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’
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!
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger; I'm not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information I share is my opinion based on my personal experiences as an active landlord, and should never be contrued as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.