Genuine landlords or letting agents will welcome the opportunity to meet with prospective tenants to show them around their properties while providing copies of both tenancy agreements and gas safety certificates as soon as possible.
Landlord registration is legally mandated in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Therefore, it’s wise to double-check whether they are registered before paying any deposits or entering into a rental agreement with them.
1. Check their name
Whenever in doubt of a landlord’s identity, make sure they show you their photo ID so you can verify who they claim they are and obtain physical addresses of properties being rented out by them.
As all UK landlords must register with one or more tenancy deposit schemes, this will help to verify whether your landlord is legit. Simply ask them for details of their scheme or search online using their name and scheme name to do this.
Some private landlords wish to remain anonymous; however, tenants have the legal right to request information about their landlord under Section 1 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 and must receive it within 21 days from when their request was made. The landlord representative must supply this data.
Furthermore, it would be best if you asked the landlord for any documents legally required of them – such as Gas Safety or Energy Performance Certificates – such as Gas Safety or Energy Performance certificates that tenants should receive upon signing their lease agreements. Most landlords should keep copies on hand.
Talking with neighbors can also provide invaluable insight into the quality of life in an area and whether or not the landlord has any history with locals. If there is an issue, it is always advisable to work together with the landlord to find solutions before taking further steps.
If your dispute cannot be settled directly with your landlord, Citizens Advice may assist. Depending on your specific case, court may even be necessary to bring it about.
Always wait until you have seen and signed the tenancy agreement to transfer money to a landlord or letting agent. Anyone asking you to transfer funds before viewing is likely a scammer and any who asks you for fees related to credit checks is breaking the law!
2. Check their contact details
If you’re renting from a landlord directly rather than through a letting agent, it is often best to speak directly with them rather than going through one. If you feel any misgivings about who you’re dealing with, it is wise to request photo ID and their landline number from them to ensure they are who they claim they are. This way you’ll know for sure who it is they claim they are dealing with.
Fake landlords commonly list properties on various online property portals, including Rightmove, Zoopla, and OnTheMarket. If they don’t appear or the listing looks fishy, that should raise your red flags.
Be wary of landlords who require you to pay in cash; it’s usually illegal for deposits or rent payments to be accepted in cash. Credit cards, which are protected under the Consumer Credit Act, should always be accepted, as should a Gas Safety Certificate and Energy Performance Certificate (unless it’s an HMO or room in a shared house).
Another step should be verifying whether or not your landlord belongs to a registered tenancy deposit scheme. All UK landlords are legally obliged to register with one, in order to protect tenants’ deposits should there be any dispute between tenants and landlords. If in doubt about who your potential landlord might be, try searching RentProfile; an online database supported by the UK government that helps users verify identity as well as obtain details such as housing prosecution history or ownership details of potential rentals.
Landlords should provide you with a “How to Rent” booklet outlining your rights and responsibilities under the law. If a landlord refuses or is reluctant to meet with you, that could be a telltale sign of fraud or scamming.
If you still are uncertain, conducting a tenant background check with CreditLadder might help reassure you of a legitimate landlord and any possible rental fraud or other crimes committed against them. While this will cost a small fee, the benefits are worth it in terms of protecting against rental fraud or any criminal actions taken against them.
3. Check their tenancy agreement
While landlords tend to be trustworthy, some are less so. Rental scams have left tenants financially and physically disenfranchised. Therefore, tenants must keep an eye out for any telltale signs of fraudulent landlords.
As soon as possible, check if the property is listed on one of the UK’s primary property portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla or OnTheMarket – failing which it may be an indicator that something may be amiss.
Genuine landlords require prospective tenants to complete a rental application and credit check before being permitted to move in, this ensures they can pay the rent and are the right people. If a landlord doesn’t wish to conduct this check, it’s likely they are not professional landlords, and you should remain wary.
Keep an eye out for any additional charges not listed in the tenancy agreement, particularly any new fees that don’t appear anywhere else. Dodgy landlords often add hidden costs that don’t appear in any contract document – any notice of additional expenses that don’t appear there should serve as a red flag!
Finally, it should be noted that any legitimate landlord should welcome meeting potential tenants before accepting payment from them. If a landlord seems reluctant to meet you, then this may indicate they aren’t genuine landlords, and it would be wiser to steer clear.
Be wary of any landlord who asks you to transfer money via Western Union as this indicates they may be located overseas and, therefore, likely won’t be genuine landlords. Request proof of ownership from the Land Registry at an additional fee; Gas Safety Certificate and Energy Performance Certificate requirements from your landlord as these are legal requirements; don’t hesitate to ask previous tenants for references as part of this normal process.
4. Check their tenancy deposit scheme
If you rent property in England and pay a deposit, your landlord or letting agent is legally obliged to register it with one of three Government-authorized schemes within 30 days and provide you with the relevant information pack. If this doesn’t happen, compensation from your local county court can be claimed for.
Landlords and letting agents can also be fined if they fail to provide evidence that they’ve protected a tenant’s deposit. If you suspect this hasn’t happened with your landlord or agent, get in touch with the scheme directly and inquire whether their records indicate whether your deposit has been paid and received.
Once a tenancy ends, both parties must agree on how much of your deposit should be returned (if any). If this cannot be agreed upon with your landlord, then all tenancy deposit schemes offer free dispute resolution services which allow all parties involved to submit evidence (photos, correspondence and inventories of property) for review by an impartial adjudicator.
Genuine landlords and professional lettings agencies always perform credit checks on potential tenants before taking deposits from them, so any landlord or lettings agency who fails to do this likely is breaking the law and operating an illegal business. If this doesn’t apply in your situation then beware.
If you decide to pursue legal action against your landlord for failing to protect your deposit, consulting with a tenancy solicitor could be invaluable. They will write letters warning them they have broken the law; and, if necessary, can take them directly to court to seek compensation – although a resolution outside court could often be more beneficial; no one wants their time wasted there!