herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

Students warned to be wary of rent deposit scammers

USI president Michael Kerrigan
USI president Michael Kerrigan

Gardai and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have issued a warning about scams targeting students who are "getting desperate" in the search for accommodation.

Gardai have urged people to be wary of rental scams, particularly at this time of year when students are returning to college.

There are three categories of scams people need to look out for, according to gardai.

The first is when the scammer claims to be out of the country and unable to show you the property, but requests a deposit.

Secondly, 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.

Finally, the transaction appears normal until the renter finds that the keys do not work and the landlord has disappeared.

"People need to establish that the house exists and that it is available for rent," a Garda spokesperson said.

USI president Michael Kerrigan said that despite these scams happening all year round, there is a "huge increase" as the new semester approaches.

"With international students in particular, I've seen cases where they have transferred money and gone to the house only to find a family unaware of what's going on," he said.

The USI is advising students to meet the landlord and ask for proof of identity.

"If you're worried that you're being led into a scam, alert the gardai or your students' union right away," Mr Kerrigan said.

"Don't rush into any arrangement that looks too good to be true. Students are getting desperate, but they really can not take any risks in the market."

Gardai told students to try to only do business with "established bona fide rental agencies".

Damages

A spokesperson for the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), said it is "completely unacceptable that a small cohort of landlords would seek to scam tenants".

Tenants may take a case to the RTB and can be awarded damages if it is found that a landlord has breached their obligations.

The RTB said it is essential not to hand over deposits until the property has been viewed and keys have been received.

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