £3, you can search property ownership information on the Land Registry website.
  • Talk to the neighbours – don’t feel uneasy about approaching the neighbours.

    It’s perfectly normal for perspective tenants to talk to the neighbours, especially to find out about the local area. While you’re there, enquiry about the landlord.

  • Check documents – a landlord is legally required to provide tenants with Gas Safety Certificate and Energy Performance Certificate – request to see them before signing a tenancy agreement and handing over any money!

    Firstly, most fake landlords won’t provide these documents. More importantly, you shouldn’t be letting from anyone that doesn’t provide them.

  • Ask for references– ask the landlord for the details of previous tenants. You’re more than entitled to ask for references, just like many legitimate landlords ask for references from tenants.

    If available, follow the references up.

  • Enquiry about utility services– investigate which companies supply the gas, electricity, and water. They’re perfectly valid questions, and most landlords expect to hear them from perspective tenants. The landlord should be familiar with these details. If they’re not, it could be a signal that something dodgy is going on.
  • Tenancy Agreements– most fake landlords will insist on and provide a Tenancy Agreement contract as part of the charade since they’re so easily obtainable. However, if a landlord doesn’t insist on a Tenancy Agreement then alarm bells should be ringing.
  • Good landlords ask questions and require references– good landlords are pretty stringent when it comes to referencing, because their number priority is to ensure they find suitable tenants that will look after their property and pay rent on time.

    If the landlord doesn’t seem too concerned about your references or suitability, then it could be a sign of foul play.

  • Tenancy Deposit– deposits MUST be secured in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme by law. Always ask which authorised deposit scheme your landlord will be putting your deposit into.

    It’s another one of those details a fake landlord can easily make up after investing 2mins research on Google. However, it’s always best to check.

    remember, the more you check, the less likely it is you’ll get your leg pulled over!

  • If the person you’re dealing with is representing a letting agent – if you’re dealing with an agent, make sure you actually visit their high-street shop to ensure everything is legitimate.

    Many of these fake landlords impersonate letting agents, and they conduct all the admin work (e.g. sign papers) in the rental property itself.

If anyone can share any additional tips on how to avoid fake landlords, please share and I’ll throw it into the list. Similarly, if anyone has first-hand experience of being shafted by a fake landlord!

19 Join the Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Ryan 5th September, 2011 @ 10:51

10/10 once again Landlord!
Quite disturbing if I'm honest, even for the layman, that first person just went away for 2 weeks and had someone move in. Luckily I think having a dog (not a yappy thing) would help against someone breaking in.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 6th September, 2011 @ 10:08

Hi Ryan,

Thanks :)

Yeah, dogs can be useful. But you can't leave them alone in the house for 2 weeks while you're away. But getting an alarm fitted might be a good investment!

Guest Avatar
Gary 6th September, 2011 @ 13:22

Probably the best thing to do is to spend £4 on the Land Registry website to get the title register and make sure the landlord actually owns the property that way.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 6th September, 2011 @ 13:44

Great tip Gary. I'm going to add that to the list. Many thanks!

Guest Avatar
Gary 14th September, 2011 @ 12:24

Forgot to mention...

When checking the Land Registry, you should see that the owner has a different address listed. If that's not the case then it could suggest that the landlord is one of these 'accidental landlord' jokers who has not got permission from the mortgagee to let the property. In that case it would be worth asking the landlord (or the landlord's agent) for proof that the lender has given permission for the property to be let, or even better might be to check directly with the lender (whose identity is on the Land Reg docs).

I don't know how a repossession usually works out with a sitting tenant where a borrower has breached the terms and conditions of his/her mortgage by letting the property without permission, and I certainly wouldn't care to find out (in either the landlord or tenant scenario).

Even though it is unlikely to come to that as long as the mortgage is serviced, I would be concerned if the landlord wasn't doing things properly. If they're only letting the property because they overpaid for the place towards the top of the property bubble and don't want to cystallise their loss by selling, then are they going to be in a sufficiently good financial position to get the boiler replaced if needs be? I would stick with renting from a proper investor with decent margins if possible.

So that's not exactly a "fake landlord" issue, maybe more a "fake landlord but genuine owner" issue.

Guest Avatar
Adrian 8th December, 2012 @ 06:48

Hi everyone. Me and my wife have just lost £1000 , to a fake landlord. The F landlord posted on Gumtree a nice house, then his fake agent let us in the property with the real landlord inside and builders .the agent told the real landlord he will bring his certificate ,to prove that he is a real agent the next day. The real landlord just say hello and let the agent deal with us. Then we went outside asked if we like the property in Woodford Green, we said yes. The the fake landlord called and said he is going to meet with us tomorrow . We gave him the deposit in full and we signed the tenancy. The next day he said to give him the rent and we said to do give him that at the property to show us all the keys . The next day. Him , the agent had switch off their phone. We went to the property and ask neighbours if Hudayfa shah is the landlord. Then he called the real landlord Wich said he only let the agent in that night because his going to prove his identity the next day when we were ripped off by £1000 , Be carrefull of Hudayfa Shah if is the real name. All the best

Guest Avatar
paul 2nd February, 2016 @ 23:41

I recently found out my "landlord" is actually the decorator/builder who the owner employed to carry out renovation work for him. He wrote me out a tenancy agreement for 12 months and told me i didnt need to pay a deposit or any upfront costs and i could move straight in. 2 and a half months later, since i havnt been able to make any rent payments he tells me he's not the owner and wants me to leave since the tenancy is not valid. Does anyone know what rights i have to continue living here? and what action i can take against this decorator/builder who let me have the house without the owners permission? I also have a wife and 3 young children all under 5 years old living with me.

Guest Avatar
Gary 2nd February, 2016 @ 23:50


Get down the Citizens Advice Bureau

In the law of agency, there is the concept of agency through "apparent authority", in other words the fact that the true landlord allowed this other guy to have the run of the property (and hence hold himself out as the owner) may mean he had apparent authority as an agent of the landlord and therefore the true landlord is bound by the tenancy agreement he formed with you

A bit like if I knock on your door and your wife sells me your TV, she had apparent authority to do so which means I'm in the clear and don't have to give the TV back

Get some proper advice but I think there may be a case that you are entitled to see out your contract

Guest Avatar
Dave 7th June, 2016 @ 15:43

If you do suspect or confirm landlord is fake , who / where do you report it ?

Ta muchly


Guest Avatar
Joseph Teale 12th August, 2016 @ 13:52

HI guys, someone just attempted to scam me, here how I realised. They wanted me to send a over a holding fee without viewing the property claiming (I've had two people do these to me already, they viewed and then didn't proceed) well dur it happens.

The rooms looked far to furnished and modern. But when you're desperate you don't think. But the clincher, if you conversing over email, make sure you google search the emails they send you, I did it, found the rooms in several difference places, even countries.


Guest Avatar
KATE 12th December, 2016 @ 10:24

Hi guys!

I recently found a gorgeous 1 bedroom flat on Gumtree. The rent is ridiculously low(650 with bills and council included!!), comes all furnished and fully equipped! The landlord is in another country and said he wants to find a person who can take care of the flat more than he needs the money. This seems too suspicious for me. He said he wants to make sure I have serious intentions before he travels all the way here, cause last time nobody showed up. (+make sure I have the money lol)
He emailed me beautiful pictures of the property and the tenancy agreement so I could tell it's real (in his opinion), but he won't give me the full address cause he's afraid of thieves.(again, because he's abroad) So I can't even check it on the Land Registry Website.
Let me know what you think, this sounds like a scam to me, and I don't want to lose my money.

Have a great day!

Guest Avatar
Ryan 12th December, 2016 @ 13:08

Hi Kate,

That sounds as dodgy as kebab at 4 on a Saturday morning. I would avoid like the plague and never hand over money until you've seen the place. If he's worried about the journey then shouldn't be a landlord, there's a risk in no shows and if genuine he'll have to suck it up!

Guest Avatar
KATE 12th December, 2016 @ 13:26

Thanks Ryan!! You're right!

Guest Avatar
Ashley 6th February, 2017 @ 10:57

Hi I am the same looking for a property in Luton to rent the man has said it's all Bills included and sent a tenancy and lovely pictures but he is saying he don't live in England and someone has let him down so he doesn't want to get a flight over just for me to view the property he needs to no I'm sure on renting it he also told me he doesnt mind how the rent is paid as long as it is well looked after with me being in need to move asap it was very tempting but I am glad I have looked online and read all this prior to meeting at the property and being sucked in. Does anyone have advice on what I can do when renting privately what can assure me its not a scam. Thanks

Guest Avatar
Steve 3rd September, 2017 @ 13:39

I have tenants in a property that as trustee I have not given permission to be there.

My brother who has no legal interest in the property managed to get it changed to his name at land registry and gave keys to his friend for safe keeping.

It is thought this friend has changed the locks and let the property out.

Sometimes not only the tenants are the victims as I now have unspecified costs trying to get control of property back.

Guest Avatar
steven 11th February, 2018 @ 01:05

hi I have rented a property 2 months ago has been borded up because the person i was renting it of wasn't the suposid owner, all of my stuff is inside and the so called legitimate owner is refusing to give it to me is there anything I can do I have a tenancy agreement and also payed 6 months rent upfront do I have any right whatsoever

Guest Avatar
Bibi 17th August, 2019 @ 14:52

Just want to ask I heard lot people rent house and sublet it also seperate rooms above say they are landlord and also their terms and condition say don't let anybody or friends come to visit the house coz it might coz them problem with council or immigration what the solution with such crook what should be done anybody can answer that please?

Guest Avatar
Jennifer 27th February, 2020 @ 18:02

The fake landlords can be shady. If you suspect or have funny feelings about these "landlords". Do something about it! Don't wait till to be a victim. Have a lawyer ready.

OR Don't just move in and look elsewhere for a place to live.

If you visited the owner's house, If SOMEBODY still lives there and "tenant" isn't moving out. Please leave and look somewhere else. Save yourself!

Even real landlords can be creepy. Be careful.

Guest Avatar
Deborah Simms 7th November, 2022 @ 17:06

What should you do if you suspect a landlord may be fake but you have not fallen for it? Can and should you report it and where to?

















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