Potential tenants are vulnerable to being targeted by individuals who are posing as estate agents on various property-listing websites. The fraudulent individuals are duplicating rental property listing information, taken from legitimate estate agency websites and placing them online, pretending to be the agent.
The tenants who are interested in the property contact the “estate agent” and are urged to pay the deposit as it is on a “first-come-first-served” basis that the unit will be leased – a smart move as this is often the case with properties in popular complexes/areas due to high rental demand.
The unsuspecting tenant then pays the rental deposit into the fraudulent agent’s account to secure the property, only to discover later that they can no longer get in touch with the “agent”, that the “agent” doesn’t work for the company listed or that the property is already occupied by someone else.
If you’re looking to rent a property make sure you view the property first! Not only will this guarantee that the agent is working on the property and has been given keys by the landlord, but it is vital in confirming that the property in question has no “nasty surprises” in store for you when you eventually move in, such as damp that wasn’t photographed or a broken toilet that wasn’t mentioned etc.
If you’re uncertain of the legitimacy of the estate agent you’re dealing with, contact the estate agency they work for to confirm their authenticity. The agency’s information can be obtained via the internet, and spending some time establishing whether or not the agent is trustworthy and reputable will save innumerable hours and money spent on opening a case at the police station after the deposit, and in some cases the rent too, has already been stolen. Many estate agencies have a rental application department that deals directly with verifying the tenant information and history for the landlord, and on approval will call and request the deposit be paid. This process is a good indicator as to the genuineness of the company.
All estate agents are required to be registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) - if you are suspicious or want to confirm that the individual is a registered estate agent, you can visit the EAAB website at www.eaab.org.za and use the Find An Agent search function on the right-hand side of the home page. This will verify that the person is a registered estate agent.
We advise that all potential tenants use a well-established, reputable estate agency such as Etchells & Young and ensure that the account information given does indeed belong to the estate agency and not a fraudulent agent. Be aware that there are fraudulent individuals out there looking to con you out of your hard-earned cash!