Saturday, 7 September 2013

1 Fraudulent Landlord+ 1 Unsuspecting Tenant = £2,394 per victim

Many pupils went back to school this week after a long and warm summer break, and, for some parents perhaps, a slightly too long holiday period. The roads suddenly became a lot busier as the school run started in earnest and many people went back to work. We are treated to the sight of numerous students wearing slightly too large blazers (they will grow into them!), scuffing brand new shoes along the pavement as they reluctantly turn up for the start of the new term.

In a few weeks’ time another set of students will begin a new phase of their educational life as fresher’s week starts up in universities and colleges across the land. Some are heading for halls of residence, usually furnished and with kitchen facilities and others have managed to rent a room or house near to the main campus. Many may be still living at home, not being able to afford the living expenses as well as the fees or a lucky few may be in accommodation bought or rented by parents and guardians. 

Learning the hard way 

Just, however when you thought that you had got over the angst of A level result day, been accepted through UCAS onto the course of your choice, then there is a small window of opportunity to get your lodgings sorted out. Many FE institutions can guarantee a place in halls for the first year but there may be pertinent reasons why some choose to rent elsewhere. So when Action Fraud reported this week on the number of individuals who had been scammed by a landlord or a lodger, it certainly gave food for thought. Around £755 million a year is gained by fraudulent landlords costing individuals around £2,394 per victim. The usual ploy to get money out of unsuspecting would be tenants is to trick people into paying out advanced fees to rent a property.

If you have a child moving to another part of the country, trying to sort out where they are going to live is hard enough particularly if you don’t know the area well but there are a few tips to bear in mind before parting with your hard earned cash. 

Safe as houses? 

Sounds simple but make sure you go and visit the property first with the agent or landlord, before putting down a deposit. If you are negotiating through an agent, check that they belong to a professional trade body, landlords as well that are members of the National Landlord Association are usually a good sign. Don’t ever just hand over any cash, and if you can pay with a card, then you should get some protection from the banks. If in doubt you can always speak with the local Trading Standards people in the area you or your student is moving to, the local council or Citizens Advice Bureau will be happy to signpost you to the nearest office.

Once you are happy with the accommodation then the next step is to see how many boxes of essentials you can cram into your small hatchback- usually a surprising amount of clothing, mismatched kitchenware kindly donated by numerous members of the family, maybe even a few text books along with the laptop (sorry just got distracted by the pig flying past the office window) and you are ready to launch the first of the fledglings out of the nest. Then you get to do it all over again when they have to vacate the house for the summer break. Remember one in ten people have been scammed so check before you rent. Any comments, as always, welcome.

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