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Caution urged over student rental scams

Wednesday, 9th August, 2017 4:49pm

By Ryan O'Neill 

Students are being warned over rental scams ahead of the new academic year. 

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and An Garda Síochána are encouraging students to be wary of rental scams targeting third-level students. USI President Michael Kerrigan this week urged students to be cautious stating: “Use cheques or bank drafts to pay the deposit and keep copies of receipts of payments and any correspondence. Don’t hand over any cash to anyone, because you will not have a record or trace of your deposit. Students are handing up to two months’ rent as a deposit, and this kind of money being stolen can have a serious impact on a student’s ability to afford college for the coming year.”

Mr Kerrigan advised students to visit the accommodation they are hoping to rent before sending any money, to make sure of the identity of any prospective landlord and alert the Gardaí to any suspicions they have.

The union is also advising students not to hand over money until they receive they keys, and the tenancy begins. Reliable sources for accommodation include websites like Daft.ie, as well as Students’ Union Facebook groups or free websites like homes.usi.ie for digs. The Gardaí are warning students that while rental scams occur throughout the year, there is a spike at this time due to a new generation of students seeking accommodation.

It has identified three broad categories of scams; the scammer claims to be out of the country and can’t show you the property but requests a deposit; the scammer is living at the property and shows a number of people around, gets a deposit from several people and disappears with the money; the transaction appears normal until the renter finds that the keys don’t work and the landlord has disappeared.

Gardaí have also outlined a number of tips for students to help them avoid scams. These include only dealing with established rental agencies, always meeting a prospective landlord in the accommodation to be rented and asking for identification, a driver’s licence or photo identification of a landlord or letting agent. They also advise paying deposits to the landlord rather than to any person leaving the property, using cheques or bank drafts and keeping receipts, ensuring the keys fit and work, and signing a rental contract prior to any payment.

Gardaí also stressed the need for students to establish that the house exists and available for rent, and that the landlord is authorised to rent the property.

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