Room for Rent and other rental scams
#147930 by Zaragal Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:24 am
Hello all,
I wish I had read some of these posts before falling victim to a rental scam in London. My fiancé and I are desperately looking for a 1-bedroom flat and came across an ad on Gumtree last week about a 2-bed property (flat share) in Royal Oak for £700.00. The advert said DSS candidates were welcome so we thought it to be genuine - how could they cheat money out of a recipient of Housing Benefits seeing as the money is paid directly by the Council to the landlord.
We called the number in the advert and even viewed the property. The lady showing us around sounded genuine enough but unknown to her I made a secret video recording of her on my mobile as she discussed terms and conditions. I foolishly paid her a £180.00 towards the deposit so she would take the flat off the market and promised to send my fiancé back the next day along with the balance. In return, she issued a receipt and rental agreement which stated her full name and address. To ensure she was not a dodgy Council tenant fraudulently renting their property, I asked to see evidence that the property belonged to her and she showed me a copy of her Purchase Agreement with Westminster Council.
My fiancé went down the next day and met her in the flat but noted that her outgoing tenant had failed to make any progress with his packing. He paid her £320 bringing the total to amount handed over to £500. She was to contact us after her tenant left so we could pay the balance £200 + a month’s rent in advance £700.00
Having failed to hear from her after two days, I started to call and text her but all calls go straight to voicemail and the messages are unanswered. We have tried calling on her at the rental property on several occasions but get no response.
As a last resort, I have contacted the police who say that a crime has not yet occurred and they cannot help me further. I have reported the matter to Westminster Council and they are currently in the process of investigating.
Where do I stand in all this? I am so stressed that my desperation to find suitable accommodation clouded my judgement.

Any advice you can offer right now will be greatly appreciated.
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#147938 by Dotti Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:30 pm
Welcome Zaragal,

I have deletedthe name and number you posted. As the police said, there is no crime at this point, and not even evidence that there is intent to commit one--at this point you don't know if it is some kind of fraud, or maybe the landlord is having difficulty getting the other tenant out.

We don't normally deal with this type of situation here, but I am leaving your post as some of our UK members may be able to give you some guidance anyway.

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